1985: 1981 Vespa P200E
Greatest Memory? Every ride with Cheri (memorialized here), especially the ones where we snuck out at night and rode to the city 20 miles away.
The first time I went for a ride, on the back of Rob Bond’s Suzuki GS550, I knew I had to have one for myself. Sharing was simply not an option. So I spent the next year (until I was 15 1/2) working my parents over. By the time I was old enough to get my motorcycle permit, they relented. Because people (mistakenly) perceive scooters as being safer than motorcycles (it’s the other way around, actually), my parents let me buy a Vespa. I worked all summer in a paint factory to pay for it, but still only had about 50%. So my super awesome dad came up with the other half. The day I turned 15 1/2 I went straight to the DMV to get my motorcycle permit. I passed the test. Back then, you didn’t have to get a car permit in order to get a motorcycle permit. And I hadn’t heard about the MSF, as it was just starting up in 1985. Too bad, it would’ve saved me launching that 1981 Vespa P200E into the bushes across the street in front of my parents and the guy selling it to me.
1986: 1979? Vespa P200E
Greatest Memory? Riding from San Francisco to Palo Alto in the rain. With no head or eye protection. Miraculous.
Why buy the same bike twice? Well, plowing into the side of a Volvo at 40mph can necessitate this sort of purchase. Insurance deemed it a total loss, so I bought another one. And started wearing my helmet sometimes. How I survived my teenage years is beyond me.
1988: 1977? MZ150
Greatest Memory? The feeling of riding through London’s relatively empty streets on a Saturday night.
I bought this bike for about $100, and never had enough money to have it properly tuned. So it often left me stranded. I left it stranded when I moved back to California, gave the keys to a friend and never looked back. It wasn’t particularly fun to ride, but it sure beat taking the night bus back to West Hampstead after a night out at the Goth clubs of Soho.
1989: 1965 Lambretta TV175
Greatest Memory? Sitting on my lil’ Italian machine gun while Jaxon kissed me goodnight after riding around town two-up. He had his own motorcycle, but wanted to ride with me for a change.
When I moved back to San Francisco, I needed a new scooter. I’d sold my Vespa to my brother, and it had since been stolen. I went to SF Scooter Centre back when it was just Barry’s little garage in a back alley. I told him I wanted a 1969 Lambretta, and he put the TV175 together for me. She always ran like a dream. This is the only vehicle I regret selling, even though I sold it for what I paid for it, $1,000. It was so much fun! Even though people tend to say Vespas are better and more reliable than Lambrettas, I found the opposite to be true. My Lambretta loved me, because she always started so easily, whereas the Vespas were too easy to flood. I always meant to get her painted, make her gorgeous. But when I plowed into the side of a pickup truck at about 40mph, I had already replaced her with my first real motorcycle, and was just home for the holidays. I kept her in storage for a few years, then sold her to some guy that was very excited to discover a vintage Lambretta, totaled front end or not. sigh.
1990: 1981 Suzuki GS450
Greatest Memory? Being a motorcycle messenger in San Francisco. Way more fun than doing that job on a vintage scooter.
I wanted a vintage BMW, like all the cool kids, but I test rode one and it was so heavy. I liked the nimbleness of the GS450, and it was silver, my 2nd favorite color. I think I bought it from Jaxon, actually, when he got a bigger bike. I also got into watching race videos around that time, and moved to LA. After watching a 500GP race, I decided to lean like the racers through a 15mph freeway off-ramp en route to work. With no concept of centrifugal force, or education about actual cornering, I lowsided. Luckily the semi behind me stopped & helped me pick up the bike. I then signed up for the MSF experienced rider course, realizing I had a lot to learn. Then came the crash on the Lambretta, which necessitated a ~4 month break from riding while I recuperated from my worst concussion and my last ride without a helmet. After a few months I started riding again, but was really fearful, and imagined all the ways I could crash throughout my rides around LA. I needed a break from riding. So I sold the bike to my friend Donal, moved to a city with proper public transit- Paris. I rode as a passenger with a guy I met at a U2 concert. We went to Tours for the weekend and it was so fun riding the shoulder past all the holiday traffic.
1996: 1975 BMW R60/6
Greatest Memory? Learning about motorcycle maintenance through Armen Amirian and rebuilding the motor at my friend Leffert’s garage with Armen’s guidance.
I moved to NYC in 1993, and gradually the need to ride came back. The Ton Ups were partly responsible, and I thought for a minute it might be good to just find a boyfriend who rides so I wouldn’t have the expense of owning a bike in NYC. That didn’t happen, so I bought this BMW from my artist friend Paul Villinski. Riding in NYC is the opposite of riding in LA. In LA I ride because it’s the ONLY way to get around town. In NYC I rode because it’s the best way to get OUT of town. I rode the BMW for a year, then Ducati finally released a bike I could afford…
1997: 1997 Ducati Monster 750 (Fred)
Greatest Memory? That’s a tough one. It’s a toss-up between suddenly owning a bike that actually corners, suddenly being attractive to attractive men (no more creepy old Beemer guys!), and finally joining The Ducati Cult. Or perhaps it was getting arrested while trying to find top speed (107mph, according to New Hampshire state police) en route to racing school. No, maybe it was Scott Russell saying “dang, that’s hawt” as I mounted Fred outside the Ducati/DKNY party. Or Tyson Beckford claiming he’d like to ride as my passenger. No, it must have been the people I met racing, especially how helpful they all were after I crashed out of my first race (that I’d ridden to). Or was it World Ducati Weekend in Italy?
