The Women Changing the Motorcycle Industry

Georgia Murphy, Co-founder of Oxford Street Garage shares her story as a woman starting a business in the motorcycle industry and the women inspiring change.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the motorcycle industry is heavily dominated by men.

In Australia, women make up 16.1% of employees in the automotive industry, with only 13.8% of women in management positions and female mechanics making up only 1.4% (!!).

One of the worst-represented industries in Australia next to mining and construction. Many factors contribute to this, with one of the most dominant being the consistent portrayal of women as objects to advertise the product, rather than the market. While larger organisations are attempting to change this (special mention to Royal Enfield for paving the way), it’s pretty clear that the system has a long way to go. The lack of obvious role models is something that I personally grappled with throughout my career, so when I entered the motorcycle world I found the lack of female presence incredibly noticeable. While there are a number of community based organisations attempting to reach out to women, I found the broader experience of motorcycle riding fairly intimidating.

I didn’t come from a family who rode motorcycles, nor did I know any women who rode. It just felt like an adventure to me that I wanted to try. When I did, being greeted by a male at almost every turn who had little more to say to me than technical jargon or frankly, nothing at all. It wasn’t until I started working on Oxford Street Garage and reached out to a number of organisations, that I realised there was another side to this world, the female side. A kind, inclusive, non-judgement group of women who wanted nothing more than to see another women succeed. It seems that this adversity has given rise to a generation of women wanting to break this mold and going out on their own to do so.

No more than 2 weeks ago, I saw one of the most inspiring sights yet. Hundreds of women who ride motorcycles meeting to celebrate their passion together at Sheila’s Shakedown. An environment like no other where women make new friends, learn more about motorcycles and feel free to be themselves. Pretty damn amazing. So today we celebrate those women, who are breaking ground, inspiring others and changing the motorcycle industry.

One of the founding members of Sheilas shakedown, Remmi has created an event unlike anything else.

Growing up without the influence of a rider in the family Remmi was hesitant about getting her motorcycle license, at first due to the associated cost. It wasn’t until she was in her 30s, when her boyfriend got his license that her competitive nature kicked in. It didn’t take her long to become competent on the motorcycle and love being on the road.

She immersed herself in the culture but was often one of only a few women in a male dominated scene. Eager to meet other women, she joined a motorcycle ride in Melbourne hosted by 2 other female riders. This created the foundation that would change the Australian motorcycle landscape. From here, she met more inspirational women in the industry and the desire for the community to have it’s own day to celebrate emerged. Sheilas Shakedown was born.

Started in 2015, a group of 30 women (most of who didn’t know each other) set off on their motorclcyes to a campground in regional Victoria. The strong bonds built on this day set the foundation for what has since become the event of the year for many women.

The event has evolved into something far more important than a fun little weekend. It is a safe space where women can go and celebrate who they are, without fear of judgement. A place to make new friends and have fun with motorcycles, whether you ride or not. A space that has inspired many to thrive in the motorcycle industry.

Sharine “Spanner” Milne

Let’s face it, finding a mechanic that doesn’t take one look at you and think they can rip you off is hard. That’s why we love nothing more than a female mechanic, particularly one who runs their own shop. Enter Spanner. One of the most inspiring stories of a female mechanic’s triumph over an oppressive world.

A young, indigenous, single parent based in Townsville has shown us what it really means to be a role model. Spanner became interested in motorcycles after needing a job that would allow her time to be present as a single mother. She landed in a mechanics course at Tafe and it was here she found motorcycles.

After being denied an apprenticeship by so many in her early search, just for being female, Spanner found a single mechanic working on his own willing to give her a shot. After years of hard work and proving herself, she now owns and runs this shop as the only solo female owner of a mechanics in QLD. In addition to being an inspiration to many young mechanics, Spanner also works on modified motorcycles for those with disabilities, helps rehabilitate PTSD sufferers and trains our future mechanics.

Another pillar of the Melbourne motorcycle community, Kate has been inspiring women to get out on their motorcycles and look great doing it.

Kate started riding in 2014 after a sudden urge to get behind the handlebars. She had grown up being a pillion with her Dad but put off her license to travel the world. After setting down roots in Melbourne, passing her motorcycle license test was the first thing on her list. She remembers being so nervous that she didn’t sleep for about a week in the lead up, but ended up being quite nailing  it, despite being the only girl in the class. 

