By Marissa Baecker
Today is International Female Ride Day. Each year, the first Friday in May is dedicated to women around the world who enjoy motorcycling. On this day every year women are encouraged to gather with one another and spend the day on two wheels. How did the day come about and who began the celebration?
As woman ahead of her time, Vicki Gray, founder of International Female Ride Day, has lived her life on her own terms. Fiercely independent and a self-proclaimed Tom-Boy preferring to climb trees, ride horses and race dirt bikes, the visual that may come to mind is most likely the complete opposite of who you meet.
Gray is a petite, soft spoken, feminine, fashion forward, business-minded woman with a European accent and a zest for life that has resulted in a near 30-year love affair with motorcycles. In fact, Gray says “I’ve only been without a bike for six months.”
As a career gal working for Revlon, Gray rarely stayed still. Travelling the country back and forth for a few years, Gray found herself based in Nova Scotia and ‘looking for an outlet’ to relieve tension. While she enjoyed sailing, it wasn’t enough and she turned to motorcycles long before it was mainstream to see women riding – but that was just the beginning.
“I took rider training and discovered motorcycling gave me everything I needed,” laughs Gray. “Working for Revlon in those years it was all about fashion, being very high profile, you always had to be very put together. Motorcycling for me was the opposite and it was about exploration and finding that outlet.”
No matter where in the world Gray re-located, motorcycling followed. She became a riding instructor and while living in the Caribbean opened a riding school. When she relocated to Europe, the motorcycle racing bug bit her and “Racing took all of my money for the next six or seven years.”
“I had some very different experiences racing than even the women today,” adds Gray. “I walked in to racing as a single woman – without a father, boyfriend, husband or partner – I learned everything on my own. I know what it takes from every aspect and it was a great education.”
Admitting that she could have been a better racer if she had added support, she relished in her knowledge and decided to share it with Race Girl.com.
“Race Girl in Europe was to encourage women into motorsports and to enhance the skills of already licensed riders,” says Gray.
In order to reach all women interested in motorsports, Gray expanded Race Girl to Motoress.com. in order to “change the perception that women have of motorcycling”, and that the industry had of women in motorcycling.
“It is a combination of motorcycling, being feminine and being intelligent – know how,” adds Gray.
If there is one thing women can attest to is the industry statement that the women’s market in motorcycling is the fastest growing market. However, Gray sees it differently. She agrees that it is a growing market but not because more and more women are getting on bikes. She sees it that it is ‘the last frontier’ left for marketing motorcycles.
“The bottom line is that women have always been on motorcycles,” says Gray. “It is our social values and the demands of our every day life, it is hard for us [women] to bring it [motorcycling] up the priority list so I thought we should have a day where all the women around the world get out there and show how many we are.”
It isn’t a rally or an organized event but that is not to say that groups, clubs, or the industry itself cannot organize events to celebrate the day. For Gray it is a show of numbers. As the founder, Gray gets feedback from around the world and photos showing how women in different cultures have celebrated the day.
“A women’s group in Tel Aviv got together and it was the first time ever that women in such numbers were seen riding through the main streets,” notes Gray.
The first question I had with respect to the day was why every year a Friday and not a weekend celebration where numbers could be stronger?
“We all ride on the weekend,” says Gray. “Friday is a more visible day. It is aimed to show people that women enjoy motorcycling every day and it isn’t just a weekend thing. It is usually casual Friday in offices and I think that is easier for a woman to ride to work, or school with messier hair from a helmet and then meet with friends after.”
Each year the celebration just gets bigger. It is an incredible amount of work and commitment for Gray but it comes from the heart.
“Everything I do is to help women experience motorcycling like I have,” says Gray.
Whether it is through support, education, networking or sharing resources, Gray aims help women around the world overcome sometimes misconceived hurdles in motorcycling.
Today, International Female Ride Day, Gray will greet riders in her hometown of Toronto and escort ladies from morning coffee, to barbeque lunch, a little bit of shopping with a whole lot of combined spirit.
Visit Vicki Gray at motoress.com.