Berkshire's Ladies Of Harley talk to us about how it all started and how you can get involved
PUBLISHED: 12:53 03 October 2014 | UPDATED: 12:53 03 October 2014
Always dreamt of having your own Harley-Davidson? What are you waiting for? Berkshire's Ladies Of Harley are in a saddle near you, reveals Gill James
You may not realise it, but under their helmets, many riders of those glorious two-wheeled machines thundering around the UK, are ladies. Shock! Horror! Probe! While we live in a post-emancipation, multi-cultural and media-saturated society, most of us would still assume that the leather-clad riders of a Harley-Davidson are men. Sure, the bearded petrolhead stereotype isn’t without its veracity, but more and more women are taking to the saddle to enjoy the freedom of a powered two-wheeler.
One organisation that has facilitated this is the Harley Owners Group (HOG), who created Ladies Of Harley (LOH), a sub-group exclusively for women. And there’s one in your back yard. The Thames Valley Chapter of HOG has a very active LOH group, led by Thames Valley Ladies of Harley Representative Sue Brown.
“My role as LOH rep is to encourage ladies to join in and become an active part of our Chapter, whether they own and ride their own motorcycles or whether they ride pillion.
“As well as helping on Chapter-wide events, I usually arrange a weekend away each year, as well as ladies-only nights out. Late November we are off to Bath Christmas market for some rest and relaxation before the festive seasonal begins. We support charities like SportsAble by displaying our bikes in Windsor and Henley for people to have their photos taken astride. The Reading Toy Run is also a great charity event when hundreds of bikers, us girls included dress up as Santa and ride to Dr. Barnardo’s to deliver our gifts. Making others smile makes us happy, so if when you see the Chapter thundering along the roads near you give us a wave as we’ll be sure to wave back”.
LOH is such a perfectly unpretentious beast because it’s created and run by the people who actually use it. It’s not a patronizing ‘her indoors’ brand that uses cupcakes and pink to sell things. Nor is it just a female-only sect of the male inclination to get very nerdy about a subject. Not only is it a bit of both, but individuals’ differences make it a rich mix.
“I’ve been the proud owner of a Harley-Davidson since 2008,” she explains. “I first invested in a 1200 Custom Sportster, then, nine months later, my confidence had grown and I upgraded to my pride and joy: a 2006 Softail Deluxe. I love my bike and wouldn’t swap her for anything. My passion is for anything sparkly, so if Harley make anything with bling on it, you can guarantee it will be on my shopping list.”
What many LOH note, is that when the Chapter rolls into a town or village and park up for a cuppa, it’s so often the women who approach them to look at the bikes and chat. Retired women and young mums alike seem drawn to the machines.
While they begin by asking questions like: “Isn’t it all biker gangs on Harleys?” and “Is the bike heavy?”, many invariably end up with: “How can I get into it?”
“Many women have been converted from one chat – ladies who have never even ridden before feel inspired to ride their very own machine or even encourage their male counterparts to buy one just so they can be part of the fun. Such is the attraction that one of our ladies has just celebrated her 60th birthday and gone out and bought a Harley before she has even learned to ride ! If two wheels aren’t for you then why not think about getting a, Harley-Davidson Trike! LOH offers a friendly place to help women enjoy a pursuit that has traditionally been a bit of an exclusive boys’ club that sees no role for women. Not so in HOG.
“Once you’re a member you can join a Chapter,” explains Sue. “Then you become a LOH. Ladies of Harley membership also allows you to participate in all LOH activities at HOG rallies and events. There is no additional fee to be a Ladies of Harley member. Ladies of Harley offers members a special embroidered patch and a pin during the first year of membership. Each renewal year, LOH members will receive an LOH pin indicating the year of membership.”
If you just want to dip your toe in before rushing out and buying a Harley, the Thames Valley Chapter have open club nights where all are welcome on the third Thursday of each month at Maidenhead SportsAble, next to Maidenhead Rugby Football Club on Braywick Road (SL6 1BN). Arrive any time from 7.30pm.
How it all started
National Ladies of Harley Officer for UK and Ireland (H.O.G.) Elaine Shepherd explains that women and motorcycles have a deep and illustrious past.
“The first Lady of Motorcycling was Dorothy ‘Dot’ Robinson who was born Melbourne, Australia in 1912,” she says. “Her family moved to Michigan, USA in 1918 where her father, a side car manufacturer, purchased a Harley-Davidson dealership. It is here that Dot met her husband to be, Earl Robinson, a future H-D dealer in Detroit.
“Dot paved the way for women to ride bikes and set a standard that as a female, you could ride a bike and still be a lady, her mission was: ride, race, unite female riders, support the industry and look good doing it. She was a motorcycle courier during WWII for a defence contractor and she also entered and won many endurance runs both solo and in pair races with her father or husband.
“Dot was the first president of Motor Maids, a women’s motorcycling organisation in America, established in 1940. Dot and Earl sold their dealership in 1971 and travelled at length on bikes, Dot rode a pink Harley-Davidson complete with sidecar for her husband when he could no longer ride, and a built in lipstick holder for herself. The year before her death in 1999 aged 87, Dot was inducted into the American Motorcycling Association Hall of Fame, having ridden an estimated 1.5 million miles in her lifetime, a true pioneer for today’s modern woman.”
Today the Harley Owners Group has a worldwide membership of more than one million members, taking part in activities presented by local HOG Chapters. Within the UK and Ireland there are 36 HOG Chapters of which female enthusiasts make up a strong Ladies of Harley (LOH) membership. Each Chapter has a Ladies of Harley representative who will be part of the Chapter committee and she is central to the encouragement of ladies joining and being active.
“With each season there’s a new range of practical and stylish female clothing, riding gear and accessories available to suit every lady whether they’re riding or not,” Elaine says. “There is even a Pink Label collection of clothing raising awareness for breast cancer; a portion of all proceeds is donated to support Breast Cancer advocacy and support organisations.
“Whether LOH ride solo or as pillion this membership enables friendships to be created and has something to offer everyone, whether it’s riding solo or as part of a larger group, to travel near or faraway, organising and participating in charitable events or to simply create memories of adventures and laughter. Owning a bike isn’t necessary to participating with LOH, as not all activities are bike related such as a picnic, a meal out, watching a movie, seeing a theatre show or maybe a weekend away.
“While the men are welcome to participate too, the focal point of rides and events are planned for the ladies, by the ladies and led by the ladies.”
For more information on Ladies of Harley in Berkshire, email Sue at firstname.lastname@example.org or head to thamesvalleyhog.com/ladies-of-harley. And for any more information about H.O.G. you can call H.O.G. Member Services on 00800 11112223.