2009 AMA International Women and Motorcycling Conference

Riding to New Heights - 9,280 feet to be exact

Alice Sexton took to the open road on a 2009 Moto Guzzi V7 Classic riding from Los Angeles to Keystone, Colorado to take part in the fifth annual AMA International Women and Motorcycling Conference presented by Harley-Davidson and Buell.

The last AMA Women’s Conference took place three years ago in Athens, Georgia, where 1,000 women riders from around the country and around the world motored— well most of them— their way to Georgia. This year’s Conference attendance was no different, quite a feat considering the current economic woes. Keystone, Colorado, a ski resort/town just 90 miles west of Denver came blazing to life last week when 1,000 women motorcyclists from 40 states, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan made the pilgrimage and took over the tiny ski resort town.

My sidekick Super Sarah and I arrived in Keystone Monday night, August 17th, so that we could lend a hand as needed to help the AMA set final details. We spent most of Tuesday stuffing attendee goodie bags with the ulterior motive of becoming acclimated to the altitude before having to give our seminar presentations later that week. At 9,000 ft., a simple set of stairs had us gasping for air. Already the streets were humming with every type of two-wheeled vehicle ridden by every type of rider, many proudly wearing pink helmets and jackets, others sporting flaming red or leopard print scarves flying behind them in the wind.

Colorado's Rocky Mountains was the setting for the 2009 AMA International Women and Motorcycling Conference.

By Wednesday afternoon the registration line snaked through the conference center lobby and the room was filled with tinkling girl-talk, rowdy biker-girl guffaws and screams of laughter and excitement as old friends from far away places met up once again.

"...the streets were humming with every type of two-wheeled vehicle ridden by every type of rider, many proudly wearing pink helmets and jackets"

Participants jumped in with both boots as the week’s seminars got underway at the get-go starting that afternoon at 2:30. The AMA sure doesn’t waste any time! With the night’s opening ceremonies only a few hours away, others made their way to their condos to prepare for four days packed with seminars, demo rides, guided tours and late-night parties. AMA President Rob Dingman invited all pre-registered attendees who were AMA members to a special President’s Reception and buffet dinner at Dos Locos Restaurant where he thanked all AMA lifetime members and promised to focus on serving all members, including women riders, as the most important goal of the AMA.

AMA President Rob Dingman thanks all AMA members and acknowledges that more and more women are becoming motorcyclists, joining the ranks of those who have taken the handlebars since the early 1900s.

Riding to New Heights

AMA Special Events Manager Tigra Tsujikawa takes a break from the madness to do some shopping in the Marketplace. She’s super tough when riding with the guys, but all girl when it comes to shopping.
The world's fastest woman on two wheels, Leslie Porterfield.
Ashley’s Mom, Ronnie, interprets into words Ashley’s kick-ass speech.

“This year, we are focusing in on what we're calling ‘the next step’, said AMA Special Events Manager, Tigra Tsujikawa. “This means no matter your skill level, or what style of riding you do, you will be able to find information, skills and other women who are there to help you improve your riding or try something completely new. What is most attractive about the conference is the opportunity to work with and meet other women riders. It’s the best place to learn, inspire and be inspired by a diverse group of people from all over the U.S. and beyond. I really like this event because there is such a great sense of sharing and positive energy. When you come to the AMA International Women and Motorcycling Conference you know you’ll get more out of it than you expected, and you’ll find out that its not just about the two wheels that brought you here.”

Wednesday night’s Welcoming Party kicked off the conference with opening remarks from AMA President, Rob Dingman who saluted the camaraderie, enthusiasm and the infectious spirit of independence shared by all (women) riders. Next up was Leslie Porterfield, the 2008 AMA Racing Female Rider of the year. Leslie holds three land-speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats and is the first female racer to belong to the Bonneville 200-mph club.

Leslie Prevish, Women’s Outreach Manager for headlining sponsors Harley-Davidson and Buell, gave an inspiring speech on the history and future of women in motorcycling, while Karen Davidson, great-granddaughter of the company’s co-founder William A. Davidson and Creative Director for H-D’s General Merchandise Department, let us all in on the secret of her successful brand.

“The most important thing for me is to never lose sight of our core customer. In keeping with our motorcycles’ perfect blend of artistry and iron, MotorClothes combines the authenticity with rugged versatility,” Karen says.

Keynote speaker Ashley Fiolek, the first female motocrosser to be part of the American Honda Red Bull Factory Race Team at age 18, spoke passionately about the challenges she overcame to reach the National Pro MX level. Aided by the voice of her mother, Ronnie, Ashley gave an inspiring tale that lead to a raucous standing ovation. Fiolek was born profoundly deaf, but does not consider this to be her biggest obstacle.

