Riding With Women vs. Men

That's me on the Bagger, leading my girls in Canada.

Two weeks and two polar opposite motojournalistic events have me thinking. First, I had the distinct pleasure of joining seven of my favorite female motojournalist colleagues for a tour of the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada. As the art director and staff writer for RoadBike, I’d already had limited working relationships with a few, including www.WomenRidersNow’s Genevieve Schmitt, but on this five-day trip, I got to know each woman individually in a unique, special setting, and it’s truly been one of the highlights of my career so far.

I was given the keys to a brand new Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra CVO (with the Screaming Eagle package) to ride for the entire tour. You don’t see a lot of women on full dressers like this one, but why not? The seat is low and the handling is superb. The 113-inch motor cranks out tons of torque and possessing this much power can be so enlightening to women, if they’d only give it a try.

The other bikes on this trip included everything from a Honda 750 Shadow to a BMW K1300S. We were an eclectic group, from the looks of the hardware. Riding with professional women with extraordinary riding skills and talent wasn’t really the point of this trip, but was most certainly a bonus. Women are nurturing by nature, so there wasn’t any one-upping each other, on or off the road. We all looked out for one another, and when someone pulled off the route for whatever reason, at least one other woman would stay behind, so that no one was left alone. I know men will often do this too, but I’ve heard stories from my male moto friends about being left behind by so-called “riding friends.”

From left to right: Kristi Martel, Tricia Szulewski (me), Pam Collins, Christa Neuhauser, Debbie MacDonald, Leslie Gerring, Genevieve Schmitt, and Liz Jansen

I was particularly impressed with how our group of eight riders all stayed in excellent riding form – staggered formation. We were a little sloppy as far as getting in position for photo shoots, but we all worked it out and there was no bickering or finger pointing at any time. Even when our fearless ride leader, Liz Jansen (Trillium Motorcycle Tours) was unclear of the route, I watched one of the others step up to take the lead. When we pulled up to the pump, more than a few times Christa Neuhauser (RoadRunner) was first in line. She’d fill up her bike, then park and be the one standing at the pump, holding the nozzle, while the rest of us pulled up to refuel. Every last one of these women were generous and gracious — in so many ways. And remember, too, that we were all there to write the same story for competing industry publications.

We stayed at a different place each night, and made lots of destination stops inbetween. Watch for my tour story in a future issue of RoadBike. Off the bikes, we laughed, talked and shared stories and experiences uninhibited by male scrutiny. We were, however, joined on several dining occasions by one or two men, locals and dignitaries alike, which were welcome additions to the conversation. But most of the week I was surrounded by a group of wonderful, creative, intelligent women. Our conversations ran the gamut of life, sometimes including motorcycles, but often that fact was simply the given bond between us. Turns out, there was so much more that many of us had in common.

I was only home for a day before packing a new set of riding gear in a carry-on and flying out to San Diego. I’ve kept no secret about the fact that the Triumph triple is my beloved motorcycle engine platform, so when the invite for the Tiger 800 press launch came, my editor naturally assigned me to go. I think the fact that the invitation leaked something about tents and sleeping bags made it easy for him to pass this one up anyway. I’ve motocamped before, and while it’s not my favorite way to travel, I’m always open to new adventures. Plus, who am I to turn down a chance to ride for two days in California on twisty roads and breathtaking scenery? In any case, camping with all male motojournalists and Triumph reps counts as a new adventure – and, like I said earlier, a polar-opposite experience of what I’d encountered the week prior.

My home on the Tiger press intro wasn't exactly four star accommodations, but I didn't complain..

Triumph wanted us to use the Tiger and the Tiger XC as the purchasers would use them. So they prepped the bikes with accessory bags, and we filled them up and headed into the mountains. As the only female of the group, I tried not to make a big deal out of the fact that camping is really dirty and I had no shower shoes. And when we were each given a tent to construct at the campsite, I didn’t ask for help — I did what I always do, I read the instructions and made do with what I had. I had my flashlight and limited toiletries. I was cold and not exactly comfortable, but I didn’t complain… much. Some women can use a little eyelash batting to get some extra help, but in this industry, that doesn’t go very far.

When I first began going on press intros, I was quite intimidated and felt that I needed to impress all the men (and sometimes women) on the rides. Luckily for me, it turns out that I’m a pretty competent rider, so when I found myself keeping right up with the fast pace, tight switchbacks, and quick turnarounds, my confidence was satisfied.

Are wheelies and jumps a "guy" thing? I know some girls do it, but I don't know many of them.

Now I just try to fit in with the boys, minus all the male-ego antics. On the Tiger launch, I wasn’t the only one who didn’t have experience riding in dirt, so when we turned onto the soft fire roads, I stayed towards the back of the pack and went slowly. I watched some of the guys take it too aggressively, and many of them went down. I tried to simply concentrate on my own ride, and it worked out fine for me. No one can say that I broke anything on one of those Tigers.

When the tires were back on the pavement, I was on my game, and flicking the 800 through the twisties was where I could shine. I was particularly irritated, though, when one editor decided to pass me, for no good reason other than my interpretation that he didn’t want to be behind a girl. Dark thoughts clouded my brain until I saw him overtake another male rider.

For the most part, I can fit in with the boys just fine. I’m used to it because I’m around guys every day at the office. But when the conversation around the campfire was all about racing, techy stuff and the like, I grew tired of it, and found another woman to talk to. Thankfully, the diamond in the rough was that Triumph had a caterer do the cooking. So while the tri-tip was being basted, I struck up a nice conversation with one of the only other women within miles. It was mostly NOT about motorcycles for a nice change.

Drinking beer by the campfire with my boys.

What I love about being around women is that most of us don’t possess the need to compete with each other, so while men tend to talk about what they’ve accomplished, we talk about what we feel and how that effects our experience. I find riding with women more soul-satisfying because of this. One of the women on my Canadian trip described it well when she related men to peacocks. Peacocks have to strut around displaying their big, beautiful tailfeathers in order to prove themselves worthy. The peahen doesn’t need giant colorful feathers to be just as important and beautiful.

Comments

  1. Hey great article, Trish. I started this Women in the Wind Chapter (Chinook Outriders) in Calgary for exactly the same reasons that you enjoy riding with women. Nearly every inquiry we get includes similar comments. “I usually ride with my husband and his friends but I would like to have some women to ride with” “I hate being the only woman in the group”, and “men ride differently than women, and I would like to meet women who ride”. In less than two years, our Chapter, which started with 5 Members (all women I had never met before) has grown to 56 Members. I enjoy interacting with other women riders through the different Facebook pages and would like to make motorcycles my life. I come by it honestly, I was born in the Isle of Man and although my family emigrated to Canada when I was quite young, the whole family has stayed involved in the motorcycle vibe. would love to meet you someday!

  2. We were more than happy to have you and the other 7 female riders visit us in the Ottawa Valley and showcase some of our best riding routes. Come back any time… we’ll try to do something about the black flies next time ;) Look forward to reading your tour story! Happy travels!

  3. Excellent Tricia! I love your closing line, “The peahen doesn’t need giant colorful feathers to be just as important and beautiful.” It epitomizes why I love riding with other women–most often we just focus on the riding, the scenery, and how lucky we are to be traveling on two wheels.

    It’s also why I started leading “Teaching Women How to Tour by Motorcycle” motorcycle tours–while I love men, they really do approach riding in a different way than (most) women. Let me tell you, our all-female tour this year? AWESOME! The way the women interacted with each other gave each of them, just as on your press tour, the environment to really learn and thrive and improve, without any egos or competition involved. I can’t wait to read your article!

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