More women are taking to the road on two wheels. According to the Motorcycle Industry Council's 2008 owner survey, 12.6 percent of motorcyclists and scooterists in the U.S. are women -- a 29 percent increase from 2003. This upward trend in female bikers is likely to continue, since women make up 15 percent of Generation X motorcycle owners and 14 percent of Generation Y owners [source: Knol].
The growing popularity of motorcycling among women has spawned a variety of organizations dedicated to uniting female motorcycle enthusiasts. It has caused motorcycle manufacturers to develop lighter, easier-to-handle models for smaller riders. And more companies are now offering special lines of motorcycle gear and accessories designed to keep women safe, comfortable and stylish.
Read on to learn about 10 motorcycle clothing accessories made especially for women.
It's important to wear a helmet when you ride. A helmet protects you from noise, rain, snow, hail and bugs. It could also save your life. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that wearing a helmet improves your odds of surviving a crash by 37 percent [source: Cobb].
You'll find half helmets, three-quarter helmets, full-face helmets and combination designs. Whatever the style, helmets are constructed with four basic components: an outer shell, an impact-absorbing lining, comfort padding and a strap. In the U.S., all helmets must meet Department of Transportation (DOT) safety standards. So, be sure to look for the DOT labeling.
Beyond that, one of the most important considerations when choosing a helmet is the fit. Too loose and it could cause a neck injury. Too tight and you'll get a headache. With the right fit, you won't feel comfortable riding without it.
To keep up with the growing female motorcyclist population, helmet manufacturers now offer women even more choices than men. Helmets come in a variety of colors, including pink, and sport decorations such as butterflies, flowers and hearts.
While helmet colors and graphics set women's helmets apart, it's the sizing that really matters. Women's helmets are smaller and more lightweight. Deeper, narrower shells fit the shape of a woman's head, and a variety of side panel thickness sizes helps achieve that custom fit. You'll also find women's helmets with a ponytail notch and washable, antistatic lining to reduce helmet hair.
When you're riding a motorcycle, a bug in your eye can hurt. A rock in your eye could result in eye loss or even worse if it causes you to crash. Whatever the object is, protective eyewear is critical.
You should find many options in eye protection, from impact- resistant safety glass to shatterproof plastic lenses. You'll probably end up with a face shield, which provides the most protection; goggles, which can be worn over sunglasses; or safety riding glasses, which use foam around the eyepieces to reduce wind.
Light conditions change regularly when you ride, so it's best if your eyewear can adapt. Some glasses and goggles come with changeable lenses that you can easily snap in and out as the light conditions vary. UV ray protection and fog-resistant coatings are options many riders prefer.
Although finding riding glasses that block the wind, protect your eyes and fit properly can sometimes be a challenge, women no longer have to sacrifice style to get the right pair. The glasses and goggles come in a variety of fashionable and functional styles and colors, so you most certainly can find a pair or two to fit the rest of your riding ensemble. Wraparound styles are specifically designed to protect smaller faces. The glasses offer large frames and are curved around the eyes to block the wind. Contouring also helps to optimize the rider's peripheral vision.
You'll want to travel light when you head out on the road, but you'll still need a way to carry your stuff, so we've compiled a few options, none of which is a bulky purse.
Why not use a tank bag to store your keys, cell phone, garage-door opener, sunscreen and other personal items? The soft leather bag won't scratch your metal motorcycle gas tank and is held securely in place by magnets. When you reach your destination, fold up the magnetic wings and pull the strap from the side pocket of the bag. Instant purse!
You can also try a hip bag to transport your essentials. The bag, which attaches to your belt loops by two snap hooks, can be worn as an on- or off-bike accessory. A detachable purse strap changes the look.
For a short ride, a simple cell phone holder might be all you need. The accessory ties around your waist with a leather strap and holds your phone in place with a firm snap. The oh-so-chic design goes with just about anything.
It's important that your motorcycle gear includes armor for protection in the event of a crash. While many jackets come with armor already built into the shoulders and elbows, and sometimes a removable back pad, this padding can shift during your ride and become uncomfortable. A separate back protector might be a better solution.
You'll want your back protector to be one made especially for women. It will have a tapered design that conforms to your body and fits a shorter torso. It isn't bulky and can be worn under a jacket or other clothing. No one will even notice you're wearing it.
Women's back protectors are designed for comfort. Adjustable shoulder straps and an elastic belt that fits securely around your waist will keep the protector in place. Venting on the protector allows airflow to keep you cool.
For more protection, you can add a chest protector. You can find some models that Velcro onto the straps of your back protector for complete armor protection.
Another protection option is an armor vest. Tailored for a woman, the vests are shorter than the men's version and come with adjustable Velcro straps for a proper fit.
