El Cajon Harley-Davidson Welcomes Women Riders

Story-Randy Twells;
Photos- RT & Courtesy El Cajon H-D

Harley-Davidson Motor Company for over a decade has seen that women riders are the fastest growing demographic in new motorcycle registrations. Women riders have always been welcome at Demo Events & Rider Courses, etc. Women’s Garage Parties however have really brought the focus to wooing the women in a dedicated environment with an event just for them. Any motorcycle event including a Demo event or Garage Party is as much about the people as it is about the bikes, and very fitting as May was Woman Rider Month.

IMG_1823b Demo stagingFirst, the Demo Days Event! ~ I stopped in at El Cajon Harley’s Demo Days event on Saturday May 3rd where an exciting day was in progress. Who do I see first but General Manager Brett Dickinson chatting with some riders out front. Rick Sobczak and Ed Isacco oversaw safety & parking for participants and their bikes. The H-D Factory Demo Fleet had arrived in the big semi tractor trailer rig parked out front, driven by our new best friend Scott. El Cajon HOG volunteers pitched in to assist for the weekend of demo bike riding. El Cajon HOG members/Ladies of Harley signed up riders at Registration; Gary Bryant did staging; Road Guards Walter, Rich, Jamie, Tom & Raul (Ra-OOOOL) did the rider briefings and escorted the demo rides. Out back, you could also bring your own bike for a free wash!

Seventeen shiny steeds were the main attraction this weekend, waiting for riders to put them through their paces with rides scheduled every half hour all day. New models got a workout, such as the Breakout, Softail Slim and Sporty XL1200T. Some nice CVO’s too, a Road King, Limited & a Deluxe. There were also a couple of demo trikes available for dedicated individual test rides.

While plenty of guys took advantage of the chance to try out the new Harleys, I also met several women here doing the demo’s on Saturday, and Sunday was another opportunity as well, this being a two-day event.

IMG_1888b Billie LailBillie Lail, a 5’2’’ ball of fire in 4” boot-heels with well over 300K miles under her belt, started on dirt bikes in 1970. Since then she’s ridden about 20 different bikes–everything from a 50cc Honda Trail Mini to a 2003 1450cc HD Heritage Softail, her current ride, and thinking about the next one. Billie brought her hubby Vern (who didn’t demo any bikes, he was just ‘along for the ride’), and rode the Street Glide Special, to check out the fairing and the heads up display.

Billie is so used to her Heritage Softail’s beefy stance, loooow center of gravity and resistance to lean; she’s used to having to pull down hard on the handlebars to get it around a tight turn. The Street Glide, while not set up ‘for her’ and just a general demo, after acclimating a bit, she found it very responsive and lean & turn friendly. She said that a 20 minute ride does not let you really get the full idea, but enough to know if you might want to rent one for a day and really put it through the paces for possible purchase. So that’s probably next on her list.

I also met Trish McKenna, another experienced rider & El Cajon Ladies of Harley member, who rode her own bike over here with her hubby & friends, didn’t test any of the Demo models but wanted to hang out and socialize. All good. We met up inside the dealership when she asked if I’m a rider, because El Cajon H-D had a drawing going for the Women’s Garage Party coming up a week later, where any as-yet NON-rider guest of a participant could enter a drawing to win a really cool helmet! (I didn’t qualify, yes I ride.) Then we all went out back where the demo bikes were lined up and in the parking lot was the dealership-HOSTED Rally’s Food Truck with FREE lunch. OMG Rally’s combo’s – burgers and seasoned fries- ahh perfect fuel food–with cola drinks and water, under the canopies sittin’ & chillin’, what better time. Met up with friends old and new.

El Cajon H-D Motorclothes Sales Associate Nikki Ray came out to demo the CVO Deluxe and the Softail Slim- she’s been riding 3 years on her ’03 883 Sportster, having passed the Pacific Safety Council riding course back in 2011.

