More women than ever are riding motorcycles
There’s something about the liberating feeling of riding a motorcycle on the open road that’s hard to describe.
But it’s a feeling an increasing number women of the upper Texas coast embrace. And they’re in good company.
A 2016 Motorcycle Industry Council survey found that women account for 14 percent of all U.S. motorcycle owners, well up from the 8 percent reported in 1998.
Of the 9.2 million owners, more of them are women than the council ever recorded.
Stacy Smith, a Galveston hairstylist and Texas A&M University at Galveston maritime student, has been riding motor bikes since she was 7. Her father bought her first all-terrain vehicle when she was growing up in Port Arthur, she said.
“That was my first taste of riding and motor sports,” Smith, 47, said. “I rode fast and I was hooked.”
Smith graduated from that three-wheeler to a powerful black Kawasaki Ninja ZX1000.
“Mine is a total race bike and super fast,” Smith said. “But I am an adrenaline junkie. And on those days when I am totally stressed out, this is the one thing that I want to do. I love the power and the speed of the bike and it makes everything fade away.”
Smith likes to take weekend rides to Houston, Katy, Kingwood or out to Galveston’s West End or Surfside for lunch with a group of other riders.
Of course, the fear of accidents is always on her mind, she said.
“But if I have a fall, I just get up and go again,” she said. “I’ve been a bit bruised and beat up, but I love riding so much that I always bounce back.”
Smith’s friend, Tamra Pool, bought her first motorcycle more than a year ago. Although she lives in Beaumont, she makes weekly trips to Galveston on her Kawasaki Ninja ZX636, which is not the monster her friends have, but suitable for Pool’s purposes, she said.
“I do three things to relieve stress: cardio exercises at the gym, visit the ocean or ride my bike,” Pool said. “I do two of them every time I come to Galveston and I am good for the rest of the week.”
Pool likes to ride alone or with a group, but she’s very particular about who she rides with, she said.
“I’m very picky,” Pool said. “I want to be with experienced riders who don’t weave in and out and are responsible. I don’t want to be with crazy riders.”
On her first night ride alone, she felt such serenity looking at the ribbon of highway before her and the bright moon above, she said.
“It was so peaceful and the closest thing I’ve felt to freedom,” she said.
Pool, 48, takes precautions when she rides, she said. She wears a special padded riding jacket in the cooler months and a ventilated jacket for the summer, along with her helmet, she said. But she opts for lightweight yoga pants instead of durable jeans “because they are so comfy,” she said.
And she loves the response people have when she tells them she rides a motorcycle.
“’That is so hot!’ It is so funny to hear that reaction referring to me,” she said.
‘MASTER OF MY OWN FATE’
Cleo Etienne of League City bought her first motorcycle four years ago when she was 50. She took the safety class, got a motorcycle license and began riding her black-and-chrome Harley-Davidson Night Rod, she said.
“There’s just nothing better than opening it up and riding,” said Etienne, who has worked for AT&T for 20 years and is working on earning her Master of Business Administration degree at Western Governors University. “I call my bike my ‘Black Angel.’ It is so awesome. When I am on my motorcycle, it is all about me. I am the master of my own fate. I just love and can’t imagine anything better.”
Etienne likes to make day trips to San Antonio or Louisiana and often finds herself traveling in the fast lane, she said.
“I’m not afraid to ‘open it up,’ but I won’t do anything dangerous,” she said. “I’m safe but not afraid of my bike.”
‘YOU CAN SEE EVERYTHING’
Debbi Loya’s husband, Joe, bought her motorcycle for her, although he doesn’t ride. Loya, 60, has 11 grandchildren and got a chrome Honda Silver Wing “Angel” four years ago. She makes almost weekly trips from Houston to Galveston to see friends, she said.
But high on her list is safety, she said. Loya wears a neon mohawk helmet because she wants passing cars to see her, she said.
“It’s all about visibility,” she said, adding she has blue LED lights on the bike to draw more attention.
Her colleagues at the University of Houston, where she has worked for 28 years, call her the “Crazy Mom,” and she decided wearing a dress to work when she rode the motorcycle wasn’t a good idea.
“No matter how much you sit on the skirt, it will fly up,” she said. “It is best to wear jeans and boots, which gives me a better grip on the ground when I stop.”
The view from a motorcycle is so different than from inside a car,” she said.
“When you are in a car, you focus on the road,” Loya said. “But on a bike, you can see everything. It is peaceful and freedom and I absolutely love to ride.”
‘MY MIDLIFE CRISIS’
After raising her children, Galveston dentist Michelle Pinder, 47, was looking for a hobby, she said.
“My kids were grown, and I didn’t have much to do,” she said. “It’s my midlife crisis.”
She and her aunt and cousins decided to take a motorcycle class, she said.
Pinder, who two years ago moved to Galveston from the Bahamas, liked the class so much, she soon bought a Kawasaki 500.
Now, she and family and friends spend a lot of time together on motorcycles, she said. She’s taken short trips — from Galveston to Houston — but plans to take longer ones when she builds up the nerve, she said.
One trip she has in mind is Sturgis, South Dakota, home to a massive motorcycle rally, which is typically in August.
And Pinder is looking forward to Lone Star Rally, which is Nov. 1-4 in Galveston, she said.
“Of course, I’m not missing that,” she said.