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!
- My great grandma was on a bike way back in 1913, heading down a cobblestone road we believe to be in Bronx, NY. She even rode home from church.
- My Grandmother Olivia married a rodeo motorcycle stunt rider, who rode in barrels and was even a national hill climb finalist.
- My Mother rode, along with her siblings and most of their spouses. Mom and I rode handlebar to handlebar on many a cross-country trek. Mom loved ice cream almost as much as motorcycles—we once rode nine hours from New York to Maine just to get some!
- My generation has seen many cousins take to the road on a motorcycle. Safety is at the forefront of our minds, and it has to be each person’s choice to take to two wheels.
- My 12-year-old daughter, Amber, has been riding for five years. It’s in her blood now. It’s pizza on Friday, church on Sunday . . . and you always get there on a motorcycle. Amber rode on back of my bike from Southern California (SoCal Ducati) to Carson City for the “AMA International Women & Motorcycling Conference” last summer. I kept telling her we could stop any time and rest, but she kept encouraging me to push on, thus we made it in nine hours straight through to Nevada. I’ve taught Amber respect for the sport and think she will make the choice to be a lifelong rider.
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