Carson City: Command center for women who ride
AMA Women and Motorcycling Conference also boosts OEM outreach
In late July, more than 500 women from throughout North America rolled into Carson City, Nev., to celebrate their shared passion for motorcycling. The 2012 American Motorcyclist Association International Women & Motorcycling Conference featured presenters from around the globe and drew a healthy share of cruiser riders, with a splash of sport bike, sport touring, dual-sport and off-road enthusiasts mixed in for good measure.
Some women rode in solo, while others paired up or traveled with their local riding club. Before leaving Southern California, a small group of women attended a brief breakfast and product display at Long Beach BMW Motorcycles. Ariel Krawczyk of MotoQuest Escort Rider provided insight on an upcoming women’s Alaska motorcycle tour, and Schuberth explained the technology involved in its C3W women’s helmet. BMW and Husqvarna also took their turns under the spotlight at the dealership.
In Carson City, the Gold Dust West hotel was transformed into a mecca for women who love motorcycles.
“The parking lot was complete with everything from a 1970s era CB550 to bikes just off the showroom floor. I saw sport bikes with used tread on the sidewalls and full-dress cruisers,” said Peg Preble, who conducted a motorcycle troubleshooting seminar at the outdoor Progressive Moto Action Center.
For three days straight, conference attendees were treated to well over 100 demo bikes, countless seminars, inspiring legends, a gymnasium of vendor displays, extensive skill-building opportunities and evening celebrations.
Coach2Ride.com instructors Bonnie Warch and Andrea Beach from San Diego County taught daily novice dirt bike classes, while three-time Daytona champion and 1999 AMA Hall of Famer Walt Fulton stayed busy conducting a Streetmasters Precision Cornering workshop.
One of the most sought-after activities included the demo rides, made possible with corporate support from Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, KYMCO, Yamaha and Victory.
Kawasaki’s demo fleet included 10 cruisers and 20 sport bikes and sport-tourers. The Ninja 650 was the most requested model, followed by the Ninja ZX-6R.
“It was definitely worth our time to be here,” said Cliff Smalls, Kawasaki’s consumer events coordinator. “With a group this size, we were able to tailor the rides to some of the newer riders. We could spend more time with each customer. It’s different from your typical motorcycle rallies. Women are more level-headed and ride within their limits.”
KYMCO brought an extensive lineup of its new scooter offerings.
“We do well at our demo events, and this event is an obvious one for us to attend,” KYMCO director of marketing Rick Pawelka said. “Female riders used to be an oddity, but now scooters are a more viable choice for women. The women at this conference are serious enthusiasts.”
With an estimated 65 percent ownership of the women’s motorcycle market, Harley-Davidson was front and center with a wide variety of demo bikes to test. H-D partnered with its local dealer, Carson City Harley-Davidson, to host two well-attended evening events during the conference.
“The women’s conference has been a great way for us to engage with our female customers. We talk to them about fitment, style, function and performance,” said Christina Kutsch, Harley-Davidson project manager, events.
Demo rides popular
At this year’s conference, the most popular Harley-Davidson models included the SuperLows, Street Glides and Tri Glide Ultra Classics.
“One of our most recently launched bikes, the Softail Slim, was also well received,” Kutsch added.
The Motorcycle Industry Council and AMA teamed up to sponsor an industry luncheon.
“We wanted to provide an opportunity where women who work in the industry could get together, network and discuss areas of common interests,” said Cam Arnold, avid motorcyclist and MIC vice president of member services & aftermarket programs. “It was a very impressive room of women.”
Schuberth North America vice president Randy Northrup said the days of segmenting the women’s marketplace are over, for smart businesses.
“Most people consider the women’s market a niche market,” Northrup said. “I think this market is stronger than many companies realize. These women are hardcore riders and savvy consumers and this conference provided us with a great way to get in front of this key market segment and to gain unfiltered valuable insight directly from women riders themselves.”
Many of the women at the conference are first-generation motorcyclists. In addition, a good number of them joined the ranks of motorcycling community without the benefit of a role model.
“This was another fantastic gathering of women motorcyclists,” said AMA board of directors vice chairwoman Maggie McNally. “I am awe-stuck by these women and their inspiring stories. They represent the most exciting development in motorcycling over the last decade.”
Moto-journalist George Tranos, vice president and instructor at the Big Apple Motorcycle School on Long Island, was one of the minority men at this year’s conference.
“Women share the same goals, ride the same bikes and have similar concerns as men,” he explained. “If anything, women are more safety conscious and have better insight into the emotional and mental obstacles that riders can put in their own way. Other than a little more bling and a few pink bikes, the motorcycles in the parking area looked just like what men would ride.”