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Profile of a Female Motorcyclist: Meet Susanna a.k.a. @PinkyRacr

My next guest Susanna hails from Motorcycle Heaven, a.k.a. Los Angeles, CA. Follow her on Twitter @PinkyRacr (named because of her pink racing suit and formerly pink hair)! Susanna also has a blog named Pinky Racer! When you get to her blog you’ll see she also has a heart for sustainability – check out those links as well!

“Putting my 2009 R1 to her highest and best use at Willow Springs Raceway.” Photo courtesy of Motoyard.com

How long have you been riding a motorcycle? Since 1985. 27 years minus a 4 year break in the early 90’s.

How did you learn to ride? I asked the guy who sold me my Vespa P200E, “How do ya work this thing?” I promptly popped the clutch and launched it into the bushes across the street. A few years later I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s (MSF) Experienced Rider Course. Since then, I’ve taken a number of track schools, my favorite being California Superbike School.

What was your first motorcycle? 1981 Vespa P200E

How many have you owned?  Twelve. Hoping to make it 13 this year. My next bike will be electric- ideally both a Brammo Empulse and Zero DS.

Why did you want to ride a motorcycle? My friend Rob took me for a spin when I was 14 and I was hooked instantly. I knew I had to own one! I didn’t want a boyfriend with a bike, I wanted my own. I spent the year working my parents over until they relented and let me get a scooter because it seemed safer.

Tell us about your riding. I’ve always used my bike as my primary transport, but in 2011 I got into bicycles, and am riding my bicycle a lot more. I raced for 6 years until it stopped being fun, so now I just terrorize the streets of LA, local canyons and do track days whenever I can. I love riding to Monterey for Laguna Seca, and before I got this gas guzzler (2009 Yamaha R1 that averages 22mpg!) I rode to San Francisco and Las Vegas fairly often. When I have an electric bike for around town, the poor MPG of the R1 won’t be so bothersome.

What advice do you have for women who ride or want to ride a motorcycle? Same advice I have for everyone. If you want to try it, go to MSF and take their weekend class. It’s the best way to dip your toe in and find out if riding is for you! The instructors are all very knowledgeable, so if they pass you, you’re ready to start riding. Then continue taking lessons, and practice, practice, practice! I was lucky, learning to ride in a quiet suburb, learning in the city can be intimidating, especially in LA.

I think people with urban bicycling experience are MUCH better prepared for urban motorcycling than people who’ve only driven cars. Get out and ride a bicycle whenever possible, ideally with more experienced urban cyclists at first, to get accustomed to having to be hyper-aware of everything around you. Then when you get on a motorcycle you’ll just have to get used to the sensation of speed, and shifting (if it’s not electric). If you feel the need for speed, take it to the track! I tell everyone to start with a track school. My favorite is California Superbike School. Their instruction is excellent, and they travel all over the country and to other countries as well. Many women I meet tell me they’re intimidated by track days and such, and I think CA Superbike School is a great place to start out. Although some women prefer just riding with women and there are track days for them as well. But I still think a reputable school is the best place to start out.

What is the longest trip that you’ve taken on your cycle? 400 miles toSan Francisco. Many times.

Do you belong to any motorcycle groups? No, I just have a lot of friends who ride.

Do you have a favorite riding story? Too many to choose one favorite. Some are on my blog on pinkyracer.com. Pick your own favorite! I especially savor the ones from my favorite secret back road that I take to Monterey for the Laguna Seca MotoGP race each year.

What do you do when you’re not riding? I write about electric vehicles for gas2.org, do product development consulting for fashion designers, and I’m the Communications Chair for Net Impact Los Angeles. I also go to MotoGP races as often as possible.

Grant Ray of Hell for Leather was more than happy to oblige when I asked him to pose with me, because real men enjoy taking a back seat once in awhile! Photo Courtesy of Scottie Images

Profile of a Female Motorcyclist: Meet Joanne

My next guest didn’t intend on becoming a motorcyclist and now, well you’ll have to read all about Joanne, a.k.a. GearChic, from San Francisco, CA. If you want to learn about protective motorcycle gear – reviews, shopping tips and more definitely check out her web site GearChic! Follow her on Twitter @GearChic too!

How long have you been riding a motorcycle? 8 years. Technically 9, first year was on a scooter.

How did you learn to ride? I started on the scooter and my husband basically showed me how to ride it in a parking lot. I rode that for 3500 miles or so before I upgraded and took an MSF class to get my license once we bought him one.

