So you like motorcycles? Oh, but you’re a woman. Hmm, you should still get some protective gear, I suppose. You like pink and purple don’t you and the word ‘chic’ written in calligraphy on your jacket? And I’m sure you don’t mind your gear just being the same as the guys stuff but with girly names? What, you want motorcycle gear that’s specifically made for women that’s both stylish and protective? Well, too bad because this is the sad state of motorcycle gear for woman today.
Unfortunately, it’s the year 2015 and there’s still a massive gender gap between the sexes in the motorcycle industry. Motorcycles are first and foremost marketed at those of us with XY chromosomes. In nine out of ten examples, motorcycle promotional material will only show a woman on a bike if she’s the pillion.
And yet, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council 2012 Statistics Annual, women made up almost 25 per cent of riders in the United States, or 6.7 million individuals. That’s an increase of nearly 35 per cent from 2003 making women the fastest growing demographic in the industry.
Compared to three or even five years ago, the range of motorcycle gear for women is leaps and bounds better. But when you start from a low base it’s not hard to make big gains. We took a look at the offerings Revzilla to see the range available to women today and it isn’t exactly great – and that’s no criticism of Revzilla as they’re actually one of, if not the best online retailer when it comes to women’s gear:
So men’s products outnumber women’s at a ratio of nearly 3 to 1. But those numbers don’t tell the full picture. Firstly, within those products men have a far greater choice of color and design per product. Take for example the Dainese Air-Flux Textile Jacket – available in 5 different colors for the guys and 3 for the girls. Or the Alpinestars Jaws leather jacket where for men you can choose from 7 color combinations compared to 2 for women. Revzilla and a few other online stores are best case scenarios too – many other online motorcycle stores have far less range on sale for women (or in stock) and if you go into a bricks and mortar store, well, good luck with that.
The most common complaints we hear from women when it comes to motorcycle gear however isn’t so much the total number of products available or what colors they are, it’s actually finding something that fits. Pants are often too long and don’t cater to the fact that on average, women are shorter than men. Fit for jackets is often problematic too, as many times the manufacturer markets a jacket as a women’s just because they sell it in smaller sizes, not taking into account the difference in circumference of either the upper arm or chest. The jacket also runs short at the midriff, exposing women’s stomachs to abrasion injuries far more than men.
Here’s a perfect example of fit. Below is a comparison shot of the Dainese Racing Leather Jacket for both men and women. Being a race cut, it should fit tightly and snug for aerodynamics and also for safety – you want the armor sitting tight against your body so it doesn’t move around in an accident. These shots aren’t something we’ve done up – they are the official promotional shots from Dainese. The man’s jacket is exactly as it should be – snug (but not suffocating) on the body, tailored and cut to an average man’s shape. The photo of the woman modelling the jacket almost look like she’s a child wearing her parent’s clothes that are five sizes too big. It’s bulky, it’s billowing and it most certainly is not properly fitted. It’d almost be amusing if it wasn’t so serious.
And if you need further evidence that men in the motorcycle gear industry have no idea, take a look at some of the names for these gloves from Speed and Strength: Women’s Cat Out’a Hell Gloves, Women’s Sinfully Sweet Gloves and this last one I promise I’m not making up – Speed and Strength Women’s Wicked Garden Gloves. Sure, the name of the men’s gloves aren’t exactly intellectual either, but examples like Trial by Fire and Stars and Stripes don’t sound quite as condescending as Wicked Garden gloves.
We haven’t mentioned helmets yet because this is probably the biggest issue for women when it comes to gear. Again using Revzilla as an example, if you break the helmets up between male and female, you’ll get 685 choices for men and only 47 for women. Revzilla state the following on their Women’s Helmets page:
Every brand we carry (except for Schuberth) manufactures and sizes their helmets the same for both men and women, the only differentiating factor being that they have utilized a graphic more appealing to women then men.
Again, no criticism of Revzilla as they’re only the retailer, but that is categorically bullcrap.
A helmet is the single most important piece of safety equipment you can wear while riding a motorcycle and for manufactures to take the view that close enough is good enough for protecting women’s skulls is abysmal. Sure, the difference between men’s and women’s heads isn’t as significant as say the difference in size or shape of their chests, but there’s difference enough that women should be properly catered for.
The major differences between male and female skulls include:
- Male skulls are larger than female skulls
- In males, the forehead is slightly sloping or receding while for females it is vertical
- Male skulls are longer, chin is bigger and protrudes further forehead. The female skulls is more rounded and the jaws mandible and maxilla are smaller
- Above the orbits (eye sockets), the male cranium tends to have “blunt” superior margins and larger supraorbital (brow) ridges. The female cranium tends to have “sharp” superior margins of the orbits and no discernible supraorbital ridges
Of all the major helmet brands, Schuberth is the only one that we’re aware of that specifically makes helmets for women with their C3 Pro and C3 Lady. It’s not like they had to go to a great deal of trouble either, they merely had to modify the padding of the helmet to better accommodate the forehead and jawline for women. A breakthrough in engineering!
So what hope is there for women? There’s some because a few brands are at least trying. Alpinestars launched its Stella range for women back in 2009 and while it still doesn’t come near the offerings for men, the styles and fit are at least designed with women in mind. Another brand that actively caters to women is none other than Harley-Davidson who for a long time have advertised to women and have a good range of clothing, plus women only events and even bike accessories. No other motorcycle brand currently comes close the HD when it comes to catering to women which given it’s macho image, should shame every other motorcycle manufacturer in existence.
What sticks out most is how much of a lost opportunity the motorcycle industry has had with women. A prime example of how wrong they got it is if you compare it to surfing. Back in 1990, Quicksilver launched Roxy, a surf brand aimed solely at women in the then heavily male dominated sport. Fast forward to today and women now make up 30 per cent of all surfers in Australia and 33 in the United States, but that will change dramatically because with the younger demographics it’s closer to 50/50. Go into any surf shop and half the range will cater for women. Sure, surfwear is more a style than motorcycle gear which is for protection, but why couldn’t it be both too?
As is stands, the gap will probably be filled by niche players like Allstate and Roland Sands Designs. Kickstarters are launching for women’s gear and accessories. But sadly, as long as the actual motorcycle manufacturers continue to ignore the female demographic, apparel and gear brands will continue to follow suit and sadly women will be left with less choice and potentially be less protected.