How-To: Teach a Woman…

You have asked and I shall answer, to the best of my ability.

This one goes out to all the men out there who are lucky enough to have a lady in their lives who is either riding her own motorcycle, is learning to ride her own, or is thinking about learning to ride. Maybe she’s your wife, your girlfriend, a family member, or just a woman who is in your social circle and for some reason or another has “adopted” you to be her mentor for her two-wheeled adventures.

These are the “rules of engagement” as I have come to understand them in my journey as a biker chick to become the best skilled rider I can possibly be. Look at these “rules” as a general guideline, as an inside peek at how us girls roll.

Biker Babes

If the woman in question is already riding her own motorcycle, there are only two points you need to be clear on:

  1. More likely, a woman will ask for advice when she wants it and ask it of whom she trusts. Do not offer uninvited advice, unless you see her doing something repeatedly that could endanger her and others. In this case, be tactful, respectful and don’t get personal. And please don’t dress her down in front of the entire crowd. Think of how you would want this to be handled. This is not the time to trash talk, poke fun or be condescending. The message will only be heard if it is delivered appropriately. Any other time, keep it to yourself. Men are protectors, they want to fix things that they deem to be broken in some form or another. You’re wired that way, but please rise above your biology and resist the urge to “fix it” or “save her from herself”. Uninvited critique on technique or style will come across as patronizing, sexist, sometimes belittling, and even disrespectful. Again, a girl will ask if she wants to know.
  2. When you overhear a woman, usually in quite an animated fashion, critiquing her own screw-ups, please don’t take this to be an open invitation for a riding lesson. We’re not exasperated or unsure of ourselves. It isn’t a sign of being helpless. When a girl goes on about how she totally blew a corner, or how she was a complete idiot for doing this, or not doing something else, she is processing. She knew she’s messed up; and that should be the key to understanding that she isn’t asking for help or trying to elicit your advice on the sly, but rather is engaging in an “after-action review”, to relive an event so she can do better next time. She is aware of her boundaries and where her skill development needs further attention. She’s got it under control and is handling her affairs.

Biker Babes in Training

If the woman is a beginning rider or is thinking about learning to ride a motorcycle, here is a list of things to keep in mind to understand how our learning experiences differ from that of the men, and how best to deal with gender-specific issues that may not even cross your mind as it is a non-issue for most guys.