What was your first motorcycle? Heh, it was his first motorcycle, a 2003 Kawasaki Ninja 250. I couldn’t keep my hands off it. He had to buy another one for himself.

How many have you owned? I’m on my 3rd motorbike.

Why did you want to ride a motorcycle? I really didn’t want to. I had every intention of riding the scooter and then my husband would ride the 250. I really didn’t intend to take it, it just happened one day and I simply fell in love with riding it. After that, I didn’t touch the scooter and was forced to find it a good home. It sort of surprised me and my husband how much I loved riding motorcycles. It still does today!

Tell us about your riding. Commuter, pleasure, vacation, racing, or ? Everything but racing at this point. I commute a little bit around San Francisco and then do as many weekend rides (100-200 miles) as I can to my favorite twisties along the coast.

What advice do you have for women who ride or want to ride a motorcycle? To take control of your motorcycle career. And never take people’s word for it, even mine! Do your own homework and read up on the bikes, gear, everything so that you’re in control of what you’re learning, what you’re seeing and experiencing. Everyone is going to tell you what they think, but only you can make up your mind.

Don’t learn to ride because someone else wants you to. Do it because YOU want to! There are also NO such things as women’s motorcycles. We can ride anything/everything we want to. The only thing you need specifically for women while riding is gear (except helmets, which are also universal), so don’t forget to gear up, it can really make a direct impact on your ability to ride.

What is the longest trip that you’ve taken on your cycle? So far, just San Francisco to Los Angeles [approximately 400 miles one way], about 6 times in my riding career. But someday I’d like to do a cross country trip with my husband on our bikes.

Do you belong to any motorcycle groups? Off or online? The Motor Maids, and several MeetUp.com groups including Bay Area Moto Girls, which I cofounded.

Do you have a favorite riding story?  Well I guess the closest story I would have would be a little more detail as to how I got into riding.  As I mentioned earlier, I started on a scooter (’03 Aprilia Scarabeo 50), which was my husband’s idea after we rented one on our honeymoon. He fell in love with the idea, I was fine with it and so we bought one that he researched and picked out. Because, well, it was technically for him.

But one day he went on a 2 week business trip. Up to that point, I had ridden it a little bit in a parking lot but that was it. I just felt intimidated by it and I really didn’t want to ride it myself. I would ride on the back when we went to movies, or dinner or whatever. But when he left on that trip, I decided it was time to go riding with a friend who also had a scooter. My confidence skyrocketed and I basically started riding it to work every day to the point where my husband had to ask me if he could ride it since I was riding it so much.

Unfortunately for my husband, the same thing happened when we then bought him the Ninja 250. I had every intention of riding the scooter while he rode the bike. But … after my first ride around the parking lot I was hooked! I took the class, got my license and started riding that every day to work instead of the scooter. And then it all went downhill from there, he had to buy another bike, I made my way through another Sportbike (’06 Kawasaki z750s) and then the one I’m on now (03 Suzuki sv650s), and I love it!

What do you do when you’re not riding? I freelance doing a mix of social media marketing, research, and office work to pay the bills so I can run my website, travel and give gear seminars. I also just started getting into pistol shooting, which has so much in common with motorcycling. Guess that’s why I’m really enjoying that too!

Gear or No Gear?

Did I ever tell you about the time when hubby and I were riding his Suzuki 550 on a back road and we flew off the bike over the handle bars? This happened almost 33 years ago when we were first married. A helmet was the only gear we each were wearing. We both landed on our heads but were not seriously hurt. I did have a bad case of road rash across my back which was scrubbed out. >insert< SCREAM!

I happened to catch a local news story last night about a young man’s experience not wearing gear. He experienced a broken back, but should fully recover.

Teen Daredevil

What about you? Gear or no gear? Me, I’m all in!

What does AARP stand for?

Bet this isn’t what you were thinking!

I’m speechless, frozen, and miss riding my motorcycle!

Speechless ...

It is January 9, 2011, the ground has a couple of feet of snow cover, it has been below freezing a lot this winter, and I miss riding my motorcycle.  I miss it so much I have even sat on my bike in the cold garage. My hubby will tell you I pat the seat and talk to my motorcycle whenever I pass it going to my car! {Normal, right?}

I’m really getting antsy about getting back out on the road again so I decided to look online at other women riders and stumbled across a photo collection on Flickr: amorphity’s photostream. I’ve posted a few photos from his helmet heads collection.

