Sunday, April 24, 2011

Land of the Giants?

Do you remember the old science fiction movies about the giant woman?  How she looked down at all the tiny people running around and away from her?  And she wonders, where on earth is she going to find clothes that fit?  Well, sometimes I feel just like that giant woman.

Most people won't know this because they are not women who have shopped for motorcycle gear but apparently the manufacturers of women's motorcycle gear have a distorted view of size.  A few years and many pounds ago at a major women's motorcycling event, female representatives of a major motorcycle manufacturer were giving away shirts.  I considered myself pretty fortunate to have scored a size large shirt with my bike company's logo.  That is, until I took it out of the package and realized it would never fit me, who at the time was about a size 12.  Instead, I brought it home to my then 20 year old daughter who was less than 90 pounds and it fit her perfectly.  And no, this wasn't a case of mislabeling the size because I actually had two different shirts from the same company that were the same size.

Over the years, I've looked for women's motorcycle gear that fits and in almost every case have had to move onto the men's gear to find something that came close. With the number of women motorcyclists growing every year so grows the market for gear that fits and protects well.  So, just for comparison, let's take a look at the size chart from a major women's wear retailer.  This shows a wide range of sizes which should fit almost any woman, unless you are very thin and very tall or heavier and very tall.  Overall, one of the better representations among women's retail.

Granted, some manufacturers are now doing "larger" sizes, unfortunately even fewer are doing taller, which is a whole other issue.  Now, let's take a look at some of the size charts from a couple of major motorcycle gear retailers.

This company offers sizes XS to XL, but wait, compare the measurements of the XL below to the XL from our retailer above.    The motorcycle XL measurement is equal to the Large, so if you are larger than a size 14 or 16, this company is not interested in your business.  Not to mention unless you are riding in perfect weather, you will probably have a couple of layers of clothing under that jacket.  As a result,  you purchase gear that allows for this layering.  So, a size 12 could easily become a 14 or 16, or a 16 a size 18 or 20 depending on the type and number of layers necessary.

I have to give this company credit for manufacturing their ladies pants with a 35 inch inseam that is "adjustable" to shorter lengths.  Motorcyclists tend to wear their riding pants longer, to cover the top of their boots and provide better protection.  So this offer a great alternative for women who are a bit taller than average.

Here is a size chart from another manufacturer.  Wow, they go up to size 5XL!  Don't get excited yet, compare the numeric sizes to the retail chart above and you will realize these sizes are a full size off from those above.  I doubt most women size 10 would consider themselves a Large. Still this company does offer an expanded, if skewed, range of sizes.

One of the benefits of the increase of women riders and the limited sizes and availability of mass produced motorcycle gear for women has be the appearance of niche companies directed specifically at women motorcyclists.  These companies, usually women owned, tend to offer larger sizes and varieties of motorcycle gear.  In addition, they often  focus on fashion as well as form, designing gear that looks good as well as protects the rider.  The primary drawback is that limited production is more expensive for the retailer as well as the consumer, making these niche companies a bit pricey,

As the number of women motorcyclists continues to grow, I expect the number of options will continue to grow.  Each of us has the right and opportunity to provide feed back to your favorite motorcycle and gear manufacturer regarding our wants and needs.  I encourage each of you to make your voice heard.