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The thrill of the throttle

Women enjoy their bikes and trikes

Women enjoy their bikes and trikes

March 25, 2009|By MARIE GILBERT

Motorcycles may forever symbolize youthful rebellion, but move over kids.

That could be your grandmother in the passing lane, revving the throaty engine of a 500-pound bike.

The hair might be a little more gray and the push to climb the career ladder has been replaced with retirement - but that hasn't stopped many women of the baby boomer generation from enjoying a lifelong passion of riding motorcycles.

Donna Miller of Greencastle, Pa., was 7 years old when she climbed on to the seat of a minibike. One of 15 children, she would watch her brothers ride their motorcycles and decided she wanted to be part of the fun.

"It was the thrill of doing something the boys did," she said.

As she got older, Miller progressed to riding one of her brothers' 650 Yamahas.

It was so tall that she had to pull it up to the steps of her house in order to climb on the seat.

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"I was a determined young woman. I loved riding a motorcycle, and nothing was going to stop me," she said.

Miller, 52, still has a love affair with bikes.

"I like being in control," she said. "I love feeling the wind, smelling the air. You really connect with nature."

Miller's first bike was a Harley-Davidson 883 Hugger. She now has a Harley 883 Low, which sits closer to the ground and has comfortably positioned foot pegs, making it a good fit for the female body, she said.

As a part-time employee at Harley-Davidson of Williamsport, Miller said men often are surprised to see a woman selling motorcycles.

"Even in this day and age, many people are amazed that women are knowledgeable about motorcycles," she said.

"It's a great club with a lot of older women who ride," she said. "It's a real bonding experience, and you develop a lot of good friendships."

Carole Keyser of Hagerstown was about 20 years old when she rode her first motorcycle.

"When my husband and I were dating, we both had an interest in this sport," she said. "It was something we both had in common. Today, we still share a love of motorcycles."

Her first bike was a Honda 90, which was very small, she said, "but I eventually traded up to a bigger model."

After she and her husband started a family, Keyser decided to put the bike away. When her son was in middle school, she brought it out of hibernation.

"It was time to ride again," she said.

Keyser, 63, owns a red Honda Sport Touring 1300 and hits the open road as often as possible.

"I usually ride more than 10,000 miles a year," she said. "My husband and I flip a coin to see if we'll go right or left, and we're off."

Keyser said the couple has traveled across the country on their motorcycles, including coast-to-coast trips. Now that she's retired from the insurance business, she hopes to be on her bike as often as possible.

A member of Motor Maids Inc., a motorcycling organization for women, Keyser said she and six other members will travel on their bikes this year to a club conference in Colorado. She and her husband are planning a summer trip to Maine.

"I truly enjoy being on a bike," she said. "I like to be in control of the motorcycle. I love shifting and accelerating. I love the mechanics of motorcycles."

Being on a bike also enhances your senses, she said.

"You feel the road, the sun, the wind. It really is a special experience. People have a lot of hobbies. This one strikes a chord within me," she said.

Bonnie Printz, 69, of Halfway said she has been riding motorcycles since she was in her late teens.

"I got on a bike, rode it and fell in love with it," she said.

Several years ago, she traded her Italian motorcycle for a Honda trike, a three-wheel bike that has grown in popularity the past few years.

"It was a little tough making that change," she said. "But I made a good choice. It's fire engine red and people can see me coming. It really is a conversation starter."

Printz said she loves getting on the trike and "hitting the back roads."

"It's just me and God having long talks, solving the world's problems," she said.

It was the freedom of the road that years ago attracted her to motorcycles, she said.

"You see everything in technicolor and you see things you'd never notice in a car," she said.

Printz said many people have an image of bike riders, which is stereotypically passé.

"We're not all doing drugs. We're not all dangerous," she said. "For 31 years, I worked for the Washington County Board of Education. Bikers come from all walks of life, and many of us are older women."

A member of Motor Maids Inc., Printz said she enjoys the camaraderie of being with other women bikers.

"I make new friends all the time," she said.

Gale Riner, 52, of Hedgesville, W.Va., has been riding since 1976, but she caught the biking bug as a child.

"My dad had a Triumph and he would take me around the block for a ride," she said. "I loved it and couldn't wait to grow up and have my own bike."

When she was old enough to take her bike test, she was one of about 12 people in the room - and the only female.

She was the only one to pass the test.

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