RIYADH: Although women drivers have become a common sight on the Kingdom’s streets, women bikers are rarely seen.
Contrary to common belief, riding a motorcycle is not that different to driving a car — regardless of gender — except that motorcycles give a sense of empowerment, freedom and an adrenaline rush. Some people believe that women motorcyclists are better equipped to ride motorbikes than their male counterparts because they drive more cautiously and strictly follow traffic rules.
Elena Bukaryeva, the experienced Ukrainian instructor based at the Riyadh-based Bikers Skill Institute, is the only trainer for women bikers in the Kingdom.
The institute is the first school in Saudi Arabia to offer motorbike training, not only to men but for women who have a passion for motorcycles.
Their specially designed courses for both beginners and advanced riders focus on safety, such as the Basic Motorcycle Riding, Smart Riding, Top Gun, Motogymkhana, Off-Road Trainings and Kids Motorcycle Schools courses, with fees ranging from SR750 ($200) to SR1,500.
“So far, 43 women bikers belonging to different nationalities — almost 20 of them Saudis, the rest Egyptians, Lebanese etc and even Europeans living in the Kingdom — have enrolled in our training courses after the ban on women driving was lifted,” Bukaryeva said.
The courses comply with international standards and consist of theoretical lessons to learn the basics of safety, teaching bikers to anticipate and manage risks, and include introductory information about motorbikes.
Bukaryeva said that the field training consisted of everything from gear shifts to emergency stops, U-turns and cornering.
The school generally trains on small motorcycles so that learners will be able to ride any type of bike. The duration of the course “depends on the time it takes each trainee to learn and master all the skills needed,” Bukaryeva said.
“The challenges and obstacles faced are only educational, based on the trainee’s commitment and understanding of the trainer’s instructions. However, there are no challenges related to harassment or honking of cars or bullying,” Bukaryeva said. “In fact, Saudi society has proved its ability to adapt and accept what’s new and useful. Ladies actually get full support and assistance, especially from male bikers.”
While Saudi women are building their skills at the Bikers Skills Institute, women bikers on the Kingdom’s roads are still a rare sight. “We don’t expect any increase in number, especially because women form only 3 percent of bikers in the world,” Bukaryeva said.
Bukaryeva said that the traffic department office had not yet issued licences for women bikers. “Our motorcycle training courses do not include obtaining the riding licence. Some eager trainees go to neighboring countries such as Bahrain to get their licence,” she said.