How do I know this? Because I see the looks on the faces of other bikers when my boyfriend and I pull up to a diner on our motos and the other bikers watch me as I swing my leg off the bike and shake my hair loose from its helmet.
Girls have a sense for these things; it's like being poolside and feeling the sideways stares from the men while walking to the pool's edge. I don't fault the guys; it's human nature. But guys, don't think for a minute we don't feel your stares!
So if you are one of those wistful souls who introspectively wonders, "How can I get my girl to ride her own bike?" I have laid out my own personal roadmap of advice below, based on my own limited experience. Take it for what it's worth, and I do hope it serves you, because I think riding is an awesome sport and am so glad I was turned on to it by my significant other.
Note that you might already have your woman riding double with you on your bike, so you can skip ahead if that's the case, but I will take you through my advice based on the typical situation where your girlfriend has never ridden a motorcycle before, either as a passenger or driver.
And ladies, some of this is tongue-in-cheek, so don't be offended... you have to admit, the guys sometimes need a little help. Some of these tips are no-brainers, or don't apply in every relationship, so of course your mileage will vary. :)
Tip 1: Gear Her Up
Here's the tip: Don't have her get on your bike in a t-shirt and flip flops. Why? Two-fold. Wait-- actually, three-fold.
First, because her life is in your hands, and as the driver and more experienced rider, it's your responsibility to ride safely and responsibly. OK, sermon aside, insisting on proper gear will help establish the seriousness of this sport in her newly-forming moto chick world. It is also a gallant thing to do... Nowadays, there are very few occasions to lay your jacket on a puddle for her to walk across. But taking off your motorcycle jacket and insisting she wear it instead is a sweet and effective way to show you care about her. It also shows her that in the event of an accident, there is something there to protect her more than a t-shirt would have; she will feel the elbow armor, etc.
Second, you want her first rides to feel like the "fun" rides at the roller coaster park, not the ones that make you almost pee your pants. If she gets off your bike feeling exhilarated, wind blown, adrenaline rushing, thinking, "That was kind of AWESOME. I can't believe I survived. I can't believe I am alive after that. Never doing that again, so scary!" then all you managed to do was get her to experience it and cross it off her bucket list, without showing her that riding bikes is not always a "live on the edge" experience. You still want the adrenaline, and the exhilaration, but you want to make the experience feel safe enough to do regularly. Riding in proper gear makes you feel safer. Riding in a t-shirt can add to the feeling of imminent death and disfigurement.
Third, wearing proper gear will just overall make her feel cooler, and closer to the sport. Face it, people love accessories, and gear, and women arguably more than anyone. Show her that the sport has a uniform, and that by wearing it she is part of the club. When you first put on a catcher's mitt, playing with a baseball felt a lot more authentic, didn't it?
So pull out an extra helmet, jacket with armor, and gloves. Find her some boots to wear, even if you stuff a sock into each toe to make them fit. She may not realize that a warm day feels very cold when you are cruising at 40mph, so be sure to recommend some warm layers if you know it will be chilly on the bike.
And after a few rides, get your girl her own set of gear. Craigslist is full of women's gear left over from guys' failed attempts to get their women into the sport, as well as hand-me-down from women riders upgrading from their first set to their more advanced gear. And if the sport doesn't stick, you can turn right around and sell the gear.
Tip 2: Show Her the Controls
Tip 3: Don't Ride Like a Maniac
Remember, your passenger is not in charge of the bike. She's at your mercy. Her helmet is on (if you followed Tip 1) so she can't communicate with you to tell you to slow down or that she's scared. Believe me, normal riding at normal speeds will be exciting enough for the first few rides. This way you can ease her into the thrill of the sport. It's better to build up to the adrenaline rush moments, letting each ride get progressively more exciting, than to risk scaring her into nixing all future rides together.
Also, if you go 30mph on easy roads, you both can flip your helmet masks up to smell the air, feel the wind on your faces, and actually talk to each other as you cruise along.
Think of it like a first date; don't go for the home run right away. It might work with a lot of girls, but it could backfire, and you could lose out on a great girl by moving too fast too soon.
