Life on bikes

Babes on Bikes: Part 2 – What do women really think?

In Part 1 of Babes on Bikes, Marc Ryan gave the male view of how women are portrayed in some sections of the motorcycle scene. Trouble is Marc’s a bloke – what does he know about it?

So we asked professional adventure biker Zoe Cano for her views on some of the themes raised by Marc’s piece.

In Part 3, Daisy Bell, boss of female motorcycle clothing specialist, argues that sticking attractive women on bikes works for some. But really it’s just lazy marketing.

B&B: How do you feel about “babes on bikes” – models draped over bikes?

ZC: From handcrafted custom bikes to large adventure motorcycles, two wheels have always given the message of individuality and freedom of expression. Motorcycles are seen as the epitome of raw expression, living on the edge and a definite rebellious stand to any other form of transport with danger and risk always not too far away. For this reason, the motorcycle is seen as a sexy image that most people, both men and women, would like to experience in some way.

Those women who model alongside primarily customs or race bikes emphasise this raw fact of beauty, risk, rebellion and danger bringing the advertising dream nearer to reality. We live in a free ever-changing media world and this imagery will not disappear but certainly does not represent the entire industry perspective or picture. More and more independently minded women are making their own decisions to motorcycle under their own terms irrespective of what is seen in the media or magazines.

B&B: Do you think that particular image of female bikers dissuades or encourages other women from getting interested in bikes?

ZC: I personally feel the image of women models alongside bikes is irrelevant in making a decision to actually ride a bike. Remember these are two clear differences. There are more and more women who are now riding bikes and providing inspiration to others. More and more women are also riding in a stylish individual way particularly currently seen in the custom scene.

 Or does it just water off a duck’s back now? – Most women would certainly not be influenced to start or stop riding by just seeing models doing their job.

Zoe Cano, Bonneville Go or Bust
Zoe’s life on bikes is captured in her books

B&B: Who do you see as positive role models for female bikers?

ZC: There are too many to mention but those that spring to mind are Theresa Wallach and Florence Blenkiron who biked down to South Africa in the 1930’s, Peggy Iris Thomas who crossed America with her dog in the ‘50’s, Jacqui Furneaux who spent 7 years riding around the world, Maria Costello racing legend, Lois Pryce intrepid explorer and some have said me too as I took on my own challenge without any experience of bikes or long trips which has inspired now a lot more women to start riding to create their own challenge or dream

B&B: What imagery do you think will encourage even more women to get into biking?

ZC: Bike manufacturers have started this already with beautiful shots of bikes in wonderful landscapes with women riding them such as the campaign Triumph did a year or so ago. Women also like to ride for the most part stylishly without being drowned in unfitting and unflattering biking gear. Manufacturers (the Italians and French are good at this) will need to start thinking that it’s not just turning the clothes pink that will satisfy our yearning for creating our own look.

ZC: My message to all women is we definitely can live our dreams without needing to compare ourselves to other men or women!”

Zoë Cano, is an adventurous explorer, writer and photographer. Her massive exploit a few years ago to cross the American Continent solo on a classic Triumph Bonneville T100, without assistance and with just 100 miles of previous motorcycling experience, is captured in ‘Bonneville Go or Bust – On the Roads Less Travelled’.

A few years later, Zoe returned to the USA and undertook another challenging 2000 miles through the Deep South on a classic motorbike in ‘Southern Escapades’.

Both 5-star rated books can be purchased through her website and mailed out worldwide –

You can also follow her on twitter – @bijoulatina and Instagram – bijoulatina

In Part 3, Daisy Bell from urges the people behind the marketing to be more adventurous and understand the female market better.

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