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As an ongoing feature, MAD Maps and the Women’s Coalition of Motorcyclists will be celebrating the women who have made an impact on the motorcycle industry, from pioneers to newbies, industry players to you.
Motor Maids Inc., Executive Publicity Officer
WCM Representative for the Motor Maids
Back in 1979, Diane married Dave Rumbel and Dave always wanted a motorcycle. From the time he was a boy and heard the neighbor's old Harley Davidson pan head going up the road, it was his dream. Diane said, “Don't even think about it, maybe by the time you're 40, we can afford one” (thinking that would never happen, mainly because they were raising children and couldn’t afford it). Much to her surprise, Dave approached Diane a few months before his 40th birthday in 1996 and told her that he found the bike we was looking for in the newspaper. Diane gave in but told him he would have to figure out the financing and in the back of her mind thought that she would wind up at home while Dave was out riding.
Dave then purchased his dream bike, a used 1991 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Classic with a comfortable Queen Seat on the back for Diane. It was then that Diane found out she loved traveling on two wheels. Before Dave knew it, she was planning their weekends. This was all good for a few years until Dave was working out of state for a couple of months during the “Fall Season”, the best time to ride in the North East (chasing the colors). Diane was bummed because she couldn’t join her friends on these trips and decided that she needed her own bike.
In January 2000, Diane wound up in a Harley dealership and there was a used 1984 Honda Shadow 750 trade-in in the back. With Dave's encouragement and support, she bought it and realized she was on her way. She signed up for the Motorcycle Safety Course, a free program offered by the State of Pennsylvania. On April 15, 2000, Diane successfully passed and got her motorcycle endorsement and was now licensed to ride a motorcycle.
Diane had her class M license, but still needed practice, so she would ride all through the neighborhood on her Honda Shadow and Dave would dutifully follow. Living in the country, there were tons of curvy roads, so she would ride for miles just to avoid turning around. By late April, she traded the Honda in for a used 1999 H-D sportster Hugger, and later that year and 7,000 miles later, she traded the hugger for a new 2001 FXDL Harley-Davidson Low rider. To this day, Diane still rides the same FXDL but now has hard bags, a tour pack and Sirius Satellite Radio for the long road trips. She never named her bike, but did have a painter scrawl on the tank “It’s a Girl.” Today, in 2013, she proudly has 96K on the odometer and will see it turn over to 100K during the trip to this year's Motor Maid convention in Bend, Oregon.
Diane had a lot of guy friends who would sit around and talk about rides they wanted to do. They were talking about starting a club and one of the men stated that “No Women” would be allowed, even though Diane had been riding with them and her husband for several years. That was enough for Diane to get out and find a club that not only supported but embraced women riders.
Diane started surfing the Internet and found Motor Maids. She was immediately smitten because one of the criteria for being a Motor Maid is that the member must ride her own motorcycle. Diane officially joined the group in fall of 2001 and her riding career was just beginning. Diane was mentored by then PA Motor Maids District Director Lois Hendershot, who invited Diane to join her on many rides.
Diane’s first big trip was riding to the AMA “Women in Motorcycling Conference” in 2002 in Buchanan, West Virginia. This was a life-changing event for Diane. She was raising her kids, working in a factory, and was ready to try to do something beyond her comfort zone. Returning from the conference with more confidence than ever, she immediately enrolled in college to get her teaching degree. Diane has not missed a Motor Maid convention or an AMA Women's Conference since 2002.
Diane's confidence continued to grow and in 2003 she wanted to ride her first ever cross-country adventure to attend the Motor Maids Convention in Chico, CA. Dave said, “OK, but you need to ride out with someone.” Two experienced long-distance travelers agreed to let her tag along as long as she could ride 500-600 miles a day. Motor Maids, Pat Crosby (MN) and Wendy Ream (NY) taught Diane how to ride long and hard, but safely to make it from PA to CA in five days. The return trip would be a more leisurely touring and scenic ride with Lois and her husband, Russ. However, Russ's bike broke down in Mountain Home, Idaho and Diane, with Dave's blessing, made the decision to head out on her own and ride back solo to Pennsylvania. This solo trip was another turning point with Diane feeling the most empowered than she had ever felt in her life.
Since that life-altering ride in 2003, she has done multiple cross-country trips. She loves to travel as free as a bird, stopping where and when she wants, and riding for how long or how far she wants.. She loves riding with and without other riders. Most importantly, she just loves to ride!