  1. If she has asked you to teach her how to ride and you have agreed, you should sit down first and talk about the expectations you have of each other. Make your own ground rules to ensure a pleasant and fun experience, for both student and teacher.
  2. Implore her to take a basic riding course either before or after you begin teaching her. I cannot overemphasize the importance of formal practical training. She can learn the fundamentals of motorcycle operation in a safe and controlled environment with a relaxed and non-threatening atmosphere. A foundation which I personally found to be of huge benefit to my further education and skill training. Two of the most common courses are the Basic RiderCourse offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and the Rider’s Edge Course offered by a lot of Harley Davidson dealers. Taking a riding course will also help those women who are unsure, to figure out if riding a motorcycle is something they would enjoy, before they take the plunge and buy a motorcycle, which is a sort-of big deal for a lot of us financially.
  3. If at all possible, hook her up with an experienced female rider who rides the same type of motorcycle that she does. Women riders understand the obstacles a girl faces when first starting out and are for the most part very supportive of each other and a lot of women will feel more comfortable asking certain questions of another female rider.
  4. Be patient and let her take each lesson at her own pace. A woman’s learning curve differs from that of a man’s. Generally speaking, a woman will learn at a slower pace, but will peak their skill set above that of the average man. I’m not saying this to be sexist, it has to do with how most of us girls approach new experiences and how we work through problems and our anxieties. We place more emphasis on education and prevention to keep us out of potential trouble. Men are more apt to wing it and learn as they go. “One down, five up? Ok, see ya.” That’s how my husband learned to ride; that was the question-statement he posed to the dude he bought his first bike from, gave him the cash and rode off into the sunset.
  5. Do not pressure her about her speed. If you constantly nag her about “being slow” you may inadvertently destroy the confidence she is building in herself and her bike’s capabilities and turn it into frustration. In other words, don’t push her too far too fast. Girls don’t have the need to keep up with their buddies for worry of embarrassing themselves or being called slow; for the most part. Her speed will pick up on its own as her skills mature and her confidence increases.
  6. Don’t try and talk her into something or out of something. Ride your own ride, let her do the same.
  7. Let her buy her own ride. Period. She is the one who has to ride it, not you. Give her pointers, if she asks for your opinion, but give them objectively and without putting a spin on things. Also implore her to do her own research. The more she knows about motorcycle basics, the better the position she’ll be in to make an informed decision.
  8. Don’t let her wimp out. This is a toughie, though. When we have a bad experience and we aren’t reliant on our motorcycle for daily transportation, we have the option to take the Chicken Exit rather than working through it and conquering our fear. This can manifest itself in several ways, and not necessarily where you would think. That is what makes this one so difficult to pinpoint, even to ourselves. Be supportive, listen, and gently encourage her to keep on trying. How do you do this? That is something I cannot answer. It’s probably easier for another female rider to accomplish, because girls are more apt to say “if she can do it, so can I” when she can’t find the motivation on her own. Left to her own devices, a woman usually will either work through her discomfort and keep pushing herself in an effort to overcome the obstacle in her path or she will eventually quit. It all depends on how much importance she places on conquering the perceived setback. Not all women will become avid motorcyclists, some will find that it’s not for them after all and some will turn it into a lifestyle and sell their cars. Some will be content with riding pillion and others won’t stop until they have their racing license and have proven to themselves that they can do it. Again, whatever she decides, it is not a failure on her part or yours as her mentor.
  9. Realize that women riders face a slightly different set of difficulties when learning to ride a motorcycle. Things most men find a non-issue and have never really given it much thought. Things such as: seat height, rider position, weight of the motorcycle, upper body strength, physical endurance, inseam, body shape, etc. These all have an impact to one degree or another of how we approach riding and the kind of bikes we find “agreeable” to us when we first start out. Even finding properly fitting motorcycle gear can be a real chore for girls.
  10. And last, but not least, don’t ever append “…for a girl” at the end of a statement; unless you want to carry your balls home in a jar.

26 Comments on “How-To: Teach a Woman…”

  1. Great post! Lots of good info to pass along to the gents!

    • Miss Busa says:

      Thank you, dear. 🙂 I tried to put all of the gripes the girls had mentioned over the years, gripes they had when learning to ride and condense them here. I know I forgot some, but hope I got the important points across without coming across as crass or bitchy. Tough gig when it really is such an individual experience and largely depends on the people involved.

  2. @DaveMinella says:

    Great stuff. I had to pocket my pride and direct Jen to a more able instructor. I started out as an eight-year-old kid in the dirt, and although I’ve spent most of my life riding, I had to admit to her and myself I wasn’t the best teacher. That’s probably tough for a lot of guys.

    • Miss Busa says:

      Awesomeness. My husband did the same thing. And I think it takes a good man to do just that. He kept saying that the hardest thing for him was to admit that I had surpassed him and to support me by pointing me to more capable hands, such as Kevin Schwantz and Ed Bargy. Now I am his teacher in a lot of ways and he’s proud rather than ashamed.

      Thanks for being there for Jen. 🙂

  3. chesshirecat says:

    One of the best columns I’ve read regarding teaching, females, and riding.
    You are able to think clearly, then bring the thoughts to written form in a distinctly intelligent, gently prodding, non-condescending manner that not only informs, but does it in a way that most people are able to learn from. Your gentle humor, your well thought statements and observations are easily digested, filed and remembered because you just know how to teach. There are not many who can deliver the written word like you do. This is great stuff.

    • Miss Busa says:

      OMG! I feel like I just won an award. I am honored. And floored… mostly I’m astonished. Thank you, Chessie. THAT comment just made my WEEK! =D *does the happy dance and giggles like a little girl*

  4. don fuller says:

    great article. it seems more women are riding every day. awesome. it is nice to see them riding instaed of being “fender fluff.”.

    • Miss Busa says:

      “Fender fluff” I love it! I have to remember that. 🙂 Don, I agree. I’m doing my best to corrupt the ladies and get them into the front seat. Most women I have met and talked to during my ride outs, have only fear to hold them back. That’s the most common concern they voice and the reason why they approach me. They want to know how I did it.

