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Celebrate women riders

By Sharon Haak

Party in pink

Harley-Davidson honors female motorcyclists

Milwaukee, Wis., May 22–23—A party that included women and their Harley-Davidson motorcycles was more than enough reason to persuade hundreds of women from over the world to be called “home” to Milwaukee to celebrate May as Women Riders Month. Opening ceremonies took place at the Harley-Davidson Museum where Karen Davidson, creative director of Harley-Davidson general merchandise and great-granddaughter of co-founder William A. Davidson, immediately grabbed everyone’s interest. Judging by the smiles and fun banter, all were roarin’ ready for some merrymaking, much like a Screamin’ Eagle Performance Tire on hot asphalt. The ladies in attendance were thrilled that they had sent their party RSVPs with a fervent yes.

The Women Riders Month Celebration partiers, many of whom were sporting bright pink feather boas to acknowledge the Breast Cancer Network of Strength, gathered inside the museum, enjoying its store and restaurants and the museum grounds, with the Harley-Davidson semi holding 2010 demo bikes in one corner and some first-rate live music in another. Karen Davidson mingled with the ever-increasing crowd, and the exhaust, guitars and crowd got quiet as Karen stepped up on the open-air stage at exactly 11 a.m. to launch the two-day party.

Wearing a pink shirt for the occasion, Karen presented the new pink and black flame Harley-Davidson gas tank. She also informed us that more than $100,000 has been raised for breast cancer research as a result of Harley-Davidson Pink Label gear and apparel sales, featuring everything from the awesome Pink Label Leather Jacket to the swell Pink Label S/S tee. The fact that women love to ride was emphasized by Karen’s accounting that currently 23 percent of all riders in the United States are women, and that proclamation brought about a long stretch of cheers from the scores of female enthusiasts.

Applause also arose when it was announced that today’s party brought together women from Australia, Brazil, Holland, Italy and Mexico, more than doubling the number of Women Riders Month attendees who showed up last year. Special guest Cris Sommer Simmons and her two-wheel sister Athena “Vagabond Chickie” Ransom, also a special guest, joined the ovation. Cris is a Motor Maid, a highly-regarded author and the only American female entered into the Motorcycle Cannonball Run with her ride Effie, a 1915 Harley-Davidson 3-speed twin, and Athena, also a Motor Maid, is a well-known custom bike builder who is leading the “Chicks Rule & Boys Drool” bike-building tour.

After the excellent kick-off that included the Washington Elementary Brownie Troop from Wauwa­tosa, Wiscon­­sin, as flag bearers, and our National Anthem sung by Jackie Brown, Jody Tayback of the Harley-Davidson Inc. Milwaukee office reminded us to continue to partake in the more than 473 Garage Parties nationwide and to participate in this weekend’s event seminars, like the pre-ride inspection of T-CLOCS (T–Tires, C–Controls, L–Lights & Electrics, O–Oil & Other Fluids, C–Chassis, S–Stands) that demonstrates how to closely inspect your motorcycle prior to every ride, in addition to another important seminar—a hands-on bike lift class distributing a handy wallet-sized pamphlet. Many took Jody’s advice, as was evidenced by the fuchsia boa feathers scattered around the bike lift tutorial.

For those not riding yet, but very interested in what a Harley-Davidson feels like, shifting and all; a stationary Harley-Davidson, named the “Thrill of the Throttle Ride” accomplished its intended purpose and encouraged many more women to get in the driver’s seat. In the excitement of women riders-to-be, and those who already do, various women’s motorcycle organizations were on site and dressed in their gear, circulating throughout the crowd, ready to talk and answer questions—the long-standing Motor Maids (since 1940), Women on Wheels (founded in 1979) plus Women in the Wind (founded in 1982). Not only did this occasion encourage women to join these groups, the Women Riders Celebra­tion and its presence at the Harley-Davidson Museum provided many women their first opportunity to look back in time—to study the inspirational history of women like AMA National Competitor Dorothy “Dot” Robinson and founder of the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club, Bessie Stringfield, thereby appreciating how we got to where we, who ride free without any hassle from the man, are now.

Later that afternoon, the Mil­waukee Group Ride, a pre-registered event that earned participants a commemorative charm coupling the Harley-Davidson logo with angel wings, offered free admission into the Harley-Davidson Museum. Throughout the two-day event, local Milwaukee businesses not only benefitted from the myriad of women who “Live to Ride, Ride to Shop,” but also offered screamin’ deals and discounts on a variety of products, with some stores even offering free shipping. This bunch of women roared as they rumbled out of the museum grounds and left behind a soft trail of pink feathers all the way to the nearby Summerfest Grounds, where they staged and readied to head into downtown Milwaukee for the night’s Milwaukee Street Party.

Free and open to the public, the 6 p.m. Street Party included live music all night with local performers such as Sue DaBaco and the Wise Fools—and others—entertaining the crowd. The party integrated various local Harley-Davidson dealerships that displayed their motorcycles and merchandise, and interspersed between were other displays, several opportunities to win prizes, local food specials, and free motorcycle parking. Athena had a blast, commenting, “One of my favorite scenes was watching Harley’s women’s outreach manager Leslie Prevish, who had women on the simulator set up at the end of the street, and you couldn’t tell whose smile was bigger—Leslie’s or the women on the simulator. And the street party itself was awesome. The old Milwaukee architecture and the lighting, combined with the good music and cocktails, created a perfect setting for fun. The camaraderie was unbelievable. It was all smiles on deck. And wherever there are lots of biker chicks, there are always biker dudes chasing them around. It was hilarious to watch.”

Bright and early on Sunday, and back on the Harley-Davidson Museum Grounds, the celebration offered women a taste of yoga, tai chi and Pilates via “Sunrise Yoga” and more opportunities for demo rides, a vital bike blessing and an imperative “Survive! Self-Defense Seminar.” This self-protection discussion group gave instructions on motorcycle safety and wrongdoing prevention. Sunday also provided time to complete the Wisconsin Products Passport Ride that included Harley-Davidson dealership stops in addition to a variety of yummy food and beverage businesses; and when the pink boa feathers settled, a finished passport won one fortunate lady a limited edition Pink Label Leather Jacket.

Calling all colleagues and future women motorcyclists—follow the path of Harley-Davidsons and pink feathers to the 2011 Women Riders Event and let’s double our presence and our pink boas. For more insight into riding and signing up for the Rider’s Edge Course, or to put together the perfect ride for you, go to Harley-Davidson.com. To connect with other women motorcycle groups, check out Motor Maids at www.motormaids.org, Women on Wheels at www.womenonwheels.org, and Women in the Wind at www.womeninthewind.org.

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