Saturday, December 13, 2008

In conversation with Leslie Porterfield, the fastest woman in the US, on two wheels


Leslie Porterfield, the fastest woman in the world on a motorcycle!


The 32-year-old Leslie Porterfield has been riding bikes for 16 years, and if you ever meet her at a stoplight, you’d best not try to beat her off the line. That’s because Leslie uses a much-modified Suzuki Hayabusa, which she recently rode at the BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials, hitting an impressive 234.197mph (374.715km/h). Yes indeed, Ms Porterfield is now officially the fastest female motorcyclist in the US.

Leslie, who’s broken various land speed records and who’s actually the first woman to enter the Bonneville 200mph Club on a conventional motorcycle (rather than one of those purpose-built land speed streamliners…), also won the 2008 AMA Racing Female Rider of the Year Award.

‘I’m hopelessly hooked on motorcycles – I truly love motorcycles and the people involved in motorcycling,’ says Leslie, who’s also an entrepreneur and owns High Five Cycles, a used motorcycles dealership in Dallas.

Suitably impressed with her motorcycling accomplishments, we sent her an email with some questions, and she was nice enough to respond. Here’s what she had to say:


"I try to keep my high speed on the salt at Bonneville," says Leslie...

On her 234mph Hayabusa

My racebike started out as a 2002 Hayabusa. It is now heavily modified, thanks to Scott Horner of Head's Up Performance and Rhys Griffiths of Apex Speed Technologies. The bike is turbocharged, with Airtech bodywork, a lock-up clutch and a really trick ECU from Apex. I have two motors for the bike built by Scott – one to run the 1350cc class, and a stroker motor for the 2000cc class.

On her 192mph Honda CBR1000RR

This year I also rode a CBR1000 in the production class. It had few modifications because of the limitations for the class. We re-geared it and put a Bazzaz tuner on it, and I was able to get the world record at 192mph! We had very little time to prepare it. I was drilling bolts for safety wire at Bonneville during Speedweek. I had some stiff competition against Rosey Lackey on the MV Agusta, but I ended up with the record.

On whether she actually works on her own bikes

I do work on my bikes, but Scott does almost everything to my Turbo bike. I'm learning more and more about the electronics thanks to Rhys. I am amazed at the amount of data that the ECU logs. It logs with GPS, throttle position, boost, fuel pressure, water temp, wheel speed and much more.

I help with minor repairs and maintenance, and an occasional motor swap. I own a used motorcycle dealership in Dallas that offers service, parts, and sales of used bikes. It's not uncommon to find me in my service department doing oil changes, cleaning carburettors, swapping chains and sprockets, or dismantling something we're sending to the painter. I've done a lot of car repairs, too - everything from changing starters to rebuilding an automatic transmission, to swapping rear ends. Most of my nine personal bikes are late model, and don't need much more than maintenance lately.

On how she got into motorcycle land speed racing

I started Land Speed Racing in 2007. Going to Bonneville was always a dream of mine – I have read about it for a long time. It is the only place on earth to find such a wide array of machinery, and the people who put on the events and other racers are some of the nicest people I've ever met. I started riding when I was 16 years old, when I bought a motorcycle for transportation. Took a road race school at age 19, and I was hooked. I road raced off and on for a while…

I also hold an SCCA car road racing license and I’ve pre-ridden the Baja 1000 – would love to participate in the race sometime soon. Got the opportunity to make a few passes on a pro stock drag bike last year, and I hope to get back out on the dragstrip again. I also tried motocross several years ago, and while I found it quite enjoyable, I'm terrible at it. I am not programmed to fly through the air on a bike!

On her everyday street rides

I have several bikes. Most of the time I ride my 2008 CBR1000, or my Ducati 998. I also have a CRF450 motard bike that I zip through town on. It's such a hooligan bike! I try to keep my high speed on the salt at Bonneville. I will say that I've had a few too many speeding tickets, and maybe one or two in the triple digits. But that was a long time ago!

On MotoGP

I love MotoGP. I have watched races in Motegi, Valencia, Laguna Seca, and Indy. They are all amazing riders on some of the most sophisticated machines. I love wandering through the pits looking at the bikes. I admire all of the riders.

On how she prepares for the races

I prepare myself before every run by mentally going through everything I have to do from the starting line. I make mental notes of body position and try to improve it every time. Aerodynamics are extremely important in this sport, so having as much of my body as I can out of the wind is important.

My first pass down the salt this year made me a little bit nervous. I looked down the track from the starting line and thought about the last time I was there. Last year I ended up coming off of the bike at over 100mph, and breaking seven ribs, puncturing a lung, and had a concussion. I was helicoptered from Bonneville to the hospital in Salt Lake City. Luckily, I was only in the hospital overnight. After a long drive home, I went back to work the next day, although I was moving pretty slow. Slept sitting up for a month and a half.

I had to put those thoughts out of my head this year. After my first pass down the salt, I was back into the groove and ready to break some records. In all competitive sports, there are risks, and I try to minimize mine as best I can. I made a pass at 231mph to qualify for the record, and on my return run I was at around 240mph when I threw a rod through the cases. I was lucky and thankful that nothing locked up. I still managed to average 234mph on that run, which put my new world record at 232mph. It also earned me the title of the fastest woman in the world on a motorcycle. I was thrilled, even though I had a gaping hole in my motor!

On her all-time favourites

Bike: the CBR1000, my souped up CRF50

Car: I like my BMW Z4 M coupe! I think I'm going to try to find a mid-60's Lincoln Continental with suicide doors next. I've always wanted one

Racing hero/heroine: Of course every other Land Speed Racer out there. And I have sooo many heros... and heroines... all of the fast women in motorsport

Food: Pepperoni Pizza

Drink: Water, an occasional vodka and cranberry

Music: I love everything from rock to blues, jazz, classical

Movie: I love old Audrey Hepburn movies - Breakfast at Tiffany's, Roman Holiday (yes, I am a girlie-girl sometimes). And of course motorcycle movies - On Any Sunday, World's Fastest Indian

Holiday destination: I'm in Costa Rica right now, and I like it! I have a house in Colorado and love to ski, also. I love to travel, anywhere new excites me...

Thank you, Leslie, for speaking to Faster and Faster.
We also thank Ed Kuhlenkamp (President, Build Momentum) for having arranged the email interview


Also see:
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Riding impression: Troy Bayliss' Ducati 1098R...
Project Bloodhound: The quest for 1,600km/h...
And the maddest, wildest ever scooter is...?
Brad Pitt wants to be Valentino Rossi...!
Marisa Miller does the Harley-Davidson V-Rod Muscle...
Born in the USA: Riding the Roehr 1250sc...
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