How did I start racing? I get asked that a lot. As if yuppie, thirtysomething ladies don’t look like motorcycle racers, gosh! I could lie and say it didn’t happen overnight, that I grew up on a racetrack, or was raised by motorcycle racing wolves, but it actually kind of did happen overnight.
A few key ingredients necessary to normal, ordinary Christie magically turning into rad, motorcycle racing Christie:
- Since college, had vague notion to be a chick who knows how to ride a motorcycle.
- Turning 30 and facing another breakup led to the creation of a list of short, medium and long term goals. Short term included boring things like buying a plant and caring for it, and exciting things like learning how to ride a motorcycle.
- Learned my bad ass college-age niece was getting her motorcycle license. Signed up for MSF that day and had my license in March 2006.
A few months after I’d been ripping around in the mountains on my Suzuki SV650S, I felt ready for a more traditional sportbike (meaning, I wanted something faster). But I had other things on my mind too. I remember one afternoon staring a beautiful pave diamond ring in the face at the Valley Fair Tiffany & Co., a ring that was approximately the same value as a brand new motorcycle, and contemplating the possibilities.
Buy some expensive bling, or be that girl flying down the freeway on a loud, fast motorcycle in a stylish leather jacket? Sigh…my goals were so simple then. Easy decision, although had I bought the ring, it would have been a one time cash outlay; no one warned me about my future earnings disappearing rapidly into the world of race fuel, new tires, broken motors and so on.
Memories of that ring fading fast, I bought a packet of track day passes, attended a few novice rider sessions, and in April of 2007, crashed on a dirt bike at the Freddie Spencer Racing School in Vegas. This was my birthday present to me, I’d waited months for this trip, so I kept riding, and came back the next day with for a pain-filled final day of riding and instruction.
I had surgery on my back the next week to repair a disc between my L4-L5 that had exploded like a stepped-on jelly donut. Bed rest for six weeks, physical therapy for six months, and didn’t get on a motorcycle again until that fall.
During my downtime I’d bought an SV650 track bike, one that I hoped to race one day, and started dating a lovely man, one who also happened to be a veteran professional motorcycle racer (this was not intentional, but I’ll say it had its benefits – and challenges). I did a couple track days on it, and then my new boyfriend helped me get my steed race ready.
January, 2008, and what was to be my first race at California Speedway in Fontana. During my second or third practice session, while gamely trying to keep up with a fast-paced racer group, I was coming out of a turn and got on the throttle too hard, while still carrying a lot of lean angle, and had what’s known as a highside crash. This was kind of inconceivable to me at the time, because the whole point of getting a slower, easier race bike was so I could hopefully avoid this type of nonsense, but I’m kind of dense sometimes.
I’m lucky that I’m not the type of person who puts their arms out when falling, or I would have broken both arms by now with all the bicycles, horses, skateboards and other things I’ve thrown myself off of. I rang my bell, had some bruises and the bike needed work, so I opted to not race my first novice race the next day.
My first real race was March, 2008, at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in beautiful Buttonwillow, California, and I came in last, behind some Ninja 250s. I was pretty horrible and didn’t qualify for the “big kid races.”
I finally qualified in April at Infineon, but then after starting 74th of 74 riders on the grid of 650 Twins, while in last place and trying to catch Zoe Rem, who was two places ahead of me, the boy in front of me crashed in a narrow turn, and I ran into his bike, also crashing.
Despite all of my early crashes, I kept going to the next race, and the next race. Each race weekend, even with the crashing, I got a little bit faster. Even if it was just three tenths of a second off my previous best laptime, I kept going faster. I even won a novice championship with WERA that season, against men, in one of the classes that SV650s are qualified to run in.
I raced the SV again in 2009, the first year that a women’s racing class was added to both the AFM and WERA racing organizations. In 2010 I raced a more traditional race bike, a Honda CBR600RR (note: yes, I just wanted to go faster), and then in 2011, an R6.
I’ve raced nearly every race weekend with the AFM and WERA these past four years, and even ran a couple rounds at Willow Springs. I’ve won six championships – one against men, five against women.
It’s been a long, expensive, and dangerous road, one that I’m glad to have survived thus far with my body and my bank account intact. I’ve had doubters; people who’ve said I couldn’t do it, or said that I didn’t have any natural ability. They’re somewhat correct about the absence of ability; I’ve made up for it with hard work and great support from some key partners and friends.
Speaking of support, James Randolph will get his own entire blog post one day soon.
Other supporters include Alex Torres of Fastline Cycles in Fremont. Alex builds great motors, and always has my bike in top form for the weekend. Corey and Chris at Pirelli. A newer teammate, Jason of JPH Suspension, has been working with me on getting my bike to turn easier (my pecs and triceps thank him). My friend Andy at ACT Leathers has always believed in me, and comes through with sexy, protective suits. G&B Cycle Pro in Santa Rosa has long been a big fan of mine and has supported me with product and good cheer. Leo Vince provides me with the best in exhaust systems. Best friend Nikki Nienow, and our friend Ross Embertson.
I’ve always known what I wanted to do, and I never questioned it. Despite occasional setbacks, I’ve never had any insecurity about my goals; like a dog going for a ball, I’ve always had a tremendous clarity of purpose.
…to be continued…