By Charles Fleming
Los Angeles Times.
They rumble by night, these bikers.
Dressed in heavy leather jackets and gloves, long hair streaming from under their helmets, they straddle smoking black-and-chrome motorcycles, waiting for the signal.
Finally, it comes: “Alright, ladies. Let’s ride!”
On a hot Tuesday night, Stacie B. London had come to Silver Lake’s Casbah Cafe to meet her East Side Moto Babes riding club for their weekly cruise.
London is one of a growing number of Southland women who have taken up the sport with vigor. More than ever, researchers say, women are riding motorcycles.
They are designers, fitness instructors, insurance agents and artists, a mixed community of gay and straight, single and married, young and old.
Female motorcycle owners made up 12% of the U.S. motorcycle market in 2012, up from 8% in 2009, the Motorcycle Industry Council said. The number of female riders rose from 4.3 million in 2003 to 6.7 million in 2012.
Those numbers are crucial to motorcycle manufacturers, as they represent the largest growth segment in an industry that has stalled since the recession.
Companies, in response, are producing smaller, lighter bikes, more suitable for female riders, and featuring more women in their ads — riding the bikes, not decorating them.
Industry leader Harley-Davidson has been particularly aggressive in wooing women, perhaps because about 10% of its dealerships nationwide are owned by women.
Last week the company — the top seller of motorcycles to women in America — unveiled a pair of “Ultra Low” street cruisers that sit closer to the ground and have a shorter reach to the handlebars, which have narrower grips for smaller hands.
The company’s online photo gallery for its new Road Glide cruiser, strikingly, features no men among the riders.
“Our job is to get more women into the sport of motorcycling,” said Claudia Garber, director of women’s outreach marketing for Harley. “And it’s working. We are selling more motorcycles to women than all our competitors combined.”