The Non-Ruffian Women of Harley

Sunday, March 13, 2005
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Women on two wheels – especially Harleys.

Move over, Hell’s Angels. A growing number of career women with discretionary income and no use for stereotypes are buying motorcycles and hitting the road.

Tom Deegan, a Harley-Davidson salesman with a grip like a longshoreman and a build like a bulldog, tries to be diplomatic when he describes the women once associated with motorcycles.

“They were kind of ruffians,” says Deegan, who has been selling bikes for nearly 15 years. “You’re seeing lots more professional women now.”

…..Rosenkrans said she used to be able to count fellow female riders on one hand. Now she knows women doctors, lawyers and judges who have become converts.

Among other women enjoying motorcycling are flight attendants, interior decorators, mall managers and mortgage officers. These career woman say they enjoy the freedom and the challenge.

Thank goodness the Ruffian stereotype is disappearing. More and more, I run into gals browsing at the dealership, and further conversation reveals that they have always wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle, have always wanted a Harley, and now that the kids are grown, it is their time to park a $20k beauty in their garage for their riding enjoyment. These are clean-cut, middle class to upper middle class gals, with families, and they want to experience the two-wheeled world. And they do. They learn.

I have been riding my whole life, so it’s always been a part of me. At age eight, I moved on from my Honda 50, 2-speed automatic to the big Indian dirt bike. My first lesson with a clutch, with dad instructing of course, ended up with me doing a wheelie into a tall bush that stood against the back of our house. Scared the hell out of me. Dad and the big brothers laughed, and to this day, that’s still a popular family joke. A couple of years later, I tried to impress my little sister and a bunch of other kids by doing an “Evil Knievel.” At our summer home in Northern Michigan, I launched off a small hill, hoping to jump over the entire width of an empty bulldozer trailer that was parked in the two-track roadway. The bulldozer was over at our house, digging the septic tank. Instead, I landed with my front wheel going down into the far side of the trailer wall. I remember the neighbor from across the road carrying me home, mouth bloodied. My sister reminds me of this occasionally.

Evil Knievel was a horroble influence on me. More than once, a Michigan State Trooper escorted me – or me and my riding buddies – home to Mom and Pop, for riding wheelies while standing on the seat down the paved highways (traffic was sparse!); riding backwards (Doug Domokos did it!); and for out-and-out racing on an ultra-curvy, sweeping backroad along Mullett Lake. Then a local farmer and his grandson opened up a motocross track on their back acres, with multiple whoops, berms, a starting gate, and more. Heaven for us kids. We beat the heck out of them bikes.

My parents, who don’t like to know that their daughter is engaging behemoths out on the freeway, on two wheels, stress that, yeah, we got you into motorcycles, but dirt bikes, not those of the death trap variety. They worry.

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