Long-dis­tance mo­tor­cy­cle trips seek to em­power women

'My com­pany tagline is life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ences on two wheels'

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Ayear ago Alisa Click­enger helped or­ga­nize a cross-coun­try mo­tor­cy­cle trip for women to com­mem­o­rate the 100-year an­niver­sary of a most amaz­ing ride by two sis­ters from Brook­lyn, New York. The Sis­ters' Cen­ten­nial Mo­tor­cy­cle Ride hon­ored the ex­ploits of Au­gusta and Ade­line Van Buren, who in 1916 rode mo­tor­cy­cles more than 5,000 miles (8,000 km) across the coun­try to prove that women could be mil­i­tary mo­tor­cy­cle couri­ers, able to en­dure long dis­tances and harsh con­di­tions as well as men. For Click­enger, it was a break­through.

"The ride was im­por­tant to me," Click­enger said. "It was the re­al­iza­tion of a long-held dream of mine to lead a group of women across the United States on mo­tor­cy­cles. See­ing nearly 250 women on mo­tor­cy­cles in my rearview mir­ror rid­ing over the Golden Gate Bridge was epic - some­thing I'll never for­get. It was very emo­tional for me." The ride also helped Click­enger demon­strate what her fledg­ling com­pany, Women's Mo­tor­cy­cle Tours, could ac­com­plish.

"For me, part of rid­ing mo­tor­cy­cles still is the chal­lenge of em­brac­ing the un­known, the mas­tery of ma­chine and also fac­ing my fears and meet­ing the chal­lenges of an ex­tended mo­tor­cy­cle ad­ven­ture," said Click­enger, whose com­pany fo­cuses solely on tours for fe­male mo­tor­cy­clists. "It was the first time I've seen so many man­u­fac­tur­ers (In­dian and BMW among them) come to­gether for a com­mon goal - pro­mot­ing women and mo­tor­cy­cling. It was won­der­ful."

Women own about 14 per­cent of reg­is­tered mo­tor­cy­cles, up from 8 per­cent in 1998, ac­cord­ing to the Mo­tor­cy­cle In­dus­try Coun­cil's lat­est num­bers. But Genevieve Sch­mitt, founder and ed­i­tor of on­line mag­a­zine "Women Rid­ers Now" , says those num­bers count only new reg­is­tra­tions. She says women com­prise nearly 25 per­cent of those who ride (in­clud­ing pas­sen­gers), and that makes them ma­jor play­ers in the rid­ing busi­ness.

"Per­son­ally, I feel we've kind of seen an ex­po­nen­tial growth in the 11 to 12 years that I've had the site," Sch­mitt said. "There is a whole new mar­ket of young girls in their 20s who have taken up rid­ing that we haven't seen, re­ally, in his­tory." Why are more women tak­ing up mo­tor­cy­cling? Sch­mitt calls it the "copy­cat ef­fect. A woman sees an­other woman rid­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle and says, 'If she can do it, so can I!'" Man­u­fac­tur­ers such as Harley-David­son pro­duce en­try-level mo­tor­cy­cles but it can still seem "in­tim­i­dat­ing get­ting on a pow­er­ful ve­hi­cle," said Pam Ker­misch, a novice rider who works for Po­laris, the com­pany that owns In­dian and Vic­tory mo­tor­cy­cle brands. "I did all the class­room stuff.

Free­dom from our fears

That's one thing, but it's an­other thing to ac­tu­ally get on and do it. Once you do it, it's very doable. I think for a lot of peo­ple, that's the scary part. I think the sec­ond piece of it is that in or­der to get con­fi­dence you have to do it more." Which is where Click­enger, who lives in Di­a­mond Bar, Cal­i­for­nia, but is on the road most of the time, comes in. Like just about every­body who rides a mo­tor­cy­cle, she iden­ti­fies with the credo that the only way to travel is on two wheels. In March, she or­ga­nized an all-fe­male mo­tor­cy­cle tour of Cuba. That will be fol­lowed by the Colorado Back­coun­try Dis­cov­ery Route dur­ing the last week of July and a tour of the Amer­i­can South­west in Oc­to­ber de­part­ing from Las Ve­gas.

"My com­pany tagline is life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ences on two wheels," Click­enger said. "The bot­tom line is it's about em­pow­er­ment, and the feel­ing of free­dom - free­dom from our fears, free­dom from so­ci­etal con­straints, free­dom from our own self-con­structed, pre-con­ceived con­straints and break­ing those bound­aries." Click­enger says she isn't con­cerned that cater­ing to women lim­its her com­pany's po­ten­tial. In fact, that's the ul­te­rior mo­tive to her ven­ture. "The joy I find­ing bring­ing women to­gether to ride and ex­plore and be­come em­pow­ered through mas­tery over ma­chine is what drives me," said Click­enger, who fig­ures she's rid­den at least 250,000 miles (400,000 km), in­clud­ing a seven-month solo trip from New York to Ar­gentina. "It's been re­ally fun watch­ing the rip­ple ef­fect, how the cross­coun­try trip af­fected them and their self-per­ceived lim­i­ta­tions about what's pos­si­ble for them in their own lives."

Swim­ming pool

Next year, Click­enger will of­fer sev­eral tours, in­clud­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle ad­ven­ture in south­ern Africa dubbed "Water­falls and Wildlife." She also plans a se­ries of week­end re­treats in San Diego, San Fran­cisco, and Se­dona, Ari­zona, and two teach­ing tours for women just get­ting started in tour­ing on two wheels, as a way to in­spire them to take big trips on their own.

Diane Hus­ton, who served in the Mid­dle East dur­ing a 20-year ca­reer in the Air Force, is long past the learn­ing stage, and she wasn't de­terred af­ter the first ride on her new Harley-David­son in 1995 ended up in a swim­ming pool. The lure of the open road is a pow­er­ful thing. "To me, rid­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle is an ab­so­lute brain dump with the free­dom of wide-open spa­ces," said Hus­ton, who was on the cen­ten­nial ride, toured Cuba, and hopes to go on Click­enger's Africa tour next year. "I do hope that women we en­coun­tered along the way have be­come em­pow­ered them­selves to re­al­ize that no mat­ter what we de­sire, we can have it. We just need to do it, against all odds."— AP

— AP pho­tos

In this photo pro­vided by Alisa Click­enger, Click­enger leads a group of women rid­ers over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fran­cisco at the end of a cross-coun­try trip to honor two sis­ters from Brook­lyn, NY, who made a sim­i­lar ride in 1916.

— AP

In this photo an aerial view shows a field in Ut­ting am Am­mersee, south­ern Ger­many, with a por­trait of Ger­man the­ol­o­gist and sem­i­nal fig­ure for the ref­or­ma­tion Martin Luther which was cre­ated by farm­ers Corinne and Uli Ern to cel­e­brate the 500th an­niver­sary of the ref­or­ma­tion.

Photo shows Click­enger rid­ing her mo­tor­cy­cle in In­dia, de­scend­ing the moun­tains headed for Manali.

Photo shows Click­enger pos­ing with her mo­tor­cy­cle in Namibia.

Photo shows Click­enger pos­ing in front of the Che Gue­vara Mau­soleum, a fa­vored stop for vis­i­tors in Cuba.

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