Diane is the proud mother of two children, Carl and Justine (30 & 28). Justine was licensed to ride in 2008 and, like her mom, started out learning on a Honda and quickly upgraded to a Harley-Davidson Sportster Low. Also, like her mother, Justine joined the Motor Maids in 2008 (and yes, you guessed it: Diane sponsored her). Justine's first convention was in Lewiston, Maine in 2009 and she guided both her Mom and Dad (male guests are welcome – often called Mr. Motor Maids) to the Convention.
Diane's son, Carl, is also licensed to ride, but in the Rumbel family the women seem to out number the men.
Diane, Dave & Justine
Diane & Justine
Since joining Motor Maids in 2002, Diane has put over 90K miles on her bike, most of them riding with fellow Motor Maids. In 2011, at the Grand Rapids Convention, Diane ran unopposed for the position of Executive Publicity Officer. As a Communications and News Broadcasting Teacher in Mount Carmel, PA, this was a natural fit for her talents.
Because of her own personal experience and the confidence that she gained through riding, Diane's joy in riding grew by leaps and bounds. Part of the mission of Motor Maids is to spread the joy of riding and a positive image of women motorcyclists. As one of her lessons in the beginning of the school year, she asks her students if they think she looks like a motorcyclist; students' who have not heard of "the teacher that rides a motorcycle", will say no. Diane teaches them that motorcycling is not all about breaking rules and getting tattoos. She uses her motorcycle example as an example of the many stereotypes we face every day. Some Motor Maids have even paraded in her high school's annual homecoming parade. While traveling, she will often send post cards to her students from the road, and has influenced many kids (and their parents) to view motorcyclists more positively.
Susan Gibson, Motor Maids, Inc President, saw Diane's experience and enthusiasm as Publicity Officer as an immediate benefit to the WCM. At the Motor Maid Executive Board meeting, Susan asked if Diane could attend and represent Motor Maids at the first meeting of the steering commission in Ohio, late January of this year. While representing the Motor Maids, Diane had the fantastic pleasure to be a part of the first meeting bringing together the likes of Women in the Wind, Women on Wheels, Pro-Convention, and more. These groups met to discuss how to unite under one umbrella to grow the ranks of women riders. We may all belong to different clubs, but we are all part of a bigger picture.
By Jenny Lefferts, MAD Maps, Inc.
As an ongoing feature, the Women’s Coalition of Motorcyclists will be interviewing the women who have made an impact on the motorcycle industry, from pioneers to newbies, industry players to racers, to you.
In celebration of Mother’s Day we were honored to speak with the 4th of 5 generations of women riders.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: CHRISTINE FIREHOCK
CKS KickSTART Motorcycle Training Series http://www.ckskickstart.com
Dutchess County, New York
I have no memory of not riding. I remember being three years old on Dad’s Harley, with my older sister also in tow. Dad would lay down his leather jacket on the tank, where we would inevitably fall asleep. We are now on our fifth generation of riders! I actually passed my motorcycle license test on the first try, but I failed the car test. I don’t have a preference of bike—they all have something to offer. Right now I have 14 motorcycles in the barn, ranging from my 1979 H-D LowRider 1340cc Shovel to my 2012 Ducati Monster 796. I guess you could compare it to how some women view their shoes, wearing different styles based on their mood or the event. Similarly, motorcycles are my accessories. My loyalty is to two wheels and being in the wind, not to a brand.
CKS KickSTART is for motorcycle-safety training. We teach beginner to advanced courses. Our unique curriculum was developed via our intimate relationships with our students, whom we’ve taught individually since 1986. Our cutting-edge innovation of utilizing a training DVD for home study and review changed the playing field of rider education. My greatest strength is being able to evaluate the student on their bike of choice, since I have experience with just about every brand and style. I think all riders—men and women—need to be 100% prepared. I’ve had the privilege to teach some VIP’s, but I’m sworn to secrecy and can’t reveal their names (laughs).
My mother, Diana Marafioti, was a trailblazer who broke so many glass ceilings in her motorcycle journey. In the late1970's, Mother and her siblings wanted to join a riding club, but there were no co-ed clubs. So, they started their own with another family in the same situation, calling it Lost Wheels Motorcycle Club. A few years later, Diana was elected president of that club. When she realized not everyone who could do so was out there riding, Mother’s passion for the sport compelled her to become a motorcycle instructor. She actually started the first motorcycle-only driving school in New York State. When, sadly, my Mother passed away two decades later, I inherited the business that I had grown with her. I know that I can never fill her shoes, but I was blessed to be able to walk and work alongside such an inspirational person. I am honored to say that Diana Marafioti was the “2004 AMA MVP Award” recipient, for her “more than 20 years of devotion and commitment to new motorcyclists, their safety, their personal needs, and their dreams.” She was often referred to as the “Mother Teresa of Motorcycling,” as she thought everyone should have the opportunity to ride, besides being so graceful on two wheels. I am still connected to my Mother via motorcycling—I still have her bike, and my daughter and I always feel “Grandma” is with us when we go out for a ride.