Tip 4: Pick a Scenic Ride
Tip 5: Keep it Short
The idea is to make her want to go again, and not bore or tire her out on the first ride. Like anything else, stop while you are ahead, and save the longer rides for another day. After a short ride (1 hour max) you can gauge her enthusiasm for the sport. If she loves it, then this is no longer an issue. Make sure her enthusiasm is genuine (yes, women sometimes fake it because they think that's what you want to hear). If she has already been on the bike once and then tells you she is up for a 6-hour cross-country, go for it!
Tip 6: Let Her Desire For Her Own Bike Develop Naturally
Success is close. Very, very close. You have done well with the above, or your own version of these suggestions, because you now have a woman who can actually become the coveted moto partner instead of merely moto passenger. These next few steps are critical. While not all women are the same (obviously) there's a universal truth about people in general, male or female, young or old: People have more buy-in when something feels like their own idea, rather than imposed on them.
So the tip is simple: LET HER COME UP WITH THE IDEA OF LEARNING TO RIDE A MOTORCYCLE.
She might ask you to show her the controls again, and might ask you if you think she would be able to ride your bike down the street, or in a parking lot. Be encouraging and enthusiastic, but play it kind of cool. Show her the controls again, and let her take the bike on short loops in a controlled area, with your guidance and tutorials.
Then, and here's the critical part: STOP TEACHING HER YOURSELF. Even if you are a motorcycle instructor by profession, and even if you have been riding for longer than you could walk, do not be her motorcycle teacher, at least not beyond the basics, and not on your own bike. Learning to ride a bike can be frustrating (results will vary of course; some people are naturals). Beginners can drop bikes, especially when learning to make tight turns. Beginners need gradual instruction, step by step, and are not always fun to teach if you are not a patient person. There's a chance you will be an excellent teacher, and that she won't drop your bike and feel mortified over it, and that you will teach the proper progressions, emergency procedures, and techniques correctly. But why risk it, when so much can go so wrong if you do it incorrectly?
The best next step: BUY HER A MOTORCYCLE SAFETY COURSE. For a couple hundred dollars, you can buy her a motorcycle safety course enrollment. There's always a holiday not too far away (that's the American way!) so wait until the next special event; birthday, Christmas, Festivus, your anniversary, Valentine's Day, President's Day, 4th of July, whatever. Or call it her Un-Birthday Present. But give her the course for your next special event. Pair it with some jewelery, or a new piece of moto gear, and if you can afford it, take the course with her as a refresher, or just watch from the sidelines and cheer her on.
This is an important step, because these courses are designed to teach all the things she needs to know, will allow her to get a DMV waiver in many states, and allows her to practice with other beginners in a non-judgmental and non-rushed environment. Plus you get to take cute photos of her, which she can later post on her own women's rider blog (see my photo on my cute tiny Honda Rebel that I rode on in my course, in my first blog post). As an added bonus, you don't have to grit your teeth and lie, "No worries, babe, that's nothing, everyone drops a bike when they're learning," if she drops your bike, mortified.
Tip 7: The Bike
If she doesn't immediately demand to go bike shopping, then simply do this:
Next time you are together, stop at a motorcycle store so you can pick up some oil, or a filter, or whatever. Wander around the store together while you are there. If a bike catches her eye, suggest she sit on it. This part is important: Do not let her near the more expensive bikes like Ducatis unless you know she can afford one or that you can buy it for her. Yes, you will thank me later for this advice. Also, steer her towards bikes she could feasibly own as a beginner. Stick to the 600cc range; too much power is not a good idea for a beginner... and she can always sell the bike and upgrade later.
That's it. Once she is sitting on the bike and adjusts the side mirror, your task is complete. At this point it will either happen, or you are out of luck. If she does not look up from the bike with a certain look in her eye that says, "Oh. Yes. I am buying one," then you need to resign yourself to the fact that you will have a forever passenger rather than a riding partner.
But all things considered, that's still pretty awesome, so riding is a win-win where all outcomes are good... because as fun as it is to ride side by side, riding with her arms around you is still pretty amazing.
Good luck, fellas!