LOVELAND — Look out behind you, guys. The gals are gaining on you.
“I love the rush, the sun, the wind, the power,” said Helen Dougherty, a Harley rider from Denver. “I think I may be an adrenaline junkie.”
Women are tired of riding pillion behind their men. They want to grip the handlebars through black leather gloves and guide their own motorcycle along the ribbons of highway.
As Cameron Carter of Arvada learned recently at a Harley-Davidson safety class, “Women are the fastest-growing demographic buying Harleys.”
During the Thunder in the Rockies rally at The Ranch on Saturday, dozens of women swung off bikes beside, rather than behind, the men.
An outdoor booth sold tank tops to women proclaiming, “I ride my own.”
Ten percent of Harleys are owned by women, up from 2 percent in the early 1990s, according to the Harley-Davidson Web site.
“I couldn’t see riding behind him,” said Dougherty of an ex-husband who introduced her to motorcycles.
Her newfound love of bikes far outlasted the marriage. She proudly showed off her 2004 Harley “Fat Boy” with its sinuous pipes snaking beneath the seat.
“These pipes are bad, like eagle talons,” she said. “There’s a lot of chrome on this one.”
She pointed out her fringed, black-leather handle grips. “Kind of girly,” she said.
Gail Lougee of Arvada sat behind her husband at first, then learned to ride on a 1981 Yamaha. “So different than a Harley,” she said.
Unfortunately, her husband died of a heart attack the day after she bought her own Harley last March. They got to ride together once, she said.
Carter, a friend of the couple’s, bought the deceased man’s bike, a turquoise and white 1991 model with the look of a classic street machine.
“Now I ride with her,” he said.
Judy Jackson from Littleton got her baby-blue Harley last December as a Christmas present from her boyfriend, Gean Gribbin.
“I wanted it to be a little feminine,” she said.
She rode on the back of Gribbin’s bike for a total of 4,000 miles before getting her own.
She tells other women who share rides with men, “Once you get on it, you’ll love it. It’s a heck of a difference.”
The typical Harley buyer is still a married man in his mid-40s with a household income of about $81,000.
“As you can see, I’m a little different,” said Odell Pitts of Denver, who is black.
“It’s not about your race or your income,” he said. “It’s about the passion for the bike and the people and being out on the open road, free.”