ALL IN THE FAMILY: MULTI-GENERATIONAL RIDING
I am proud to say that my family’s love and passion toward all things motorcycle began exactly a century ago!
I know having five generations of riders is not the norm. For my family, it is like a family reunion when you buy a new bike—a much bigger deal than a college graduation or a wedding! I am almost embarrassed to say that I can rattle off the names of all our bikes, faster than the names of all my nieces and nephews, whom I love dearly. (Laughs)
BELIEF IN WOMEN IN MOTORCYCLING
I espouse many of the same beliefs of the Women’s Coalition of Motorcyclists (WCM) (link to http://www.wcm2020.org). There are a number of issues with women and riding. Motorcycling started out as a family activity. Just look at old ads. I think things changed in the late ‘60’s—the bad boy attitude started, so it was deemed not “ladylike” to ride. It’s been a continuous struggle to overcome that belief. Then there’s the issue of children. I rode when I was up to seven months pregnant! My Mother advised me, from her personal experience, that when you are pregnant and can no longer balance on high heels, then that’s the only time to get off the bike. There have been mixed reactions when dropping a child off at school on a motorcycle, ranging from “I wish I were that cool” to “you must be a terrible mother.” Negative comments roll off my back—riding is just natural to me. Another possible factor of why there are fewer female riders is that women always had a choice of riding on the back of a bike, while there was a taboo against men doing so. That forced men to learn to ride a motorcycle for themselves, which was considered not necessary for women. Ideals are gradually changing for the best. There are now clutchless scooters, and progressive transmissions that make it less intimating for some women. Plus, the H-D Trike makes it easier to ride with kids . . . and groceries. I am currently teaching a woman on Saturdays who is in her 60’s and her ride of choice is a CanAm Spyder. I am also seeing many more 20-year-old females in my classes, so the future is bright for women and motorcycling.
by Christopher Gil, VP of Editorial at MAD Maps, Inc. www.madmaps.com
As an ongoing feature, Women’s Coalition of Motorcyclists will be celebrating the women who have made an impact on the motorcycle industry, from pioneers to newbies, industry players to racers, to you.
Championship Rider and Auto Racer
I was a car racer before I ever draped my 6’1” frame on a motorcycle. I never thought about riding, but when I was 22 years old a friend sold me his used 1956 200cc Triumph Cub when he left for Hawaii. I figured, “Why not? It’s cheap.” Unfortunately, that bike didn’t always start, so the next year I bought a Honda C110, which I used for shopping, going to work, visiting friends . . . it was my sole means of transportation. I never experienced any backlash being a female on a motorcycle, or maybe I just never noticed.
I was born in Juneau, Alaska in 1936, but during World War II my Mother got me and my older brother out of imminent danger by sending us to Seattle and then by train to our final destination of my grandparents’ farm in Iowa. I was 5, my brother 9, and we made that trip on our own! My Mother was an RN and wasn’t allowed to leave Alaska during wartime, but she later joined us in Iowa and then I was raised in Phoenix. So, you could say I was always on a road adventure.
I do vintage racing with my 1974 250 Husqvarna. 1974 is the most recent year they deem a bike vintage. It’s an amazingly well-built bike, although getting parts can take 2-3 three months. I now compete in the Over 70 class.
I started racing in cars. There was a time trial where I lived in Phoenix, mostly because Stan Sugerman bought a stable of racing cars and needed a place to show it off. I got to drive a Porsche Spyder. I was hooked on Race Cars. In 1975, the first SCCA/CAL club sports car race in Phoenix, car owner, George Reis asked if I wanted to drive his Mercedes Benz 300SL and I said, “Oh yes!” It was a Ladies & Sedan race , which I won, despite spinning out. I got to drive some fabulous cars over the years. There is nothing like racing a V-12 Ferrari on the long course at Riverside Raceway. I was fortunate to be in the Inaugural 1967 Mexican 1000. I was in a 510 Datsun-we only made it to the half way point. The next year, I drove a pickup truck (built for short people, which I’m not!) and finished 4th. We had to race against the big trucks, as there was no mini pickup truck class yet. One of the oddest moments I had in these races was in 1969 when a McPhearson strut broke through the hood and oil stuck on the windshield, so I had to look out the side window a lot to keep racing.
