40 crowd giving
motorcycle riding a new image
Boomers, Empty Nesters
revving up to hit open road
(October 2007) Ron Winters rode a motorcycle
as a teen, but he never thought he would ever don black leather and
a bandana at age 59 and spend his weekends cruising down the highway
on a Harley-Davidson Sportster. But he and his wife, Barbara, have joined
the new generation of middle-aged motorcyclists who have junked their
fishing boats and golf clubs for the open road.
Indiana Edition Cover
A friend of mine had one, and I decided to ride
it, he said. I knew I had to get one, said Winters,
a La Grange, Ky., resident who serves as the Property Valuation Administrator
for Oldham County.
More than ever before, middle- to upper-income professionals are trading
their Armani suits and Anne Taylor skirts on the weekends and evenings
for black leather and do-rags.
Motorcycling has gone bananas in recent years, with growth up
tremendously every year for the past 14 years, said Ty van Hooydonk,
director of product communications for the Motorcycle Industry Councils
Discover Todays Motorcycling magazine.
It is the professionals, the empty nesters and the upper middle
class that are responsible for the explosive growth.
In fact, 53 percent of all motorcycle owners today are over 40 years
old, compared to only 21.3 percent in 1985, according to Motorcycle
Industry Council statistics. More than half of all motorcycle owners
55 percent have some college or post graduate education,
and nearly half 42 percent are professionals,
managers or business owners.
When you see that big group of rough-looking bikers pull up in
the park or the unshaven, helmet-hair, leather-garbed men with a Harley-Davidson
tattoo, you might be surprised to find they are doctors, lawyers, teachers
or policemen, said van Hooydonk. Things have changed since
the 1950s and the biker movies.
There is a good mix of first timers riding motorcycles and people coming
back after a lengthy hiatus, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council.
The fact that the image has changed is bringing in bikers from every
walk of life and every socio-economic layer.
Van Hooydonk said there are numerous reasons older Americans are hitting
the road on motorcycles, including the fact they have more disposable
income and it is great recreation.
a bad day
at work, 20
riding will make
me happy again."
La Grange, Ky.
Throughout Kentuckiana, that trend doesnt seem too
surprising. The Winters are a perfect example of the changing image
of todays motorcyclists. Like many others his age, Ron Winters
rode a motorcycle when he was a teen, but then took a long break to
work and raise a family. About five years ago, he decided to pick up
his hobby again, so he went and bought a Harley-Davidson Sportster,
a medium-size bike with an engine capacity of 883cc.
He prefers to take smaller trips in the 30-50-mile range and rides whenever
he can but doesnt like to ride in adverse weather. He is conscious
of the dangers inherent in riding a motorcycle, so he wears a helmet,
leather gloves, riding boots and other safety apparel. He also drives
When you ride motorcycles, you need to ride as though you are
invisible; ride like no one can see you, he said.
Winters said motorcycling is the best stress reliever he has ever found.
Ride for about an hour and your mind just frees itself. It makes
you feel good.
Barbara, 39, had never been on a motorcycle and didnt want to
be on one until her birthday two years ago. She pulled into her driveway
from her job as a property appraiser and found a small, black Honda
Rebel sitting there. I guess my husband forgot about diamonds,
she said, laughing.
At first, she was too afraid of the motorcycle to do anything with it.
But then she got bolder; she signed up for riding classes in Crestwood,
Ky., and fell in love with riding. On her last day of safety classes,
she decided to ride her motorcycle to the school.
Of course, I had an encounter with deer, she said. I
had to sit on the side of the road and calm my nerves, but the training
I had just received paid off. I got back on and finished my ride.
Barbara Winters is not the only female professional to start riding
later in life. Debbie Crawford, a client service associate at Hilliard-Lyons
Investments, began riding her Honda 750 about five years ago after her
daughter left for college. I had ridden a bit on the farm when
I was younger, but then I took a long break, she said. Years
ago, women didnt have motorcycles because of the image. But that
has recently changed.
Crawford, 51, rides to work every day on her motorcycle. She said if
she doesnt have to use a car, she doesnt. She not only enjoys
riding her motorcycle, she thinks it is a wonderful and economical way
to get around.
by Don Ward
Wingham of Madison,
Ind., are among the
latest members of the motorcyle mania that
is sweeping the nation
Baby Boomer and
Empty Nesters. They
ride alone and with
local clubs for fun,
travel and sometimes
She laughed when recounting the story of the first time
she rode her motorcycle to church. My daughter drove the car and
sat on the other side of church, she said. Shes OK
with it now, and my son just bought a motorcycle.
Crawford, who is also a judo instructor, rides with her husband, Harold,
51, and a group called Old Coots. She said they only ride
with people who ride responsibly. While she is aware of
the dangers of motorcycling, she prefers to ride without a helmet unless
she has to. She does like to wear her black leather jacket and chaps,
and even has one set with a red rose on them.
Barbara Winters and Debbie Crawford are just two of the estimated 4.3
million female motorcyclists who ride in the United States, according
to Motorcycle Industry Council statistics. The average age of female
riders is 42, while more than 35 percent are in a technical or professional
profession and 28 percent are college graduates.
Susan Wingham, a teacher in Madison, Ind., is also a licensed motorcyclist,
although she prefers riding on the back of her husband, Allens,
Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Touring Bike. I am not confident
enough to drive a big cycle, so I simply love to ride with my husband.
Allen, 47, owns Force CNC, a production machinery business. He has been
riding for more than 20 years. He said he loves the feel of the wind
and fresh air, and he enjoys taking long trips with his friends.