Frustrated by the endless searching required to find the kind of gear she wanted, Kate launched Moto Femmes, an online retail store selling women’s motorcycle gear, in 2016. The mission, to provide a fun and safe space to shop for women to shop for quality made motorcycle gear that was both safe and stylish. The business growing and going from strength to strength and housing some of the best brands in the motorcycle scene.

With this success, Moto Femmes grew into Moto Establishment (Moto Est.) which is now a brand that has been able to spread its wings and is now providing gear for all genders. Although their brand has changed, their focus on women who ride has remained the same.

Lithuanian born, Karolina moved to Australia 6 years ago. It was upon her arrival that she decided to get her motorcycle license to see Sydney.

She very quickly became addicted to motorcycles. It was at this point where she realised there were few jackets on the market made to fit women. Those which were either felt uncomfortable, were stiff or categorised women’s clothing as pink and floral. Rather than settling for a second rate option, Karolina decided she would do something about this and Liberta Moto was born.

Opening in 2019, Liberta Moto offers quality, safe and stylish leather jackets and gloves for women. The brand offers a range of colours to make any woman’s heart sing with joy.

Karolina’s story has been an inspiration to many women around her. Her passion was evident and slowly her friends began to follow suit, getting their motorcycle licenses. Her first step was to create a supportive and informative community for women.

Heavily influenced by her father, who “always rode the coolest bikes” (old Yamahas, Triumphs, BSAs, choppers), Leah bought her first motorcycle in her early 20’s but her love for travel meant she was never in one place long enough to focus on riding. It wasn’t until Leah turned 30 that she finally decided to get her license. Her love affair with motorcycles grew quickly and indiscriminately, riding any kind of motorcycle she could get her hands on.

In 2019 she decided it was time to turn her passion into a job and started a motorcycle fashion business for women, Queen Cherry Bomb, a high performance motowear brand for the modern day bombshell. The business quickly transitioned from focusing on product to female empowerment. The business strives to encourage women to experience the freedom, independence and “badassery” that come with the ride.

A recent mother, Leah says importance of making a positive impact on the world has been magnified for her. For this reason, the organisation also donates a portion of their profits from each sale to Buy 1, Give 1 to help support women in need across the world to reach their full potential.

Natalia Hernandez

Co-founder, The Leatherettes

Having loved motorcycles since a young age, it was only a matter of time before Natalia got her license, only it took her a little longer than she expected. At the age of 30, Natalia’s old car finally died and she decided it was time to take the plunge.

Describing it changing her life, Natalia met her partner through riding and have gained over 50 new girlfriends from it. Loving the community, she decided to start the Leatherettes in 2016 with her friend George FitzGerald, as an excuse to make t-shirts and patches for their friends. They had been inspired by the women’s riding groups that had been popping up around Melbourne and wanted to contribute something of their own to the sub-culture they loved.

In such a male-dominated space like motorcycling, sharing knowledge and creating a space for women to feel unabashed was important to Natalia. Wanting to create a little safe haven of close mates who love to ride, whether it’s just for a local spin to have ice cream, or up to the hills to play in the twisties.

The group now plays a major role in female motorcycle culture in Melbourne, encouraging women to feel in control of their destiny and make some great friends while doing so.

Stephanie Bofinger

Owner, Femme Pro Armour & MissMXG

Owner of Fem Pro Armour, a business dedicated to creating armour to protect women on their motorcycles, Stephanie’s story began following her experience with domestic violence. Looking for a way to regain her confidence, Stephanie took to motorcycles.

Her experience on the road helped to empower her, giving her a way to clear her head and the confidence that comes with control of a motorcycle. Along the way, she developed friendships and a sense of community that ultimately resulted in her launching two successful women’s motorcycle businesses. Miss MXG designs armour specifically to suit women’s bodies.

In Oct 2019, Stephanie attended an all-female Simpson Desert ride for a charity called Dolly’s Dream and found there to be no protection suited to women. It was here that she decided to change that, developing armour specifically suited to chest protection for women. The organisations have since evolved and now offer a range of products for women’s sport and MX riding.