Even though my blog is called Helmet or Heels I would never, let me repeat, NEVER wear or recommend these shoes as proper riding gear!

Slip on heels for riding? NEVER!

The perfect couple, both idiots when it comes to proper gear!

I wonder if she ever lost a heel coming to a stop?

"Classic Asian women's 'heels out, knees and toes in' motorcycle riding position ... " Amorphity's own caption

Thank you amorphity for this digital catch!

Photo Source

Memorial Purse in Honor of my Mom

Last week I flew into Chicago, joined my older sister on a flight to Houston to see our younger sister. My younger sister’s home flooded back in June while they were on vacation! Think Texas, June, six or so inches of standing water for a week in a house shut-up tighter than a drum. Not a pretty sight and an even worse smell. Needless to say her house has been stripped down to the 2 x 4s. The insurance company has moved the four of them into a two bedroom apartment. Tight squeeze with the addition of my older sister and me for a week.

Last year about this time my older sister and I drove my mom down to Texas to visit my sister and her family. {I’d like to publicly thank @toddmccann for the best directions ever!} We lost our mom this past March so this trip was a bittersweet anniversay. While we were together we celebrated our mom’s birthday (9/27) by shopping for new lipstick and purses. Why?  Because last year when we were all together in Texas my mom bought us all a new purse.

So here I present you with my new purse! It is black leather with silver studs! The two front pockets have very cool studded zipper pulls. Another more discrete zipper pocket on the back of the purse. The main body of the purse has great pockets and storage and the whole thing can be zipped shut! I’m a fan! What do you think? Kind of has a motorcycle feel, yes?

My new purse in memory of my mom.

Call Ripley’s I’ve got one for the record!

I have met one of the coolest motorcycle salesmen ever!! After my last post I was beginning to believe it wasn’t possible. Let me tell you how this all came about … my husband surprised me and brought me to a motorcycle dealer about 30 minutes from our home called the Hitching Post. This dealer carries Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha motorcycles!

Not that I was screaming for joy when he pulled in the parking lot, but let’s just say I was at the front door before he was even out of the car! When we entered hubs went right for the bikes and I lagged behind looking at the clothing. A guy behind the parts counter yelled over to say hi to me. {I did look around to make sure he was talking to me.} Wow. Great first impression.

After poking around the accessories, I went and found hubby talking with Tim one of the salesman. When I walked up Tim immediately acknowledged me and congratulated me on getting my motorcycle license. He also included me in on their conversation about the motorcycle hubs was sitting on.


Tim S. super star salesman from the Hitching Post


The fun part for me was that Tim asked me so many questions! Like how long have I been riding, what kind of cycle do I ride, how’s it for handling, did I wear all my gear, and so much more! Now many of you are thinking I must have died and gone to heaven, but that is not the case. In fact, I saw woman who came in alone to look at motorcycles and another salesman approached and talked with her. It’s a miracle! Okay, joking aside it was very refreshing for me to finally engage in a conversation with this salesman who was interested in talking with me. I felt validated.

In the end Tim did a great job of talking to both of us. Whether my hubby was with me or not I believe Tim would have treated me the same – as a bona fide motorcyclist!

Hitching Post, you get a helmet nod from me!

Are the Stars Aligned?

This past Sunday it seemed that the stars and the planets aligned for me to finally take the motorcycle for a ride! My heart was racing I was so excited! It had been far too long since I rode, mostly because of the weather. Minnesota has been experiencing 80-90 degree weather with humidity to match, along with severe storms. My gear is so hot and heavy I felt it could be dangerous during those heat waves.

BUT that all changed on Sunday. The temperature and humidity finally dropped! I had all the gear on, did the pre-ride check of the bike. Got on, put the key in, adjusted the choke, flipped the red switch, and pushed the start button. “Va-room!” is what I was hoping to hear. Instead I heard “click, click, click.” What?! I got off the bike and check to make sure the fuel line was open again. Tried again. Nothing. My heart went from racing to broken. No ride today. Sad face.

My hubby was working and unavailable to talk to, so I Twittered about it. I suspected a dead battery. Within a few minutes one of my Twitter friends confirmed that’s the most likely problem. I also learned that when motorcycles sit for a while they can lose their charge. {Note to self: if you’re not riding regularly start the bike occasionally to keep the battery charged.}

The good news is hubby jump started the cycle and took it out for a ride to charge the battery! I love my hubby!! If all goes as I hope I should be back out on the roads this week. Except for all the roads around me under construction and down to the gravel base … which presents a whole new set of challenges! I will find a way!

