Panaji: Women bikers react better to contingencies at high speed than men, claims Leslie Porterfield, the world's fastest woman on a motorcycle.
Porterfield, who was in Goa to attend the just-concluded India Bike Week (IBW) 2017, also said that from surviving a bike crash in 2007 to setting the world record next year at the mecca of speed – the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah – was one of the high points of her career.
"Women do have some great challenges and advantages over men. I think we just react better than men like when things go wrong while motorcycling. I think we have seen some great female riders who are great level-heads," Porterfield said in an interview.
The 41-year-old Texas-born biker and mother, whose name ranks in the Guinness World Records, said that ever since she started riding professionally at the age of 19, the sport has evolved from a male-only domain to one where women also revel.
"I know many people see this as a male-dominant sport, but I think that has changed quite a bit since I have been riding," she said.
"I did not have a license when I first started riding a motorcycle; I actually didn't get my license till I got a citation for not having a license. I wouldn't recommend that to anyone; it's good to do things the proper way," she said.
Her tryst with biking was more oriented towards utility than thrills, Porterfield explained.
"I bought my first motorcycle at 16 years of age and I actually picked it up as a cheap mode of transportation. I had never been on one before that. Most of the people that I knew thought I have a motorcycle but never thought I would be able to ride it. So I spent time working on it, fixing it and riding it. At 19, I took up racing," she said.
Recalling the toughest phase she had to face after her 2007 crash, Porterfield said it was overcoming sexist slander and taunts before she headed to Bonneville to write her name in the annals of speed history.
"I think my wreck in 2007 was a big challenge. There were several people who were very supportive, but there were others who said, 'Well lady, you shouldn't be on a motorcycle'. It was a challenge for me to put those voices out of my head and not think about what happened... and to think about what exactly I needed to do to be successful and to get back on that motorcycle," Porterfield said.
"It wasn't just a physical recovery, it was definitely a mental and emotional recovery as well. I think from having an accident in 2007 to setting my first record in 2008 at Bonneville and being a part of the '200 miles club' and the first woman on a conventional motorcycle to do so. It was a landmark experience," she said.
Speaking about the thrills and perils of speed racing, she said: "There are so many, it's a very big challenge to try to race against time. I've had flat tyres. I've had my clutch fly off at 220 mph and hit me. I think one of the biggest challenges is to have the machine pushed to its very limits," she said.
Commenting on biking in India, Porterfield said that she had been made to feel welcome as a female biker.
"I met so many women here in India that love motorcycles and it's my first time to India. Everyone seems very friendly and very welcoming to me as a female motorbiker. I hope to see more and more women around the world, especially here in India, learn to ride motorcycles, take up motorcycling and enjoy motorcycles," she said.