You'll want motorcycle-clothing accessories that are both fashionable and functional. A microfiber cloth, like a Hogswipe, can help you achieve that look by wiping the dirt from the road off your bike, your glasses, your brow or anything else that needs a wipe. The soft, thick-ply Hogswipe clips to your bag or belt loop. It comes in a variety of bright colors and prints, making it the perfect accessory for your motorcycle wear.
And there's nothing worse than cold air blowing your pants legs up when you ride. To solve that problem, you might want to hunt down some elastic bands that clip to your pant cuffs and slip under the arch of your boot heels. StoneyStraps are one option. They're fully adjustable, making them perfect for women riders who may wear higher heels. The chrome clips come in a variety of designs to give you the look you're after.
Helmet hair has long been an issue for female bikers, causing many to hide their unruly mop under a baseball cap at the end of the day. While a cap is a good option, if you'd rather let your hair down, there are accessories that will help you keep your style intact.
The Diva-Do is a helmet liner that keeps your hairstyle fresh. The liner doesn't use hair bands that could crimp your hair. Instead, an elastic band on one end creates a pocket in the stretchy material for your hair, which is then held in place by two tie straps. Made of polyester material, the Diva-Do wicks away moisture to keep you cool.
The Dannaband also prevents tangled hair. Unlike a traditional bandanna, the Dannaband doesn't have a knot that could catch your hair. The design features elastic in the back to ensure a tight fit without adjusting.
The Buff is a super hair accessory and more. The all-in-one product can change functions quickly. Use it as a headband, a scrunchy, a face mask, a neck warmer or even a tube top.
If you're looking for something simpler, Softbandz might be the answer. The versatile product can be worn as a wide, fully opened headband or folded for a more traditional, narrower look. It doubles as a ponytail holder or even a fashion accessory around the rim of a hat or your neck.
You may want to pull on some leather or textile riding chaps over your jeans to protect your legs from hot exhaust pipes, rough pavement and the weather. They offer water and wind resistance and feature knee pads and reflective piping. Just because chaps are designed for protection, doesn't mean they can't look good, too.
You'll find a plethora of chaps made to fit women of all shapes and sizes. Whether you want a snug fit or prefer a looser feel, Velcro panels and adjustable snaps will help you to achieve it. Women's chaps can also be adjusted to accommodate the height of your boots.
While most chaps are black or a dark color, if you want a more feminine look, chaps do come in pink fringed-leather and hip-hugger styles.
Being cold when you ride is uncomfortable. It might not be safe either, depending on how preoccupied you get with your temperature. Several products could eliminate the chilling distraction.
Neck tubes are one option to help you stay toasty. Although some can be bulky, designs using soft fleece are lighter in weight. They provide the warmth you need and create a perfect seal between your helmet and jacket.
A neck gaiter can protect you from the cold and the heat. You can wear the versatile fleece accessory around your neck, over your face or as a hat. An elastic drawstring allows you to adjust it for comfort and fit.
You might also try donning a wind-resistant, fleece ear warmer alone or under a helmet. If you have longer hair, look for one with a ponytail cutout.
You don't want to be too hot, either. A neck cooler will help you keep your cold in the heat. Made from 100 percent cotton, the coolers are filled with nontoxic, absorbing polymer water crystals. Just soak the reusable cooler in water for 10 to 20 minutes, pat it dry and wrap it around your neck. You'll stay comfortable for hours.
It will take more than the right boots to keep your feet feeling good. Socks with padding around the toes and balls of your feet will let you ride in comfort. Mid-calf length socks work well with boots. Be sure they're made of wicking material to prevent your feet from sweating.
You'll want some foot protection on the outside of your boots, too, especially if your ride takes you through the rain or snow. Overshoes are made of specially treated nylon for waterproof protection. They slide over your shoes or boots to keep them dry and looking good. Your socks, feet and pant legs will also stay out of the elements. The lugged soles are much like hiking boots to provide the traction you need when you dismount. Insulated and non-insulated styles are available.
Your motorcycle ensemble won't be complete without a little bling, and you'll find a lot of bling available for purchase.
Hair clips and bobby pins are a good way to keep those bangs out of your eyes or to tie up loose ends. A variety of sparkling motorcycle-related designs are available that could be just right for the ride.
You'll look fetching with your key chain, zipper and cell phone, all sporting charms in the shape of a motorcycle. A leather and crystal bracelet could perfectly complement your leather jacket. And chrome or rhinestone boot chains will add extra flash to your feet.
Whether a motorcycle is your main form of transportation or you ride just for fun, there are accessories you'll want for protection, safety and style. It's good to know that many are designed with the female biker in mind.
Cold-weather motorcycle accessories can help keep your ride comfortable in the cooler seasons. Read about 10 motorcycle accessories for cold weather at HowStuffWorks.
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