Around the bend of the busy Bruce Highway in Rockhampton, a massive group of bikes, with throaty engines and leather-clad figures, roar.
- Motorcyclists often struggle to find protective clothing to suit their body, relying instead on men’s clothing or trendy leather.
- Research shows that protective clothing can cut the risk of injury by almost half, but most of the clothing available is inappropriate for women
- Former social worker has embarked on designing women’s motorcycle clothing, with support from her regional community
It could be an ominous sight, but take a closer look, and you’ll find that it’s actually a group of women, all beaming and cheerfully waving as they walk past.
Leading them to the front, with her long, flaming red hair sticking out of her bike helmet, is Leah Samson.
She has a loyal following in these areas as she has designed some of the only women’s motorcycle gear you can get in Australia.
Ms. Samson discovered not only a niche market, but also a major security issue that she was keen to address.
A gear shift towards safety
It goes without saying that the roads are much more dangerous for bikers.
“Per kilometer, studies have shown they are 40 times more likely to be killed in crashes than motorists,” said Ross Blackman, researcher at the Center for Accident Research and Road Safety at the Queensland University of Technology. .
One glaring problem the unit has discovered is inadequate protective equipment.
Dr Blackman said protective clothing was unlikely to prevent serious injury and death, with research showing some protective clothing reduced the risk of injury by up to 45%.
Alarmingly, however, very few clothes on the market do the trick.
The Motorcycle Clothing Rating Program, a website that tests gear for motorcyclists, found that out of 200 garments tested, only 31% were suitable for women, and only 14% of them achieved a rating. greater than three stars for safety.
Dr Blackman said another problem was the lack of legal safety standards for motorcycle equipment in Australia.
“It is very difficult to apply this kind of regulation,” he said.
“Even European standards do not cover the entire garment, they apply to specific parts of the garment, such as elbow pads and shoulder pads.”
Ms Samson has seen women lean on ill-fitting men’s motorcycle clothing, or worse, fashionable leather.
“[It] is not motorcycle grade so if you slip on the road it won’t protect you, âshe said.
Find a second skin
The business idea arose after Ms. Samson’s own equipment was stolen three years ago.
âIt was a low point, really, but I decided to do something pretty amazing with it,â she said.
“I don’t want to spend more time trying to find material that suits me.
âIt took me about eight years to wear my gear, really.
Ms. Samson also channeled her love of fashion into her new business.
âI’ve always loved fashion: hair, makeup, fashion, the 60s, 50s, I love that stuff,â she said.
“I would make my own clothes, but not at this level. I had no idea what I was going to get into, honestly.”
Support from regional Australia
The former social worker moved from Melbourne to Rockhampton five years ago and now has a baby girl and a partner.
She believes the move to regional Australia has been critical to the success of her business, especially after bringing in a local women’s business center.
âAll I had was an idea,â she said.
âBut they were willing to try someone like me, whereas I think in some of the big cities there would be people lining up at the door to try to get in due to the level of quality and expertise we were aware of. “
She even discovered an unexpected new market.
âMy original market, I thought, was for women riding motorcycles, but what I found is that there is so much more to do,â she said.
“I get a lot of women asking me, ‘Can you do this design without the armor?'”
The support of the community has kept the fire in its belly strong these days which seem to be a difficult task.
âI’ve had women come up to me and say, ‘I’m behind you because it’s not all about motorcycles. “
“They didn’t even ride. These are women supporting women so they have a choice.”
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