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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-29-2005, 08:59 AM Thread Starter
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Kawasaki Sheds Some Light On Female Motorcyclists

I thought our female contingent would be interested in this article from Motorcycle Daily.



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Kawasaki Sheds Some Light On Female Motorcyclists
By Alex Edge
Way back in May (yes, that's how far behind I am), I had the chance to attend a Kawasaki press event during the Kawasaki Superbike Showdown AMA Superbike event at Infineon Raceway in Northern California. While most of our time consisted of watching the races and riding the local twisties, the informal theme was "Women in Motorcycling", and the attendees were a who's who of prominent women motorcyclists.

What, you might ask, was a male journalist like myself doing at such an event? Well, aside from trying to keep up with some very fast ladies (I was mostly successful), I got to listen to and participate in some very interesting discussions about women motorcyclists and how they affect the industry.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average height of an adult female in the United States is 5ft3.7in, while the average weight is 152 pounds. This obviously places the average woman outside the size range of rider for which most modern motorcycles are designed, particularly in height. One woman riding with our group provided a first-hand example of this problem - a talented rider, she was simply too short to properly balance her bike (I believe it was a Z1000) when stopped, and she dropped it several times.

Kawasaki is aware that many women riders may feel that they have been left out of the design process, and it was implied that the company may be taking steps to rectify that problem. Kawasaki PR personnel were quick to point out that Kawasaki already offers a number of models that are ideal for average-sized women (along with smaller men and beginner riders in general): almost 40% of Ninja 250 and Ninja 500 buyers are female, over 20% of ZZR-600 buyers are female, and the Vulcan 500 LTD, Vulcan 800 Classic, and Eliminator 125 cruisers are just as popular with women buyers. In fact, more than 15% of Kawasaki buyers are female, while the industry-wide average is just 10%.

When reading the above list, the problem that immediately jumps out at me is this: while the little Ninjas are great bikes, they haven't been redesigned for many years, and are quite outdated by today's standards. The ZZR-600 is more modern, but from my experience (read my review) I don't think it would be too manageable for a 5'3" rider.

Most of the other manufacturers produce bikes that could be labeled as "woman-friendly" - these are the same machines most journalists label "beginner-friendly". The problem is that not all women want a beginner-friendly bike - many of them are faster and more experienced than most male riders! What they want is a bike that is ergonomically designed to fit their size (and I mean more than just a low seat height). Suzuki's SV650 comes closest to fitting the bill, but it doesn't pack as much performance as a "full-size" sportbike.

In today's niche-infested market, it seems there are bikes available to suit almost every particular (and peculiar) type of rider: the sport rider, the tourer, the off-roader/"adventure rider", etc. Not to mention the innumerable "crossover" machines. How is it, then, that a category representing 10% or more of all buyers has been mostly ignored by product developers?

It's past time for a manufacturer to release several modern, competitively-performing sport and sport-touring models which are ergonomically designed for an average-sized woman. When you add in the potential sales to male riders of below-average height (average height of an adult male in the US is 5ft9.1 inches according to the same source used above), these bikes have the potential to be big moneymakers.

Kawasaki's new ER-6n might be just such a bike (albeit a little more budget-minded than a full-on sportbike), but it is still unknown if they will bring that machine to the US. If not, they might be beaten to the punch by Yamaha, who have a habit of releasing bikes that create their own categories.

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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-29-2005, 09:55 AM
 
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I know at least three ladies that would appreciate something designed with them in mind. I'd bet an ad campaign and target of young women would propel whatever vendor to some amazing cash. Especially if they included a hip gear line.
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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-29-2005, 10:46 AM
 
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That's the Kawasaki event that I attended. Alex was one of the few men that were there. Thanks for posting that Shan! He did a really nice write up.

Laura
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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-29-2005, 01:23 PM
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Quote:
What, you might ask, was a male journalist like myself doing at such an event? Well, aside from trying to keep up with some very fast ladies (I was mostly successful)...
I love how he just HAD to add that BOLD comment....




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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-29-2005, 05:10 PM
 
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it would be nice if they would make a bike to fit the ladies, but for now i find my set of lowering links does the trick just fine. they enable me to touch the ground with the balls of my foot, which was pretty much the same footing i had when i owned the 250. i recommend a set of them for any petite lady rider. instant self-confidence.
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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-30-2005, 12:12 AM
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What's the problem IT... you said balls... you should then be fine...