“Being deaf is not the most difficult part of racing. For me it is being a girl or a woman in a male-dominated sport, “ said Fiolek. “I try to think as broad as possible, and I feel strongly that I’m living my dream and experiencing a gifted life in doing so.” Because of Fiolek’s involvement in the conference, signing interpreters were provided at the Opening Celebration, International Street Party and the Closing Ceremonies. Thank you Ashley!

Thursday dawned bright and beautiful against the spectacular backdrop of the Colorado Rockies, the perfect setting for taking part in seminars, demo rides, the Progressive Insurance Hands-On Action Center, or shopping at the Marketplace. Thanks to the stellar efforts of AMA staff and volunteers seminars, events and venues ran like a well-tuned machine, keeping conference attendees happy and on the go all day long. With the setting sun came a chance for all of the motorcyclists to find their cowgirl roots at the BBQ and Rocky Mountain Barn Dance presented by Kawasaki. Cowgirls and cowboys tried their hand at roping, line dancing, and the Texas two-step.

Dancing fool, Jody Waltemeyer from Denver hosted eight members from the Japanese contingent of the Women's International Motorcycle Association. The WIMA delegates raved that the Conference was the best women's event they'd ever attended.

Friday was another wonderful sunny Colorado Rocky Mountain high. Every morning of the conference started out with the Coach 2 Ride off-road seminar and riding school, run by off-road experts and owners of Coach to Ride, Bonnie Warch and Andrea Beech. These riding seminars were filled to capacity every day, and no wonder, as these ladies know their stuff. Again the seminars, demo rides, and marketplace kept the 1,000 conference attendees engaged all day until 6:00 pm when the International Street party was set to rock our world.

Bonnie Warch preps bikes for her uber-popular Coach 2 Ride training seminar.

Keeping with the International theme, speakers for the street party included the FIM's Brigitte Zufferey who came all the way from Switzerland to reinforce the fact that the increase of women riders is taking place worldwide. The FIM has thus created a special commission focused on addressing this phenomenon. Zuffery is coordinator for the FIM’s Commission for Woman in Motorcycling (CFM) whose mission is to create egalitarian opportunities and to promote equal treatment for women involved in activities related to motorcycling.

Deb Grey made the trip from Canada for the conference.

Deb Grey, dubbed “The First Lady of Reform,” became the Canadian Reform Party’s first-ever member of Parliament and was the featured speaker at the street party. Grey is an avid motorcyclist and challenged all attendees to evaluate where they are and where they are headed, and not just on two wheels. The Street Party wrapped up with Johnny Rev and the Pushrods where conference chicks had a boot-stomping good-old time.

Saturday was another beautiful day in the neighborhood for women riders. Again attendee’s tank bags were overflowing with seminars, shopping and demo rides. This year demo rides were provided by Buell, BMW, Ducati, Kymco, Harley-Davidson, and Yamaha. The picturesque White River National Forest made great proving grounds for testing all of the new models. Nothing beats the Rocky Mountain twisties for putting a bike through its paces.

The Fifth AMA International Women and Motorcycling Conference was sadly coming to a close. The four-day conference had flown by like a streamliner on the Salt Flats. Conference attendees gathered in the main ballroom for a buffet dinner and closing remarks. AMA President Dingman wished us all well on the road home and then introduced Maggie McNally, the first woman to be elected to the AMA Board of Directors. McNally believes that by promoting the motorcycling lifestyle and the AMA we can assure a stronger voice with manufacturers, other riders, and the government. Maggie then introduced the effervescent Lois Pryce.

Back in 2003, weary of the daily grind in jargon-infested London media-land, Lois Pryce packed in her job at the BBC to ride the 20,000 miles from Alaska to the tip of South America astride her Yamaha dirtbike. Upon her return, she wrote the book of this trip, "Lois on the Loose," which was published in the United States and the United Kingdom and translated into several languages.

Author Lois Pryce urged everybody to "seize the day and get on the road."

Itchy wheels struck again, and it wasn't long before she was plotting another adventure. In October 2006 she set off once more, this time to ride the length of Africa from London to Cape Town, crossing the Sahara Desert and continuing down the west coast through the Congo and Angola to South Africa. Four months and 10,000 miles later she rolled into Cape Town just about in one piece, having tackled Kalashnikov-wielding soldiers and Angolan minefields along the way.

Pryce's book of this awesome adventure, "Red Tape & White Knuckles," was published in 2008. She closed her presentation with this message: life is short, seize the day and get on the road. It resonated deep within the hearts of each and every woman rider in the room.

The Grove Machine Band with their R&B tunes brought everyone onto the dance floor for a final wild fling. Conference-goers closed down the show with a crazy conga line leading the way home.

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