DAUGHTERS OF ANARCHY: Women in Saudi Arabia kick-start Harley Davidson chapter after lifting of driving ban
Overturning the world's only ban on female drivers, long a symbol of repression against women, is the most striking reform yet launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
A group of women in Saudi Arabia is headed out to burn some rubber on motorcycles just a month after Prince Mohammad Bin Salman gave the women of the state the historic right to drive.
Twenty three-year-old Aliya is a keen student from Jeddah who is looking forward to riding across her country. “We have been waiting a lifetime for this,” she said. “Always watching my brothers ride. Now they’re teaching me.”
A bevy of five excited ladies entered the Harley-Davidson store in the country’s capital of Riyadh donning black abayas and examined a range of classic motorcycles and Harley branded briefs for women. In a welcome sight, unimaginable less than a year ago, the all-male staff at the popular motorcycle outlet said they can't wait to see the girls rev and roll through the world-class roadways of Riyadh.
Al-Mutlaq, a trading manager at the Harley-Davidson Saudi flagship, said, “This is for sure going to be growing, we already have had a large number of ladies asking about the training and asking to get a bike. And we have already established the ‘Ladies of Harley’ Riyadh chapter, so they can go on their own group rides too.”
That said, while the chapter just has eight founding female members as of the moment, the number is expected to skyrocket very soon. The motorcycle store, in preparation, has acquired a choice selection of outfits for females along with protective gear. The outlet also features several marketing posters with women posing alongside men on motorcycles - which might be commonplace in the West, but for Saudi Arabia, it marks a major milestone in embracing modernization.
Saudi women, clad in skinny jeans and Harley-Davidson T-shirts, revving motorbikes at a Riyadh sports circuit - an unimaginable sight even a year ago https://t.co/Yj8FOG9qKz pic.twitter.com/CkIQjvmwqv— AFP news agency (@AFP) June 12, 2018
“We have the basic gear for women - armored jackets, helmets, gloves, boots, and accessories,” Al-Mutlaq added. “But we expect there will be a growing interest, and we will get a bigger range as more women learn to ride. The most important thing, for now, is women learning to ride.”
Having said that, women in the country are already learning the skills they would need to take over the asphalt. Weekly gatherings are taking place at the Bikers Skills Institute, where an all-female riding class convenes on Wednesday nights under the instruction of an experienced rider from Ukraine.
In an all-inclusive program that costs around $400, the ladies, donning safety vests and form-fitting jeans, practice everything from gear shifts to quick stops, U-turns, and cone-weaving.
The lessons have attracted modest groups of ardent females since February, when they started. Speaking with Fox News, quite a few women said they've already learned bike riding skills in either western countries or neighboring Arab nations like Dubai, Jordan, and Bahrain.
“Most men are actually excited to see a woman driving here, and riding a motorcycle is the next step,” noted Harley’s male riding trainer, Mohammed, emphasizing they have an “assimilation” booth set up in-store where women are welcome to explore.
“I will support women to ride in any way I can. I’m supporting my girl, she has already done the training and is constantly practicing and taking courses to get better,” Al-Mutlaq boasted of his 19-year-old girlfriend. “She wants an aggressive bike – she is planning on getting the Fat Boy.”