Letters To The Editor

by

Donna Warren

September, 2006


At one of the booth's at the Athens AMA Women's and Motorcycling conference, I was given a free T-shirt for filling out a survey that said, "I am not a Backrest". I was wearing that t-shirt the other day. A man probably in his early 50s and his wife (or girlfriend) asked me why any woman would want to ride her own motorcycle. He rides and she is his passenger.

I have been riding my own motorcycle since I was 16. In fact the first motor vehicle I ever bought was a 50cc Harley Davidson street legal motorcycle. (I bet a lot of you didn't know that Harley used to make one that small. It had a ducati engine but everything else was made by Harley Davidson.) Anyway, I wasn't sure that my answer would necessarily be typical, so I posed the question to the club members.

Here's what they had to say:

Pam G: "I would have said that I want to be in control of my own life and my own bike."

Marlene: I usually (and very politely) ask them a question right back - something to the effect of "Why do you ride?" - whatever their answer is, usually is pretty universal. Whatever they say, I usually respond with..."Well, that is one of the many reasons I ride - it's universal, regardless of your gender".

Liz Sm: "Why would any woman NOT want to ride her own motorcycle?"

Mickey: "First-I won't be wearing a tee shirt that says "I am Not a Backrest" because I feel it denigrates my sisters (and brothers) who choose to ride on the back of a motorcycle. Nothing in the world wrong with that. (In fact, there's something so intimate about being that close to your partner and not being intimate.) But why ride your own bike? As for me...It's like no other feeling the in the world!"

Gloria: "First off I wasn't sure if this was a joke or not so I hesitated in responding to this question My answer to the gentleman of why any women would want to ride her own motorbike.....? Same reasons he rides a motorbike and maybe a few more he hasn't thought of.

I'm sure this will not be the last time any of us will hear this question but at least now we have thought about it and what it means to each one of us and for me I just learned a little more about myself and how motorcycling enhances my life and this conversation just reminded me how lucky I am."

Cathy G: "If he is incapable of fathoming why he probably won't understand the answer."

Laura S: " ....for the same reasons that he rides......what does gender have to do with it ???? ....why not ???? .....because I can ???? ....because I want to be in control of my own life, .... pleasures,..... destinations,..... adventures,.... freedom ...experiences.

Every couple, that I know, who ride their own bikes, tell me that it is much more enjoyable riding individually but together. There is an added pleasure and closeness in knowing their partner enjoys the same excitement of motorcycling that they do."

Kathy S: "I think that "I Am Not a Backrest" is both a STUPID and a DEFENSIVE statement. I would not wear, much less buy something like that. (I also feel that it BEGS for a negative response from it's readers.) Save it for cleaning day!!"

Well, the members have spoken and I got spanked for wearing the shirt. In all honesty, it never occurred to me that I might be being disrespectful to back seat riders. Having had it pointed out, I agree, the t-shirt is being disrespectful and as Kathy said, asking for a negative response. My bad...

As for my answer to the man...Here's what I said...

"When I was fifteen, my boyfriend has a motorcycle and he used to take me on rides. I loved riding with him. Then one day, he let me take his bike for a ride by myself. At that moment, I fell in love with motorcycles. I just barely remember the boyfriend's name but I've had a love affair with motorcycles ever since that day. In the interim, I grew up got married (three times), had kids and pursued a career but have always loved riding motorcycles. Why? It is the only time in life where I feel completely free because I am totally responsible for what happens to me. I used to skydive with my first husband and motorcycle riding is as close to free fall as I can get on the ground and I love that feeling."

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