Torch Motorcycles
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Par Ellis Choe

Motorcycles Crafted by Women for Women

When university business professor Patti Derbyshire hit midlife, she didn’t get depressed and buy a new sports car. She launched a one-of-a-kind, boutique-motorcycle company for women by women.

Having ridden motorcycles since she was 12 years old, Patti realized it was time to fill a niche that needed filling. Born three years ago, Torch Motorcycles researches, designs and hand-crafts motorcycles to meet the physiological needs of the female rider – where bigger isn’t better.

“Every motorcycle manufacturer is building a bigger machine – they’re almost like small cars without doors now,” says Patti, CEO of Torch and chair of entrepreneurship, marketing and social innovation at Mount Royal University. “It really speaks to the issue that modern motorcycle manufacturers are selling to women, but they’re not building for women. Torch is not about speed and power. We’re about the user - fit and comfort, which are ultimately super important to women's confidence.”

Torch is not about speed and power. We’re about fit and comfort, which is ultimately super important to women. - Patti Derbyshire, founder and CEO of Torch Motorcycles
Torch Motorcycle customers can build their bikes or have them hand crafted by Torch staff.
Torch gives women the option of building their own bike or having one crafted for them. Photo courtesy Torch Motorcycles

Research and Development

This starts with the first point of contact. Unlike traditional slab seating, Torch has devised seats that are wider in the back and narrower in the front based on the measurements of pelvises, curvature and derrieres of about 1,000 women across North America.

“We have sensor-pad technology, and we have women sit and literally take their bum prints,” says Patti. According to Torch’s extensive, unprecedented research and engineering, men and women sit differently due to the makeup of their pelvises and hips, ultimately affecting feet and hand placement and overall comfort and safety.

With this in mind, once clients are measured and their riding style determined, they can begin crafting their signature cycle by selecting from a menu of eight frame designs, various handlebar configurations, seat sizes and engine displacement. And then they have the option of building the motorcycle themselves.

Torch Motorcycles has created seats with sensor-pad technology.
To better suit female riders, Torch motorcycle seats employ sensor-pad technology. Photo courtesy Torch Motorcycles

A Motorcycle Revv-olution

Among these female bike builders are the six women who have partnered up with Patti and started what they call The Revv-olution. Every Monday night, the group gets dirty building their bikes, one piece at a time. “We’re almost more like an art gallery that has drawing classes, if you will,” explains Patti.

But clients are more than welcome to place their order and wait for their bikes to be built. In the meantime, they can wander through Torch’s online shop and take a gander at apparel and accessories to pair with their new ride. Torch aims to address another gap in the motorcycle industry by creating more comfortable, more stylish gear that is female-friendly.

“Women are still buying little men’s jackets,” says Patti of the typical leather riding jacket and pants. “The armour is heavy. It feels like you’re wearing hockey equipment.” But she and her crew have sourced a feather-weight fabric from Monaco that could revolutionize protective wear for both male and female riders.

With the expertise of Torch apparel designer Kat Marks, Torch wants to bring vintage chic to its products. “We want to bring back an elegance and sophistication in apparel and accessories for women,” says Kat. “According to large focus groups, women want to look stylish from bike to restaurant.”

She’s working on longer suede jackets in royal blues and burnt oranges.  But her big focus is on the thigh holster.
“Women don’t want to be strapped with a purse or a backpack,” says Kat. “We’re working on a lightweight holster for the thigh that will carry essentials like the phone, wallet and any other items. Plus it looks cool.”

For head gear, enter Visor Bar. Torch offers up a colourful array of leather visors that fit a number of open-face production helmets. Leather wallets, scarves and gloves can complete the ensemble. But fashion doesn’t supersede safety at Torch. “What we’re trying to do is distribute that visual info on the body,” explains Patti who refers to research that shows it’s low visibility, not high speed, that causes avoidable motorcycle fatalities. Torch has come up with Bluetooth-infused boot spurs, worn over your boots, and gauntlets for your hands, that light up in sync with the motorcycle’s signal and brake lights. “When we have showcased our wearable tech, the interest was just as high from men,” says Kat. “It’s for all riders. We want to enhance safety for all riders.”

Torch Motorcycles produces a line of colourful leather visors.
Torch manufactures a stylish array of motorcycle-helmet visors. Photo courtesy Torch Motorcycles
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