The number of the girls riding two-wheelers is growing fast, and what’s growing even faster is their self-confidence and riding speed.
One of them has taken things to the next level by breaking all boundaries and records and entering the Guinness Book of World Records – not for her super-model looks, but because of her unparalleled biking skills. Riding at a breakneck speed, she set the Bonneville Salt Flats afire by recording an overall land speed record of 374.208 km/h on her Suzuki Hayabusa. Bike India presents Leslie Porterfield, the Fastest Woman in the World on a Motorcycle, who is now attempting to become the fastest person in the world!
THE JOURNEY OF A CHAMP
Leslie Porterfield virtually vanquished the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2008 when she achieved a land speed record of 374 km/h in the 2,000-cc modified class, making her way into the Guinness Book of World Records as the ‘Fastest Woman in the World on a Motorcycle’. The title was previously held for over 30 years by Marcia Holley, motocross rider and stunt woman, who had attained a top speed of 369.12 kph (229.361 mph) astride a single-engine streamliner motorcycle in 1978.
Porterfield was also honoured as the AMA Female Rider of the Year. Among her many achievements she has been featured in the Discovery channel documentary, ‘Speed Capital of the World: Bonneville’. This gorgeous rider tours the world as a public speaker and as an advocate and role-model for the rising population of woman riders. She is a member of the prestigious Bonneville 200 MPH Club and runs High Five Cycles, a used motorcycle dealership in Dallas, US.
Interviewed By: Sarmad Kadiri
Bike India: You have been riding for 16 years now. How did you get hooked to motorcycles?
Leslie Porterfield: I bought a beat up old motorcycle at 16 for transport. I did not know anything about motorcycles and didn’t know anyone who rode them. I loved learning how to ride. I had no idea how buying that first motorcycle would influence my life!
BI: It’s quite a feat for a novice rider to become the ‘Fastest Woman in the World on Two Wheels’. What other records have you demolished until now?
LP: I hold many records. From the Production Class 1,000-cc record on a Honda CBR1000, a naked (“No fairings,” she explains, so that people don’t get wrong ideas), to a 1,350-cc record of 336 kph that made me the first woman on a conventional motorcycle in the Bonneville 200 mph (322 kph) club. I also hold the record of 374.208 kph (232 mph) in the 2,000-cc turbocharged class with fairings. I set a record of 376.5 kph (234 mph) in the 1,350-cc turbocharged class with fairings in 2009.
BI: When did you realise that you could enter the Bonneville 200 mph Club? Why did you choose a conventional motorcycle?
LP: I like conventional motorcycles. I am a motorcycle enthusiast. I chose them over cars and streamliners. Bonneville had always been a dream of mine to go to. I was in awe my first time on the salt. It is like being on another planet. Pictures don’t do it justice.
BI: Tell us something about your mean machines and the team that helped you break the world record.
LP: I have a great team and sponsors that help me prepare the bikes. Sir Speedy Printing and Marketing and Foremost Insurance have been a great help as sponsors. My fastest bike is a turbocharged machine with over 500 horsepower (507 PS). We have done much work on developing bodywork that is aerodynamic and fabrication of parts. It is truly a custom machine. It also has the best electronics from Apex Speed Technologies. It logs so much data, it is truly overwhelming! It helps us tune for the ever-changing elements at Bonneville and helps me be a better rider. It is great having so much information about everything that the bike is doing at high speed.
BI: Do you like to get your hands dirty at the workshop?
LP: I have a wonderful team and I also work on my own bikes. I often change tyres, tear down motors and do work on them. I try not to work on them during the events, though. I am too busy competing! I have a great team that works on the bikes if I tear them up.
BI: Racing is a physical and mental sport. How do you prepare for a race?
LP: I make sure I am mentally and physically prepared. I go over the motorcycle and am confident that it is ready. I then picture what I need to do to make the perfect run and get the record. I make sure my gear is ready to go fast, also. My Shoei helmet and Fieldsheer leathers are a very important part of keeping me safe.
BI: Which other motor sport events do you follow?
LP: I love MotoGP.
BI: You know, India might host a round of MotoGP soon?
LP: Yes, and I will definitely come to watch a race in India when MotoGP comes there!
BI: Do you have a motorcycle that you use for your daily commute?
LP: Yes, a CBR1000RR. I also own dirt bikes.
BI: Tell us something that we don’t know about you…
LP: I spend time with my four rescued dogs and volunteer to help homeless children. I also like scuba diving, racing cars (road racing), riding horses, flying aeroplanes and running my motorcycle dealership, High Five Cycles, in Dallas.
BI: Okay, now let’s do some rapid-fire questions. Your favourite food?
LP: Pepperoni pizza.
BI: Your hobby?
LP: I love to travel and meet new people. I travel extensively!
BI: Your favourite motorcycle?
LP: All motorcycles!
BI: You broke the Bonneville Salt Flats speed record on a Suzuki. How did you prepare the bike for it?
LP: Yes, it is a Suzuki Hayabusa. It is turbocharged, has a Falicon crankshaft and stronger rods, an MTC lock-up clutch, modified Airtech bodywork, Dunlop tyres, Marchesini wheels, larger fuel injectors and electronics from Apex Speed Technologies.
BI: Wow! That’s a lot of technology. Do you still own the record breaking CBR and ‘Busa?
LP: Yes, and I will be running both these bikes again this year (this time attempting to become the fastest person in the world).
BI: We wish you good luck! Any advice for young Indian riders and enthusiasts?
LP: Enjoy riding! Enjoy the freedom of the road on two wheels. Also, always wear a helmet and watch out for other drivers. If you dream of racing, follow that dream. You only fail if you never try at all.