At a party, fellow car racer, Steve McQueen said, “McGee, you’ve got to get off that pansy road racing bike and come out to the desert.” I told him that I didn’t want to get dirty, but I did say it might be fun. My husband worked for Honda so a 250 Honda Scrambler was my ride. Dirt bikes were to stay in my future, including Desert, Motocross and the Long Distance races. My career highlight racing bikes in Baja was in 1975, when I rode a 250 Husqvarna solo in the Baja 500, passing 17 two-man teams. The hardest thing I ever did was Baja. It was very barren, no electricity, no doctors, no phone. I carried Percodan in case of injury because you’d have to ride injured to get to someplace where someone has a car to get to Ensenada or La Paz to a clinic or back to the States. Luckily, I never had to use the Percodan, but I did come off the bike several times.
I’ve been told that I’ve inspired other women to ride, especially by female riders who came up to me in Carson City at the AMA International Women & Motorcycling Conference in the summer of 2012. If I’ve done anything to help, that’s great. Women hold up half the sky! Women have long faced more obstacles than men, it was always NO such as “No, you can’t vote,” or “No, you can’t race.” Or No to any random thing. Women heard a lot of “No! Women can’t do that.” I did my time demonstrating for Equal Rights, Pro-Choice and Title 9. When it comes to motorcycling, I always say, “Just get out there and ride.” Motorcycling equals freedom, plus it’s such fun. You feel so different on a motorcycle than in a car. Being a woman on a motorcycle somehow makes you feel more important, like you’re telling the world “I can do this”. More women should also enter any kind of racing event. Just enter. You may not win, but at least you entered. My goal was to always finish.
I received an email that I thought was spam, a joke. The email said that the FIM was offering me an all-expenses-paid trip to Monte Carlo, Monaco to receive an award. The next morning, I received a call from the FIM saying that I needed to tell them if I was coming or not. When I realized they were serious, I blurted out, Yes !” FIM took care of everything—my only challenge was finding proper dress up clothes for the formal evenings. I just got the official 14.5-pound award, engraved with “FIM Women Legend—Mary McGee.” I am deeply honored, not only as a woman rider, but as a motorcycle rider.
I hope it’s huge! Companies are starting to recognize that there are plenty of us women out there, but change is gradual. Honda didn’t even have a display at the AMA Conference in Carson City, even though there were 600+ women motorcyclists there. They are finally making bikes that fit women. I was lucky that I was tall and could fit a standard bike fifty years ago. If I had been a foot shorter, my whole life might have been different! I am glad that the WCM (Women’s Coalition of Motorcyclists) has been formed I think it will encourage more women to ride. And May has been Women Riders Month. Heck, I just got my street license last fall at age 75. Never stop riding!
by Christopher Gil, VP of Editorial at MAD Maps, Inc., www.madmaps.com
As an ongoing feature, the Women’s Coalition of Motorcyclists will be celebrating the women who have made an impact on the motorcycle industry, from pioneers to newbies, industry players to racers.
Marketing & Public Relations Manager
Schuberth North America
Orange County, CA
I started riding (street) two decades ago, and a few years later got into off-roading as well, and later raced desert and motocross for several years. I currently own a Honda Superhawk and Ducati 750Sport, plus a couple of Yamaha dirt bikes. I started riding on a whim really. One night I made a comment to a friend that it would be cool if I rode a motorcycle. That friend then showed me a classified ad for aHonda Rebel 250. I picked up the phone, even though I didn’t know a thing about bikes. Interestingly, it was a woman selling the Honda, so I felt comfortable asking her my newbie questions . . . I didn’t know anything about bikes! There were no riders in my family, so the only inspiration I can think of is there was a TV commercial when I was little for “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda”—the one where a helmet comes off and you realize it’s a women rider as her hair comes flowing out of the helmet. I do see myself as an anomaly because I didn’t have a role model who brought me into the sport. Female riders need to get past the conditioning we receive as children—girls are told motorcycles are dangerous or it’s not feminine to ride a bike.
I have been working in the motorcycle industry for over 20 years. My first job out of college was on staff at the Motorcycle Safety Program in Oregon, where I grew up. I enjoyed teaching the classes and knew I had found my career niche. Some classes were for women only, while others were mixed gender. I later got a graduate degree in Marketing, which I’ve put to use in the industry. One advantage to being female in the industry is that you stand out . . . but for every advantage there is a disadvantage, such as having to work harder to prove yourself. There is the added benefit that women network well; we proactively try to help each other out, which I think comes out of need because there is a lack of mentorship in the motorcycle industry. My advice to women wanting to work in the motorcycle industry is simple: don’t expect a job just because you ride. You should look for positions that apply to your experience and education, just like in any other industry. Unless you’re applying to be a racer, motorcycling is secondary to the requirements of a specific job—it’s also a great perk! This advice is gender neutral, by the way.