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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 12:34 AM
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Ladys and bikes

I just picked up a 03 600RR for my wife and I to ride, now being a little 5'3" 120LBS girl, she droped it 3 times. After that she was so afraid to get on the bike, so she looked around and found a new 06 ninja 250. She set on it and road it around and fell in love. Now the 600RR is all mine and she is loving her new 250. I think they do look alittle out dated, but it enables my wife to ride along with me. Lots of fun.
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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 12:57 AM
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Its a wide open and almost completely untapped market. Somebody needs to step up.
I know my wife wouldn't be happy till somebody brought a full blown SB to the market to fit her. I also know two guys that ride cruisers (and would love to have a SB) because they are only 5'5".

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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 06:11 AM
 
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It is interesting, but if you didn't notice, it seems all the bikes that they are noting "women friendly" are bikes I myself wouldn't touch. Not saying that the 250 and the 500 are bad bikes, but I have graduated, so to speak, from these little underpowered machines. Also, from my experience with them, I have found they not only do they lack speed, torque, and the what's what which makes a sportbike a sportbike (in my opinion) but they also lack quality. The 250 is fun machine, but is jerky in shifting, the breaks blow (no matter what you put on them, they seem to either grab to fast or like a Harley, you have to give yourself ample time to stop, or blow through an intersection)

Also, I can tell you, that since less the 2% of sportbike riders are women, I far from see any of these major sportbike manufactures doing anything to make the bigger better bikes (600's 750's 1000's) "women friendly" let alone the 250 and 500 models. You can see that they also added cruisers. Which I myself, do not ride nor do I ever intend to. I'm with the others here when it comes to lowering links or my fave http://www.ohlins.com/mc_product_guide.shtml (if you have the $$) or the more affordable Fox Racing Shox (which I think they suspended for the time being)

It's nice to see that at least Kawi has shown some sort of interest in women and sportbike riding. It's just to bad that they are still only R&D'ing the lower end, under powered machines "supposedly" geared toward women.

again, this is just my opinion (in case of offense) and my 2
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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 09:12 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jlb600RR
I just picked up a 03 600RR for my wife and I to ride, now being a little 5'3" 120LBS girl, she droped it 3 times. After that she was so afraid to get on the bike, so she looked around and found a new 06 ninja 250. She set on it and road it around and fell in love. Now the 600RR is all mine and she is loving her new 250. I think they do look alittle out dated, but it enables my wife to ride along with me. Lots of fun.
the 250 was a great bike for me to learn on. hopefully that will give your wife the confidence she needs to move up eventually. when she does move up, definately invest in lowering links. i, too, am only 5'3" and they give me the sure footing i need. sportbikes are just so darn tall. if they don't start producing more women-friendly bikes they should at least make them for the vertically challenged. there are short men out ther too. it'd be nice to buy a bike with links already on it, so you have the option of lowering it if needed. this seems like an easy fix, but probably just wishful thinking. have fun out there, and get your lady to sign up here too. we always need more female perspectives here.
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post #11 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 11:31 AM
 
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Originally Posted by jappysRR
It is interesting, but if you didn't notice, it seems all the bikes that they are noting "women friendly" are bikes I myself wouldn't touch. Not saying that the 250 and the 500 are bad bikes, but I have graduated, so to speak, from these little underpowered machines. Also, from my experience with them, I have found they not only do they lack speed, torque, and the what's what which makes a sportbike a sportbike (in my opinion) but they also lack quality. The 250 is fun machine, but is jerky in shifting, the breaks blow (no matter what you put on them, they seem to either grab to fast or like a Harley, you have to give yourself ample time to stop, or blow through an intersection)

Also, I can tell you, that since less the 2% of sportbike riders are women, I far from see any of these major sportbike manufactures doing anything to make the bigger better bikes (600's 750's 1000's) "women friendly" let alone the 250 and 500 models. You can see that they also added cruisers. Which I myself, do not ride nor do I ever intend to. I'm with the others here when it comes to lowering links or my fave http://www.ohlins.com/mc_product_guide.shtml (if you have the $$) or the more affordable Fox Racing Shox (which I think they suspended for the time being)

It's nice to see that at least Kawi has shown some sort of interest in women and sportbike riding. It's just to bad that they are still only R&D'ing the lower end, under powered machines "supposedly" geared toward women.

again, this is just my opinion (in case of offense) and my 2

While I think it may be a bit more than 2% of sportbike riders are women (just my opinion), it is still such a small percentage that would be hard for a company to justify sinking some serious R&D dollars on fitting the bigger bikes (600, 750, and up) for the women folk. I think the female gear has made strides in the past 2 years, now we just need the bikes to catch up! When I started riding there was NOTHING in the way of sportbike gear for women, I had to search and search for the smallest guy's jacket & gloves I could find. We now have a women's dept. at the local shop.

