Thursday, November 29, 2012

In conversation with Leah Petersen, motorcycle stunt rider extraordinaire

Leah Petersen, motorcycle stunt rider
Leah Petersen, motorcycle stunt rider Leah Petersen, motorcycle stunt rider Leah Petersen, motorcycle stunt rider
You have to adore someone who looks like that (top) and who can also ride like this (above). Yes, the gorgeous Leah Petersen is the girl of our dreams...!

‘One day, I decided I should stunt my motorcycle fulltime, professionally. I quit my job and started a news site for the sport of stunting, then toured America in 2010 and all of Europe in 2011, competing and performing shows,’ says Leah Petersen on her website. ‘After two years of shooting in the dark developing a career as a female motorcycle stunting artist, I see where I fit into the world of extreme sports and have refined my goals, method and approach. I stunt full-sized sportbikes. I am also a tall, blond, American girl – people just like that combination I guess,’ she adds. Totally our kind of lady, then. So, of course, we caught up for a chat with her, and here’s what Lead had to say:

On how she got started with bikes and stunt riding

I got my first streetbike at 19, a GSX-R600. I rode streets in New York, Italy and Los Angeles. Finally, in Los Angeles I learned about the sport of stunt riding when I went to an XDL Show and I bought a stuntbike the next week! I had been stunting as a hobby for about four years when I thought it would be fun to ride full time. We my partner and I quit our jobs and started the site, to help more people have the opportunity to stunt. My family is quite supportive – they are accustomed to my big, wild dreams…

On how she fits in, in a sport that’s largely dominated by men

I would say the sport is certainly dominated by men. People react differently to a female rider. From my experience normally women are not as serious about bikes – they might ride a bit, but soon they leave the sport. For me it’s important to show by example that I am in the sport for the love of motorcycles – and I am here to stay. It’s all about confidence. Being in shape helps, being strong, flexible and agile is important when training.

On the highs and lows she seen in her stunt riding career

I had a very hard time when I was first learning. There is a ton of pressure as a female rider, everyone is staring and watching. It took me a long time to learn wheelies at first, I had to believe in myself and not pay attention to what people were saying. I have learned to let go of what other people think – mostly from performing. To look up from riding and see an audience of smiling spectators makes everything melt away. My highs have certainly been doing stunts around the world – all across America, Europe and even South America.

On training, and dealing with fear

There are certainly more ‘wild’ people who excel naturally at riding. People who have dirtbike experience lack a lot of the fears that normally hold people back. I try to ride two hours a night and longer on the weekends. I give myself small, manageable goals and perform them over and over and over. My training is quite boring! Sometimes when there are fans at the spot, I put on a little show which helps counter the monotony.

I deal with fear by thinking methodically about riding. If I am scared to try something, I learn smaller components of the trick first, and then combine my skills to do the big trick. With time the fear melts away, you just need the time and dedication to work through it.

On her street and stunt bikes

I had a GSX-R for the streets, also a 2004 Kawasaki 636 for street riding. My first stuntbike was a Honda F4i – very strong! I have had four different 2003-2004 Kawasaki ZX6Rs over the last four years. I do all my own work in the garage – which is not my favorite part of riding!

On ill-mannered men and the police

Riding in Los Angeles and NYC, men are always yelling and hollering from their cars and motorcycles. I try to avoid interacting with them. Sometimes they try to show off. I have had two men crash their cars trying to show-off! Police are a big issue with riding, even when training in an empty parking lot. When they come, I try to explain that we are training for work and its better here than on the streets! Some understand, but others are rude and tell us to leave or give tickets.

On the stunts she wants to perform in the future and her other plans

Stunting riding is evolving quickly; it is becoming more of a true ‘freestyle’ sport. Riders are becoming so skilled, they can truly link all the tricks together for an amazing performance. People have been experimenting with vertical ramp and half-pipes – that could be an interesting, new style of stunting.

I plan to expand StuntBums, to continue to educate people about the sport and help them learn safely. I hope to travel more with the sport and ride for fans in India and Asia soon!

On some of her favourites:
Street bike: Triumph 675 Daytona
Stunt bike: 2004 Kawasaki ZX6R
Stunt rider: RafalPasierbek or Ernie Vigil
Motorcycle racer: Valentino Rossi!
Car: 1969 Chevy Camaro
Music: Jazz or Italian pop
Quote: ‘The moment is now!’
Movie: Star Wars
Actor: Alec Baldwin
TV Show: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Book: ALL non-fiction. I read every day…
Food: Anything made with love and fresh ingredients
Drink: Soda water
Fashion label: Thrift store
Holiday destination: Patara, Turkey

We thank Leah for taking the time to talk to Faster and Faster and we wish her all the best for her stunt riding and all her other plans...

Leah Petersen, motorcycle stunt rider Leah Petersen, motorcycle stunt rider Leah Petersen, motorcycle stunt rider

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