No Easy Rider

Sharon Cancel burns rubber

Sharon Cancel is determined, aggressive, and passionate about motorcycling. She has the bad habit of being intimidating. But her skills as Lady Ninja — her riding handle — have earned this Brooklyn, New York, native recent membership into the all-male motorcycle club, Road Squadron. She resisted joining for years, because of one closed-minded associate. “He believed women should be riding on the back of someone else’s bike, until I blew him away on the highway. Since then, he’s got this new-found respect for me.”

Cancel, a 45-year-old sales executive for Phillips Medical Systems, and a black belt in Kung Fu, met opposition for many of her 28 years of riding. Men either think you’re gay or you’re loose,” she explains. “So I’ve always had to knock down barriers. I wear high-heeled boots and makeup, but I’ve had hookers flash me, and men refer to me as a man, because until I take my helmet off, they assume I’m a guy.”

She’s had strong male influences growing up with three brothers. The oldest taught her to ride, and she was hooked. Seven sport bikes later — five of them Kawasakis — the self-proclaimed “Kaw” girl is enjoying the gradual change in attitudes toward female bikers. “I’ve seen the number of women quadruple since I started riding. Clothing manufacturers now have women’s cuts, and the American Motorcycle Association is having its first women’s conference in 2002.”

Too often, however, her exuberance is tempered by tragedy. She has lost many friends to motorcycle accidents, three just last year. Cancel’s worst accident occurred when she collided with a car in Manhattan. “My bike went down the street, and I went headed toward the Midtown Tunnel.” She was treated for “road rash,” a biker’s term for scraping the skin.

A mother of two, her 26-year-old daughter is expecting to purchase her first motorcycle this year. Her 14-year-old son is more interested in cart racing. Cancel hopes to drop the hammer on the track as well, and is enrolling in a racing school.

Getting Started

  • TAKE A COURSE: Cancel recommends the two-day basic course given by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. For the nearest RiderCourse, call 800-446-9227, or visit www.msf-usa.org.
  • INVEST IN THE BEST: “The proper equipment makes a big difference in preventing injuries.” Buy riding gear. Motorcycle leathers are heavy and usually have padding in the knees and elbows. Cancel buys Vanson Leathers (price: $400-$700). Helmets start at $400; she’s found Arai and Shoei to be the most durable.
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