Would You Rather: New study finds female bikers choose riding over… pretty much everything.

female_riderWould you rather…

The classic party game opener has gotten an academic upgrade; its catch phrase made it’s way into a study released in January by the University of Strathclyde that reveals a “surprising” new inclination of female bikers. Survey says: They’d rather be riding.

More than 100 male and female bikers from the US, UK & Germany were polled for a study on the true nature of the modern biker – specifically the “white collar” breed (average age 48, with an assumed family). Researchers asked questions on how participants would ideally spend their time; the survey pitted motorcycles against a second leisure option, like playing with his/her children or taking a walk on the beach.

The male results were eye-raising, but not exactly jaw-dropping: The only choice that beat out biking for more half the men (76%) was… anyone? anyone? …women. Barely a third said they’d rather be with their children than on their bike, and when the more specific descriptor “newborn” was fit into the question, numbers shrank to a fifth.

Ok. So guys like to be on their motorcycles. Men are by reputation solitary creatures, more prone (or so goes the stereotype) to disenchantment with the freedom-squelching responsibilities of family life. So when 2/3 of men would bail on Christmas to fill up and hit the road, it was assumed the female biker could be counted on to pledge her undying allegiance to family time.

As it turns out, if men would rather be riding, women would much rather be riding.

How many women chose playing with the kids over going for a ride? Thirteen percent. How many chose staying home with their newborn over going for a ride? None. That’s zero. Zip. Zilch. Not a single one.

The study’s authors called it “surprising”, and said it “raised new questions. I’ll be the first to admit – I myself was repeating the figures to friends in a you’re-never-gonna-believe-this tone. But if we really look at what’s being reported here, is it all that earth shattering?

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We’re living at a time when the lion’s share of responsibility for a family falls on women – and responsibility’s quantitative measurement is time. On one hand, then, you have women engaged in a careful juggling act with their time and priorities and stretching their days (likely sacrificing something) to be able to ride; on the other hand, they still represent just a small minority of motorcyclists and therefore guard it fiercely as a part of their identity.

Add that up and you have a group that is by force of circumstance very, very passionate about riding.

So is the study “surprising” because it’s still beyond societal reasoning to imagine that a woman would yearn for all the freedom and adventure that a man would? Eighty five percent of those polled said they’d rather be biking than doing any of the given choices, which to me says they’re not just escaping the demands and routine of a family, but deepening the bonds to their bikes, taking ownership of a lifestyle that has for its entire history been male-dominated. And I’m with them – you’d have to get really creative to come up with something I’d rather be doing than riding. Is “this raises new questions” a euphemism for “watch out guys, the ladies are coming”?

What the study magnifies is the loudening voice of the female rider. Motorcycling is the place where the glass ceilings, gender expectations and family roles disappear; there’s no negotiating, settling or compromising. Everything that happens on the road is between the rider and the machine.

What’s your answer to Would you rather? Weigh in with your comments, insights and your own analyses of the study.

(Full press release at http://www.scottoiler.com/us/news/white-collar-bikers.html)