Riders were here for all sorts of reasons. Late in the day I met Sylvia Fawson, a petite active-duty service member with 15 years in the US Navy. Her colorful full face helmet was almost bigger than she was. But this gal has spunk. Due to wearing the right gear, she had just days before walked away basically uninjured from a freeway crash that totaled her bike, and was out here with a new helmet, getting back on the horse to ‘just do it’. She had arrived in time for the last demo ride, selecting the Sporty XL 1200T, and said the ride was more about just getting back on, than really scoping out the bike. I think that was a success!

Women riders here told me, they felt that the Demo’s were very friendly to women riders on an equal basis with the men. All very positive. The route chosen was geared to acclimate initially on slower speed city streets, with some lower speed turns, and graduating up to outer area roads and eventually once more familiar with the gearing and handling, up onto the freeway for some high speed acceleration—then back to El Cajon and dropping smoothly off the freeway & back to the dealership. A full day in a full weekend of riding some awesome bikes, with no agenda other than safety.

IMG_1994b Women say hi to QTThe Women’s Garage Party! ~ The following Friday May 9th, I arrived at the Garage Party to find out front, ladies lined up to ride the Jumpstart machine. It’s like a dyno where the rider sits mounted on the bike held in place with the rear wheel on a roller, so you can get the feel of and practice accelerating and shifting, without actually putting wheels on the road.

Later inside, Marketing Manager Tina Hook was about to hold a drawing with help from El Cajon HOG’s Ladies of Harley Officer Laura “LuLu” Bryant. I also met up with a long-time friend Dawn Matthews, an AHDRA (now NHRA) pro-stock drag racer who 9-5 provides massage therapy through AmBience Day Spa at Barona Resort & Casino and also on the side operates Innersage mobile massage as a Holistic Health Practioner. AmBience donated a 50-minute massage session as a Garage Party prize. Dawn then introduced me to Karen Wagner, the first woman AHDRA National Champion (2003). Yes, AHDRA did not have separate men’s/women’s classes, so look out guys when Karen showed up to play, and beat ‘em all. Just to name two legendary ladies of motorcycling here tonight.

IMG_1983b trying out a bikeThis Garage Party was combined with the May Ladies of Harley meeting, so all the LOH members were here to show support as the local community of women riders, passenger riders and enthusiasts. There were goodie bags for all (with handy items from Law Tigers & Mary Kay rep Ashley who had a table, plus a 6-foot long luxurious designer silk & cotton scarf/wrap valued at $99!), prize drawings, cosmetics & jewelry vendors, plenty of food and a (omg) chocolate fountain, and info on riding. Terrie with Pacific Safety Center, Leslie’s Leather & Lace sewing, Jody Vacala’s Special Wine Cakes, Maggie Puga Swarovski Crystal Creations, wow what a lineup. And you could meet up with and get to know other women who ride, or who can encourage you if you want to learn. The big prizes were that totally cool ladies pink striped GLX café racer helmet won by a guest invitee Linda, and a certificate for the Pacific Safety Center Basic Riding Course valued at $250, won by another guest invitee— Terri Wyatt, candidate for San Diego County District Attorney!

After the event Terri emailed me the following, quoted in part: “It was really great to meet you at the El Cajon event and to meet the rest of the group. I enjoyed talking to each and every one of the women riders who attended the Garage Party at the El Cajon Harley Dealership and felt honored to have been invited by Trish, who I had met the Saturday before…. It was a very nice surprise for me to win the learn-to-ride course for first-time women motorcycle riders. I’m excited to take that class, once the election for District Attorney has completed to free up some of my time and energy to focus on some really fun activities. I grew up with a brother, father, uncles and cousins who all loved riding motorcycles, especially dirt bikes, however, I only rode occasionally on the back of their bikes, so the learn-to-ride class will be a necessity before I can hit the road with this very fun group of women riders!”

Hmmm, we could potentially soon have a DA who is not only a woman, but who also rides motorcycles, and who ‘gets’ the concept of cars needing to share the road with motorcycles— from the motorcyclist perspective — an important thing on our roads & highways.

El Cajon Harley-Davidson, welcoming women to the ride.

And Many More…! El Cajon Harley will soon celebrate 60 years in business- the party is June 14th and you my friends, are invited!