CURRENT COMPANY & EMPLOYMENT HISTORY
Schuberth is a global, head-protection technology company based outside Berlin, with a satellite office where I work in California. I travel to Schuberth headquarters several times a year, and speaking German is a benefit to the relationships with my colleagues there. I also use my language skills to help translate parts lists, ads and manuals. I understand the culture since I have lived in Germany a few times throughout my life, most recently when I worked as a Global Category Manager for Hein Gericke. For Hein Gericke, I ran projects relating mainly to the U.S. and European women’s motorcycle market and development of women’s motorcycle and casual apparel.
OUTLOOK ON FEMALE MOTORCYCLING PRODUCTS
Schuberth’s C3 product line is a third generation of flip-up motorcycle helmets. The women’s fit version, the C3W, was introduced in 2010. Engineers at Schuberth stumbled across cosmetic-company research that indicated the female head is typically smaller and features a narrower jaw and higher cheekbones. So, they devised a helmet with the comfort liner specially contoured to fit the female facial structure and with softer materials to better form to small features, plus fabric that is easier to clean and good for sensitive skin. This is the only helmet engineered to fit women. It was definitely not a “shrink it and pink it” version of a male product. The C3 Pro and the female-fit counterpart, the C3 Pro Women, was just introduced a couple of months ago. The upgraded features include aspoiler for higher speeds, an internal antenna, better ventilation and a more comfortable fit. It’s a terrific product. True German engineering—sort of the “Mercedes of Motorcycle Helmets.” There’s even Bluetooth communication available as an add-on. OurC3 Pro Women helmet is gaining in popularity.
TAKE ON INDUSTRY TRENDS
Let’s look at the numbers. It’s been stated for years that 10-12% of the motorcycle market is women. That’s based on registrations. How accurate is that? It could be 25%. Why? Because sometimes a woman’s motorcycle is registered under a man’s name. When talking about apparel, it’s also important to consider the number of passengers. Don’t they need gear even if they’re not up front? Plus, women more often make the shopping decisions for a family.Often, the women is the family CFO, so purchases have to be approved by her. And let’s not forget that this is about shopping. And, women do love to shop. I mean, I have six different suits, which I wear based on my ride or even mood that day!
BELIEF IN WOMEN IN MOTORCYCLING
I was excited to hear of the newly formed Women’s Coalition of Motorcyclists (WCM) and their goal to double the number of female riders by 2020 and promote women’s prominence in motorcycling.I’m happy that today there are so many high profile role models, because this is what helped me get past my “girls don’t ride motorcycles” conditioning. Now, people tell me that I’m a pioneer and role model since I was the first woman elected to the Motorcycle Industry Council Board of Directors and served two terms, so I try to “pay it forward,” too. I remember attending my first Women on Wheels (WOW) event in Seattle, back when I first started riding. I met an 83-year-old woman who had started riding in her 70s after her husband passed away and his motorcycle was collecting dust. She walked with a cane, but she had circumnavigated the country on her GoldWing, pulling a trailer to get to the rally! I am still inspired by her, as well as the women I have met since, such as racing pioneer Mary McGee, who was a special guest at the “2012 AMA International Women & Motorcycling Conference” in Carson City, Nevada. Mary started auto racing and then road racing in the ’60s. Steve McQueen eventually convinced her to get in the dirt and she rode a 250 Husqvarna solo in the Baja 500, beating 17 two-man teams. She also did motocross races and she’s still racing today at 75. Then there’s NASCAR driver Danica Patrick. She actually wears a Schuberth auto helmet, so I have to give a plug here (smiles). But she’s a true pioneer and inspiring role model.These stories transcend motorcycling. And gender.
THOUGHTS ON INTERNATIONAL FEMALE RIDE DAY
I was fortunate enough to be at the “2012 International Female Ride Day” events in Canada. Vicki Gray, who created the global event, lives in Toronto, so they make a big day of it up there. It was a great ride, visiting motorcycle manufacturers, a photo shoot at at Toronto City Hall and a get-together at a local dealership. I’ll be sure to celebrate this year’s event by at least riding to work—I think it’s cool and important to participate so that people around the world see plenty of women riding motorcycles on that one day!
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