The Winghams ride with two different groups. One is American Bikers
Aim Towards Education, which has chapters all over the country. The
other, the American Legion Riders, while popular nationwide is just
starting a local chapter in Madison.
This past summer, the Winghams rode with nine other people to the Blue
Ridge Mountain Parkway in West Virginia, a trip of about 1,400 miles.
It took them four days, and they said they loved every minute of it.
Roger Ward, 47, and his fiancee, Kathy Hardesty, 45, are first-timers
who recently bought a pair of Yamaha V-Star Classic 650s. While Ward,
a laboratory technician at the Kentucky Utilities Ghent Power
Station, had some previous experience with off-road vehicles and dirt
bikes, Hardesty, a substitute teacher, didnt. She is taking riding
classes in Louisville. They plan to keep their trips short for now,
and they both believe they need to be defensive and focused while riding.
left, fellow Madison, Ind., riders
Kevin McCubbin, David Lubbe and Keith
Shock pause for a photo during their
recent motorcycle trip out west
Three more bikers who love riding together for long trips
are Madisons Kevin McCubbin, who owns McCubbin Motors. Dr. David
Lubbe, a Madison dentist, and Dr. Larry Shock, a retinal surgeon who
moved to Madison two years ago. All three men ride big Harley-Davidsons.
Each one of them said there is just nothing like the powerful roar of
a Harley or the feel of one.
A Harley is just more fun, said McCubbin, 54. Everybody
who rides a Harley is your friend. He has been riding for 28 years.
He is also safety conscious and wears a helmet, chaps, boots, gloves
and a leather vest when weather permits. He said he would honestly discourage
his children from riding a motorcycle until they are much older. I
dont think anyone should ride a motorcycle until they are older
Earlier this summer, McCubbins, Lubbe and Shock rode 2,600 miles throughout
the west, to Nevada, Oregon, Washington and California and back.
McCubbin plans and researches the trips around historical sites for
the group. This year, for instance, they parked their bikes and walked
two miles of the Oregon Trail.
There is no better way to experience the scenery and nature, feel
the temperature, listen to the sounds and immerse yourself in pleasure,
said Lubbe, 62, of his riding experience. You just get on the
bike and forget about everything else. It is a tremendous sense of freedom.
He prefers to ride with either his friends or his five sons because
of the camaraderie involved.
and Barbara Winters of
La Grange, Ky., say they may seem
an unlikely pair to be riding
motorcycles but love it.
Shock, 57, also likes to ride with friends. Motorcycling
is the perfect combo of solitude and socialization, he said. It
is also a great socio-economic equalizer; when you riding, everyone
is in the same family.
Gary Hardy, branch manager of the new Farmers Bank of Milton in La Grange,
Ky., said its also the best way to relieve stress hes ever
found. When I have a bad day at work, 20 minutes of riding will
make me happy again.
He loves to ride his Suzuki Intruder 1500cc in charity events and poker
runs, and usually rides 100-200 miles on the weekends. Like the other
motorcyclists, Hardy does worry about the risks. It is not as
safe as other vehicles, but the risk is worth it, he said.
Unfortunately, along with the heightened adventure and sense of freedom
comes the reality that motorcycle fatalities among older riders are
increasing. According to the Federal Highway Administration, fatalities
among older drivers of larger motorcycles with engine sizes of more
than 1000 cubic centimeters increased the most. Many attribute that
factor to diminished physical abilities, like impaired vision and slower
reflexes, of older riders. Others believe motorcyclists returning to
the hobby after a long time away may need to take refresher safety courses.
Two men who know about motorcycle safety and accidents are Madisons
Roger Allman and Larry Keith. Allman, 54, is president and CEO of Kings
Daughters Hospital & Health Services, while Keith, 58, is
the hospitals vice president. Both say they are extremely safety
conscious and wear full gear when riding, including a full face helmet,
a textile riding suit with pads, motorcycle boots, and leather riding
Allman, who owns seven motorcycles, including a 1200cc BMW, worked as
a registered nurse and saw plenty of broken faces with terrible brain
injuries. He believes in riding intelligently and anticipating risks.
While the activity does come with risk, intelligent riding, riding
courses and safety gear does help, he said.
by Don Ward
the Kings Daughters
Hospital and Health
Services but spends
his spare time riding
this BMW motorcycle,
one of many he owns.
Keith, who owns three motorcycles and uses them for different
purposes, starting riding again nearly a decade ago. His wife Colleen,
who is the director of the emergency room at Kings Daughter Hospital,
used to ride with him until they had children. She is supportive
of my hobby, but she feels we both shouldnt be on the bike at
the same time.
He rides as much as he can because it helps him to relax and clear his
He has been in numerous clubs and likes to attend national rallies.
Last year, he attended the Triumph Rally and realized most people there
were about his age and level professionally. There are many guys
in my position who rode years ago like I did, but then got back into
it years later. He prefers to ride with friends and people who
play it safe like he does.
The lone biker of the bunch is Allman, who loves to take long rode trips
by himself. Two years ago, he rode solo on a five-week road trip to
Alaska. For me, riding is getting away from people, he said.
I love the adventure of it.
He has also traveled to Copper Canyon in northern Mexico on a two-week
solo trip and is planning a future trip to northeast Canada to the provinces
of Labrador and New Foundland. He has only three more states to go California,
Utah and Nevada before he can say he has ridden through
He also likes to attend local rallies and super bike races, although
he doesnt race, and he tries to make national rallies once a year,
including Daytona (Fla.) Bike Week.
Allman recently purchased a motorcycle sidecar and is hoping wife, Carol,
will be interested in going on some of his trips with him. The
sidecar is my new adventure, he said.
Asked if she was ready to travel in it, Carol Allman said: Well
Back to October 2007