People may think the stereotypical motorcycle owner is a middle-aged man with cash and pavement to burn. But don’t be surprised by the rapid increase in the number of female riders. The demand for motorcycles among them is growing, with women accounting for an estimated 19 percent of Harley Davidson owners in 2019. This is an increase of 9% in the past ten years. This comes as no surprise to Eccentryk Lady Ryderz founder Anita Holton, who launched the Severn-based all-female motorcycle group twenty years ago and has since seen it grow to include two riding clubs (one in Severn and one in Frederick) in addition to a social club.
“At that time, in 2003, there weren’t a lot of female clubs,” Holton says. She got into riding because her brothers were into it. When her brother Ted tragically died in his sleep at the age of 28, Holton felt inspired to take up the passion for motorcycles that he’d passed on to her. But when she tried to join a men's group, it didn’t go so well.
“That was when I learned I didn’t have a clue what the motorcycle community was,” Holton laughs. “I was walking into a man's world.” So she created a new version, her own version. It would be a club for women motorcycle enthusiasts, providing sisterhood and chances to give back to the community, in addition to bike advice and opportunities to ride as a group. It was the first all-female motorcycle club in Anne Arundel County.
Holton chose the name of the group because of how unique she knew it would be. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to women riders—from the bikes they want to the rides they plan on taking, District Harley Davidson sales manager Randy Nulph agrees: “There’s no specific best bike for a woman. What I always ask is what kind of riding you’re planning on doing because each bike is centralized towards that. If a woman is getting into riding and she wants to learn, you want to get her on something a little lighter. But I know plenty of women that ride the big bikes.”
The lighter bike that many women choose as a starter bike is the Iron 883. The classic bobber-style bike (meaning parts have been removed for riding ease and weight reduction) has been around since 1957. “Typically, when women are just getting into it they think because the Iron 883 is so light it's going to be easy for them to maneuver on and learn on.”
After a year or so of riding, Nulph will often recommend trading up to a Softail Standard. Softail bikes are low-seated and often referred to as cruisers. “The Softail Standard has an 8-inch mini ape and is a classic softail ride,” Nulph says. “It’s light enough for you to maneuver through the city and it’s heavy enough for you to actually get on the highway and powerful enough for you to get up to speed.”
When they’ve been riding for a while and like to ride distance, though, Nulph says many women prefer the heavier bikes. He recommends the Street Glide; this is known as a “touring bike” and designed for long-distance trips. “Any woman can ride any bike as long as they’re tall enough and it fits their stature, because you can adjust any bike to fit you,” he emphasizes.
Holton can attest to the quality of a Street Glide—it’s the bike she rides, and it took her smoothly to California and back. It takes her on regular rides with her crew up and down the highways through Prince George’s County. She appreciates Harley Davidson for supporting Eccentryk’s community fundraising efforts, such as helping them host a fish fry in the Laurel Harley Davidson shop where she once worked in the comptroller's office.
Charity work is one way women’s groups tend to differ from men’s motorcycle groups, Holton says. “Men will do charity, but there’s almost always a female behind it encouraging them. Men talking about getting the job done. Women get the job done.”
For Holton, who never had sisters growing up, her fellow Eccentryk riders, a diverse group of women from various backgrounds and walks of life, have become her family. “When I started this club, I wanted sisterhood. My mom had three boys and one girl. I never had the opportunity to really be around a bunch of females. And I enjoy their company. I enjoy that I can vent to my sister instead of calling my brother.” She even taught her daughter how to ride. “These ladies are mature, wise and know their opinions count. That is a factor in having a club that stays established because you need loyalty, commitment and dedication,” Holton says.
For his part, Nulph loves selling to the Eccentryk ladies: “They’re nice to work with and they know what they want.”
“Men talk about getting the job done. Women get the job done.” — Eccentryk Lady Ryderz founder Anita Holton