One of the attractive elements of driving a bike is that, for these few treasured moments once you watch your speedometer leap into life and really feel the wind rush previous your face, once you really feel the pull of gravity drawing you nearer in the direction of the blur of a nook, issues like your gender stop to matter.
It is simply the machine and also you. That is the enjoyment of the highway. That is freedom.
Freedom that lasts simply up till you cease, step off the bike, take off your helmet – and are promptly greeted with provides to assist park the machine you simply rode in on.
The pleasures of taking to the open highway on a bike are gender-neutral. There is the rumble that growls from deep inside your machine once you twist the throttle; the sheer distortion of sound and imaginative and prescient at 112kmh; the lurch as you and your bike immediately draw back, leaving the site visitors behind you.
And but, all my years of driving – and I have been driving for about half of my life now, on totally different machines, in all method of locations – have taught me that whereas the pleasures themselves could also be gender-neutral, individuals constantly assume that the individuals experiencing them are male.
In some methods, they don’t seem to be fallacious to take action.
I have all the time been a little bit of a thrill-seeker and, since I used to be little, I have been fascinated by machines. Motorcycles found their means into my life earlier than I even knew what “feminism” or “gender bias” meant.
But statistically talking, I’m a minority. In Britain, the place I stay, males are thrice as more likely to personal a bike, moped or scooter than girls.
It is a uncommon event that I encounter fellow girls on two wheels on the highway, particularly driving solo.
Why are there so few of us girls experiencing one of many nice joys of summer time: driving into the sundown on two wheels?
Part of it has to do with the connection between males and machines. Historically, machines have belonged to domains sometimes thought of masculine – labour and trade, battle and militarism.
Women’s relationship with equipment, against this, has been restricted to the home sphere (see “Christmas morning she’ll be happier with a Hoover.”).
Today, fortunately, we have progressed to the purpose the place girls are allowed out in automobiles. But within the fashionable creativeness, for ladies, automobiles stay extensions of the home, instruments to buy groceries or acquire the youngsters – duties for which bikes should not notably properly suited.
Another half has to do with the affiliation within the public creativeness between bikes and crime, deviance and aggression.
Real-life notorious incidents centred on bikes have, over time, fed widespread perceptions of bikes as autos for gangs – composed primarily of males – engaged in nefarious actions.
And a part of it has to do with the restricted variety of ways in which popular culture has allowed girls and bikes to come collectively.
Men who wish to trip have a spectrum of various motorcycle-based masculinities to select from. There are the metrosexual Belstaff jacket-wearing David Beckhams; the Mad Max-style loopy adrenaline junkies; leather-clad Angels varieties; and even existentialist bike upkeep gurus.
By distinction, when girls affiliate with bikes, in popular culture at the least, it’s to point that they’re sturdy biker chicks: Carrie-Anne Moss’ Trinity in The Matrix (1999), Megan Fox’s Mikaela Banes in Transformers (2007) or Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
There are these who would argue that the biker chick is an indication of progress – girls who have ditched their Hoovers to pop pert wheelies – and people who view this archetype as one other type of objectification, this time clad in leather-based.
It is a debate value having, however within the meantime, the place does that depart these girls who simply wish to put on Gore-Tex?
Unfortunately, till we see extra photographs of ladies sporting boring outfits, till we get extra fashions of feminine motorcyclists like British travel author Lois Pryce, till we have extra girls’s bike golf equipment, the remainder of us will have to maintain correcting assumptions: explaining that, no, that’s not my boyfriend’s bike and, sure, I did trip on it on my own.
The good news is, it’s not bikes that engender you, it’s individuals who do all that.
So whether or not you’re a catsuit-clad highway goddess who doesn’t contact dust, however loves the odor of burning tyres, a grease monkey who tinkers along with her personal gaskets or just a commuter searching for a extra thrilling option to get to work, don’t let individuals get in the best way of you feeling the weather charging at you, refreshing your soul with the joys of liberation, the feeling of flying.
I simply ignore them and carry on driving. And so must you.
• The author is a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University.