No, I think Ducati Revs America and being photographed for Sports Illustrated Women was more fun. Especially with AC Farias (below). Taking Fred apart in 4 hours and putting him back together over 4 months was pretty exciting too. Armen told me I was the first person he’d ever known to take apart a perfectly good motorcycle (no, the frame was the wrong color) and actually put it back together. Ever. Fred was awesome. He was my man. But then I rode an R1….
1999: 1999 Aprilia RS250
Greatest Memory? Finally passing the fat guy on the same bike. This guy came to race at Loudon in 2001, my last season there. He was much heavier than me, so my power-weight ratio was far superior. I had to be faster than him. HAD TO. It took me all season, but I finally passed him. Only to be pushed wide by this moron on an Ascot who later told me he was scared when I passed him. In a straight line. Well, that’s racing.
Knowing that the Monster really wasn’t a proper race bike, I set about finding the perfect race bike for me. All my sensible nerdy engineer friends told me to buy a Kawasaki EX500, like them. But I’m not a sensible girl. I needed a sexy bike, but not one that would put me in a class with guys 10 times faster than me. I was also in love with Valentino Rossi. So naturally I had to buy the same bike he raced. It was a great bike, and I had a lot of fun racing it in New Hampshire. Then I moved to LA and racing at Willow Springs on a small bike was a real chore. I didn’t want to schlep to NorCal to race AFM’s more appropriate tracks, but still wasn’t fast enough to be racing a big bike. I struggled, studied, did lots of racing schools (California Superbike School being the best of them), and gradually got a little faster. But I’d hit a plateau, and racing just wasn’t fun anymore. Especially after I bought a street bike that could dust any squid at a track day…
Greatest Memory? Discovering the pure, unadulterated bliss of omnipotence.
In 2001, my friend Mark Duncan took me for a ride around Laguna Seca on a 1999 R1. Which was absolutely the best ride of my life up to that point. The feeling of flying down the front straight was the greatest feeling ever. I finally understood. Absolute power does indeed corrupt absolutely. Mark let me take the R1 out for a few sessions, and even though I still wasn’t as fast as him, I knew what the bike was capable of. Riding it as a passenger first made the first ride on my own so much more enjoyable. It was fantastic. I had to own one. But first I had to move to LA (as planned). Then I moved to LA and had to buy a condo. THEN in the Fall of 2002 I could finally buy the rocketship I’d been jonesing for over the past 18 months.
The conversion from rabid Ducatista to R1 freak was so extreme I wrote an article about it for Sport Rider magazine. The instant power, the endless power, the cornering capability. It was all so amazing. I quit racing in 2004 and just did track days. Also in 2004, I went down to my garage to find my baby stolen. Those condo garages are easy to get into, and I’d only had the cable lock looped around a 3′ pole. It was heartbreaking. But I had full coverage so marched right out and bought another R1. But I’ve never felt as attached to a bike since.
2006: 2004 Husqvarna SMR450
Greatest Memory? Finally selling this pile I never should’ve bought. I like to go fast. Going fast on a 450cc single is painful. In fact, so painful, I dubbed this bike the “Vibrating Wedgie.” I wanted to be like all the other cool kids and have a motard. I wanted something small to practice backing it in, stunts, and to possibly go play in the dirt. I never did any of that. I learned to stick to bikes that are appropriate to my riding style.
Greatest Memory? Top speed testing on my favorite secret roads. Or pretty much any track day at Laguna Seca. But what sets this R1 apart from the other two is that it was the best. I sold her with 50,000 hard miles on the clock, after the stator & rotor melted together, giving me error code 46, of all things. I kinda regret selling her, mainly because I haven’t had the money to properly customize my ’09 R1, so it’s just not as cool. But also because it was just way more fun to ride than the ’09.
2009: 2009 Yamaha R1
Greatest Memory? Riding Malibu MUCH faster & better after riding on the back of Mark Miller’s R6. Riding with someone faster is the easiest way to learn how to go faster.
I’d promised myself an MV Agusta F4 as a gift for graduating business school. So when the economy tanked and my R1 crapped out, I was really bummed that I couldn’t afford a shiny new Italian bike. But I could afford to finance a shiny new R1, so I did. I sold the R1 for more than it was really worth to the mechanic (vulture, really) who I’d started using. I bought a blue ’09 because they didn’t have silver and I planned to make enough money to get her painted, get new pipes, etc…
Well, it’s 2 years & 18,000 miles later and that still hasn’t happened. What has happened is that it’s developed a strange noise and some other small but niggling mystery problems. I guess that’s the price you pay buying the 1st gen of any new technology. But I just wish I had a completely maintenance-free bike that would be perfect all the time. Which is why the next bike I buy will be electric. Even if it’s just one of the smaller ones that’s out now, I can tolerate riding around town with a top speed of 70mph. I learned how quick & easy it is to recharge when you push the limits of the battery’s endurance when I borrowed a Zero S for a day….