The little machines are great to learn on, and for some women pretty much the only thing they can even touch on but like Jappy said - where do they go after graduating from those bikes? The only option I see is the lowering kits until one of the manufacturers comes up with something that will fit.

What is amazing to me now is that I'm seeing now girls getting on the bigger bikes because they "fit" them better and ability, safety & experience has gone out the window for seat height!!! I was talking to a couple guys standing around the new gixxer 1k at the Motorcycle show on Sat and this guy said his wife just got a 1K b/c it was one of the few bikes she could touch on, she just started riding last year!!! It's no wonder insurance rates are so high for my 1k!

I'm one of the lucky ones being on the taller side at 5'8 so I haven't had a problem with seat height with the Honda and Gixxers I've had, but have quite a few girl friends who have no choice but to lower (after graduating from little bikes that had no power left). I think a 600 with some more female friendly features is long overdue - maybe one day ladies!
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post #12 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 02:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by itgirl25
the 250 was a great bike for me to learn on. hopefully that will give your wife the confidence she needs to move up eventually. when she does move up, definately invest in lowering links. i, too, am only 5'3" and they give me the sure footing i need. sportbikes are just so darn tall. if they don't start producing more women-friendly bikes they should at least make them for the vertically challenged. there are short men out ther too. it'd be nice to buy a bike with links already on it, so you have the option of lowering it if needed. this seems like an easy fix, but probably just wishful thinking. have fun out there, and get your lady to sign up here too. we always need more female perspectives here.
I am the wife and while I love my new little 250 I am already realizing that it will not be enough to keep me happy!! It won't be able to go fast enough!! I am still breaking it in, hopefully in another week or so i will have it ready to really ride, but then I will want to move up to the 600, did the links bring it down enough for it to be really comfortable?? One of my main concerns is manuevering it when I am not driving it, i.e., pulling it out of the garage or something, it is so unwieldy! Do the links help with that as well? Thanks for the input, for newbies like me it is really helpful to have another girl's perspective as I don't know any other women riders! All my friends are convinced I will kill myself!
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post #13 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 02:56 PM
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name change

after you upgrade to a 600 you'll have to change your name to RAE600 (hehe).
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post #14 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 03:19 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rae250
I am the wife and while I love my new little 250 I am already realizing that it will not be enough to keep me happy!! It won't be able to go fast enough!! I am still breaking it in, hopefully in another week or so i will have it ready to really ride, but then I will want to move up to the 600, did the links bring it down enough for it to be really comfortable?? One of my main concerns is manuevering it when I am not driving it, i.e., pulling it out of the garage or something, it is so unwieldy! Do the links help with that as well? Thanks for the input, for newbies like me it is really helpful to have another girl's perspective as I don't know any other women riders! All my friends are convinced I will kill myself!
first of all, Rae. i currently have an 04 zx636. at first i was very paranoid about handling it not because of the power of it but more because i was on the tip of my tippy toes when i sat on it. i got a set of 3 hole lowering links for it and i put it in the 2nd hole. that took it down about 2 inches and that is enough for me to be on the balls of my feet (like i was with the 250). it made a world of difference as far as confidence goes. it definately does allow better maneuverability as far as pushing it around while sitting on it goes. you have a much better footing. the 3rd hole woulda took it down about 3 inches and make me flat footed, but the tire hugger fender nearly touched the undertail. that was a little too close for me. the only thing links won't do for you is help you adjust to the weight difference between the 250 and 600. so once you get the feel of riding the 250 and master it, just pick up a set of lowering links for the 600 and i'm sure you'll be just fine. have fun and keep posting.
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post #15 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 03:49 PM
 
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post #16 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 08:12 PM
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post #17 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 11:08 PM
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The lower links will lower the bike quit a bit. You will sacrifice some handling and ground clearance (especially if lowered all the way) Do a search for lowering. You should find several thread on that subject.

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post #18 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 11:49 PM
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Thx Jeeps! My links are already on order for the 600, (along with frame sliders...too pretty to mess up too soon!!) like I said in another post, even tho I just got my 250 it wont be long before I want more power, when I get the links my hubby and I will see about the 2 inch drop, your tips for your wife are just the thing! then we'll see about moving him up to a bigger bike too! thanks for the heads up, really helpful, this is the best site I have found for good sensible info! Will probably search later to get install tips for the links...
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post #19 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-09-2006, 11:51 PM
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Glad we could help!

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post #20 of 23 (permalink) Old 01-10-2006, 01:08 PM
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