Bars up, rubber down! Ride safe friends.

Here’s a glimpse of what my neighborhood looks like!

Minnesota has two seasons: winter & road construction!

What to Wear!

The weather cooperated today so I finally got out on the motorcycle! Hubby was working so I rode by myself for about two hours. I live in an outer suburb of Minneapolis where the county roads are plenteous (or would it be plentiful). Either way I have many scenic roads to choose from so off I went. It was quite the adventure not to mention a learning experience.

One of my first affirmations, that was again confirmed later, was wear all your gear all the time. Although tempted to leave the jacket or gloves off because of the 80 plus degree heat I decided that would be a totally stupid move and wore it all! Over the ankle leather boots, jeans, heavy jean jacket with armor, full-face helmet, and leather riding gloves completed my ensemble. I did remember to open the vents on my jacket and helmet which proved helpful in the heat. I wasn’t too far down my first county road when I became really thankful for all the protection I was wearing. The amount of bugs that were hitting me was ridiculous. Many of the motorcyclists I saw today were in short sleeves, some even in shorts, no gloves, and no helmets! Ouch! The bugs had to be stinging them too!

What not to wear!

About 45 minutes into the ride I get nailed square in the middle of my visor with a bug the size of a humming bird! Okay, maybe not that big but the goo and guts spread right across my line of sight … both eyes! Yuck! I look around to find a place I could safely pull off and clean the visor. Thankfully I remembered to bring a lens cleaning packet. I cleaned up the mess and was heading back out when the confirmation to wear all my gear happened. It has been raining and/or down pouring pretty consistently for the last few weeks. One of the outcomes of all this rain on our roads is the extraordinary amount of gravel and sand that has shown up on the surface. Even my backyard patio has a fine coating of sand!

As I’m leaving to head back on the road I take a right hand turn. That’s when I notice a pile of gravel so I swing out a littler further only to have missed the fact that the road was coated in a fine sandy-like gravel. Next thing I know I’m down with the bike. I quickly looked around and thank God there was no traffic!! I crawl out from under the bike, stand up and dust myself off. Then I tried to pick that bad boy up! Oh my! I’ve never had to do that before and never thought about what it would take to pick it up. 500 pounds of mean machine on its side and I can’t even budge it. I wanted to laugh! In all my preparation I never thought about how to stand my motorcycle up if it ever fell.

It wasn’t too long before a very nice Good Samaritan turned the corner, stopped and asked if I wanted help! YES!! He uprighted the motorcycle rather quickly as I babbled on about being a new rider. He just looked at me and said, “It is okay. I ride a lot and I’ve dropped my bike too.” I thanked him profusely and he suggested I try to start the bike! Oh yeah, the bike. It took a few times, but it eventually started. The Good Samaritan asked if I was okay to ride, I said yes, and off he went it his truck. Wow. Thank God for people willing to help. Lord bless that man wherever he is!

I’m thinking that heavy duty outfit saved me a lot of bumps and bruises. I’m sure my hand would have been cut up pretty bad if I didn’t wear those riding gloves. Wait, let me also sing the praises of my boots, and jeans, and jacket!! You get point. It could have turned out quite differently for me had I not left prepared. I’d also like to thank all the motorcyclists who have encouraged me to wear the gear even in the heat! Blessings to you too!!

P.S. The picture is a good example of what not to wear riding. I must confess I did take the bike around the block dressed like that to prove to my brother-in-law I knew how to ride. No excuses that was dumb.

I Want to LOOK like a Woman on my Motorcycle!

My first riding jacket is a man’s because I have long arms! Most women’s clothing usually runs short in the sleeves. I was willing to live with this …

My first riding jacket.

I love Twitter … track with me here … because I found what I hope to be my future replacement jacket! I’d resigned myself to wearing ugly riding gear until I checked out @LAScooterGirls web site! I was smitten at first sight of their coats! Check out these pictures! They don’t sell directly to the public, but do have a list of brick n mortar as well as online dealers on their sight. These images are from Nobilivity.

Scooter Girls Grey Trench Jacket

Scooter Girls Military Jacket (My personal favorite!)

Over the top ... Scooter Girls Hologram Jacket

I am so excited to find out that a local Minnesota scooter dealer will be carrying the GoGo Gear line in a couple of weeks! I can’t wait to try on these awesome coats! Oh … I think I failed to mention the have CE approved armor in the shoulders, elbows, and back!