Sunday, September 16, 2012

Do Women Really Need a Specially Designed Motorcycle Model?

Is it marketing hype or reality? Since I am doing this business, every year or so I hear about a shop proclaiming that it is building a model to be mass produced just for women. The manufacturer or shop making this claim can be managed by men stating that they have an acute understanding of women riding needs, or a woman managed entity because, as you are supposed to know, only women can understand women...

What are the main justifications advanced for these claims? Women are shorter, have less strength, want a more comfortable seat, don't want to burn their legs on the exhaust, want everything adjustable, etc. My first remark will be that some men are short and shorter than many women (it's what lowering kits are made for), have also more or less strength than others, may want a comfortable seat as much as women do and, as far as I know, nobody has ever wanted to burn some skin on exhaust pipes.

But first, let's not confuse a woman motorcycle model to fit ALL women with 1- A feminine motorcycle which is a factory motorcycle getting its UNIQUE touch mainly through the choice of accessories and of a custom paint job. 2- a one-off custom motorcycle built from the ground up or customized by a custom builder with only ONE woman in mind. The same way car manufacturers don't build cars for women (no the Mini Cooper is not a female specific car, and yes women are at the origin of the SUV's success because providing a greater sense of security), I don't believe in a mass produced model for women (no, the Sportster is not and has never been a woman bike whatever some may think).

Ladies, I don't care your average height, weight, hip width (I am always polite), inseam length, etc. Like all custom builders I care only about you the rider, male or female, and only you as a person with a unique morphology and personality. I have built a few custom bikes at the request of women. I didn't build them a motorcycle for women, but a motorcycle custom tailored for you a specific woman.

None of these women wanted a bike for all women, and none would have accepted what I built for another woman client. And that's the way it should be. All women making a living as Custom Builders (and I know them all) build bikes for either sex because they build custom bike personalities. All female riders I know, like male riders, have customized or will customize their bikes for their own style and taste. It's what the after-market parts business is all about. I always confided to my industry friends that I wish there are more female custom builders. But I don't believe in creating one bike model for all women (not until 50% of riders are female!?!).

Until now there is no success story coming from a mass produced woman motorcycle venture. I think that the marketing proposition is very deceptive. I just believe in riding education to push more women to ride and improve their skills, and of course in customization because all men and women are different individuals. A Brenda Fox, Sasha Mullins, Genevieve Schmitt etc, all very feminine riders, are able to handle any bike, even supposedly "men" bikes, because they know how to ride.

Of course it doesn't exclude that they adapt/adjust their own bikes to their morphology, needs and taste. We just need more experienced women like them on the road. And guess what? They never burn their legs on the exhaust (not more than us!) and never refuse to ride because of the thickness of the seat. And the reason is, they are bikers. Both men and women, let me know your thoughts.

Cyril Huze is a master custom motorcycles designer & builder, inductee in 2006 in the IMBBA Hall Of Fame, whose work has been featured worldwide on TV, videos, covers of magazines, hard cover books, calendars, etc. His customs are some of the prettiest and most acclaimed in the motorcycle industry. He also designs and markets his own line of custom motorcycle parts sold to motorcycle dealers and direct retail all over the world He is a columnist and contributor for several major magazines in the US & Europe. He is also the only celebrity of the custom motorcycle industry to publish a Blog at updated daily with news, new custom bikes & parts, tidbits about the custom motorcycle scene. His Blog is the most credible and the most read by the medias, professionals and fans of custom motorcycles all over the world.