  5. Loved this! Especially the last sentence! Brings back SO many memories!

  6. MotoQT says:

    Great article write up! I think alot of gents can really benefit from this insight & pointers! I dont see much advise out there for “them” on a “how-to” with women so, IMO, this is much needed (and i wish was available when i was being taught how to ride my sportsbike)… thanks!

    • Miss Busa says:

      Thank you, MotoQT. I really got lucky in that respect. Hubby knew me and what made me tick, he got me started and sent me off to take a course. I took matters into my own hands then and taught myself with lots of reading and more schools.

  7. Black widow says:

    Amen sista!

    • Miss Busa says:

      A little inside joke:

      “You CANNOT take the ‘600 line’ through there…”
      “Looks to me like I can and I did. And I’m gonna do it again, just ’cause.”

      =D ’nuff said. *busts out laughing*

      I know you remember this one. 🙂

  8. Kudos! love this! My addition…if you hear a guy tell a girl you ‘ride pretty good for a girl’..your prompt reply should be …AND SO DO YOU!!

  9. diannaleigh says:

    Great post 😀 I look forward to many more on female riders 😉

  10. Great post!! This is why I sent my wife to the MSF course.

    I don’t agree with #7 though. Some bikes a beginner shouldn’t be on whether they are male or female. i really think the US should go to a graduated license like Germany has. That would prevent a lot of people injuring themselves and others on bikes that they have no business being on at their experience level.

    • Miss Busa says:

      Even if we had a graduated licensing system, #7 still applies. 🙂 Unlike the men, most (not all) women choose their bikes using other criteria. We are a more practical bunch. Power and torque aren’t specs that are the highest priority, at least not at first. However, the statement stands as such that you should advise a beginning rider of the problems that learning on more powerful machines bring: harder to learn on, more unforgiving of unintentional or hamfisted inputs, more expensive, may be more costly to repair, heavier, usually a little taller and wider, etc. However, she has to ride it and ultimately she should get what she wants, if her decision was based on good objective info and her own preferences, rather than what you THINK she should ride.

  11. motopixel says:

    Oh my gosh this is the BEST article! You’ve said so eloquently what I’ve been trying to articulate to my b/f and others for ages! I’ve been riding for 18 years both dirt and street and I’m excited to see more lady riders, so the importance of these kinds of informative discussions cannot be understated. I’ve noticed so many different challenges – and ways of processing – from the female rider perspective , but was never able to really say with confidence that we *are* different and we do approach riding from an alternate viewpoint..but that doesn’t mean we can’t ride just as well!. That bit about talking through the mistakes after the fact is brilliant!! Actually, it’s ALL brilliant, thank you so much for your voice!

    • Miss Busa says:

      “…but that doesn’t mean we can’t ride just as well!.” <~ Oh, I'm loving this one. Right on, sister! I can envision Part 2 to this, dealing with more advanced women riders… …and what sort of motivation doesn't work for us, but works for men, when trying to teach us more advanced techniques. Some of that stuff really backfires, or can, if we're in just the right mood. LOL But that's a story for another post, with quite the humorous anecdote. =D

      Thank you for the kudos.

  12. tmbiker says:

    Not sure I would accept any advice from a dude who wears blue gloves with a brown jacket and red helmet.

    • Miss Busa says:

      Spoken like a true fashionista. *giggles* But since I can’t tell what gender you are, this is either comical or an insult or a little of both. =D I’m glad I color-coordinated that day. But had I known I was going to ride the “motorsports edition” I would have not shown up in baby pink.

  13. Emma says:

    This is such a brilliant article. As a woman biker and chairman of a women only bike club, I totally endorse that women need support from other women and not ‘willy waving’ from macho men! Pop along to http://www.curvyriders.co.uk to offer and find support with other lady bikers of all abilities.

  14. ludi says:

    great article indeed. Beware of the “sitting next to God ” syndrome though.Remember to take it easy and that your teeth are your grille and your knees are your bumper.I ‘m concerned about deer at night,with some antlers of course.But c’est la vie et vive la motocycleta.


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