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Women like bikes these days

Women like bikes these days

Release Date: 1/29/2006

In 2004, Sandy Zakosky decided to get back into the motorcycle thing after giving it up more than 20 years before. "I rode as a kid because I couldn't afford a car and I liked it," said Zakosky, 57, of Brighton, Mich. "Now that the kids are out of the house and out of college, I decided to do it again." According to industry watchers, more and more women like Zakosky are falling in love with motorcycles. An estimated 6.6 million motorcycle owners lived in the United States in 2003, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council, based in Irvine, Calif. And about 635,000 of those are women. The number of female riders rose 36 percent from 467,400 in 1998. Several vendors and manufacturers at a recent motorcycle show in Novi, Mich., featured products aimed toward women. Women can buy bikes built to accommodate them. Bonnie Strawser, organizer of Femmoto.com, a women's track-day organization based in Toledo, Ohio, has been riding motorcycles for more than 20 years. The organization sponsors more than 100 one-day track events nationwide for women, who get to hone their riding skills and learn about gear crafted specifically for them. "I'm ecstatic about the changes I've seen," Strawser said. "There are so many motorcycles out there that are made for women." Dale Durham, 49, visited the Novi show with his wife, Judith Durham, 48. The Sterling Heights, Mich., couple own Honda Gold Wings and have been riding together for about four years. They go to the motorcycle show to see a variety of brands and the latest and greatest technology and options, Dale Durham said. Their favorites this year? "The air bag on the Honda Gold Wing was interesting, something different," said Durham, who said he wasn't aware motorcycles could have air bags before the show. "Also the new GPS option on the Honda Gold Wing." Durham said riding with his wife is part of the charm. Local dealers say almost half the motorcycles sold last year were purchased by women. "We sold probably 45 to 50 units to women," said Russ Gillum, a salesman at Olson Power Sports in Detroit. "We sell 160 motorcycles a year." Many of the women buying motorcycles have been at it a while, Gillum said. "I think it's great. Women want to have a good time as much as we do," he said. Strawser, who is 5 feet, 2 inches tall and 115 pounds, appreciates the models made specifically for women's smaller size. "Women don't have the upper-body strength like men do, so we need something else and it's turning around. There are bikes that are lower to the ground ... with narrower seats and more room," she said. Strawser would not give her age, but 2003 statistics show the median age for a female motorcyclist was 42. She said she likes that the industry caters more to women now. "When I began riding, it was discouraging. There wasn't a broad market for women," she said. Ty van Hooydonk, director of product communications for the Irvine, Calif.-based Discover Today's Motorcycling, said the industry has grown, in part, because women make up more than 50 percent of the population. "There has also been more marketing and more apparel geared toward women. You can't look at something on TV, in a movie or an advertisement without seeing a motorcycle," he said.

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