Meet Tyler Risk. She’s like an ad for “midlife” riding. She is a keen rider, a founding member of Dangerous Curves, (a woman’s riding group), and the founder and literally driving force behind wonderful little touring company for woman called NorthStar Moto Tours.
Tell me a little about yourself
By day, I’m the office manager for a small litigation consulting firm in Mtn. View, CA. and am a single mom to one amazing and fantastic 16-year old daughter, Shannon (I keep waiting for her to grow fangs and horns, but it hasn’t happened!). I also choreograph musicals part-time.
This isn’t a standard question . . . I’m an entrepreneur as well. Tell me about your business. What got you started? What do you love about it?
Well, I’ve been leading group rides for about 5 years now through a women’s riding group that I am a founding member of – Dangerous Curves. We started it because when I was looking for other women to ride with, most of the groups were too restrictive – brand based, sexuality based, no men allowed (I like riding with the boys – as long as they behave), etc. I don’t care what anyone’s background, gender, faith, skin color, sexuality, or bike style is. The joy of sharing the ride is one of the things I love the best about riding – seeing those sh*t-eating grins on people’s faces when we stop along the way is the best.
About a year ago, I was leading a tour to Tahoe and one of the gals asked why I wasn’t doing this for a business. It kind of took me aback… why not, I thought. I talked with some folks very active in the industry and asked their opinion of a women’s touring company and was greeted with extremely positive responses. So I started putting it out to the universe and things just started falling into place. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it all on my own with everything else going on in my life so I didn’t know how I would do what seemed to be a hopeless list of tasks.
Then, I met my business partner, Ben, through South Bay Riders (gotta love those internet forums!!). He was thinking about getting involved in the motorcycle industry and felt that the women’s market was an untapped and growing section. I told him my idea, he loved it, and NorthStar Moto Tours was born!
Talk a little about being a woman rider. Do you feel like you’re making a statement? How do people respond to you when they find out you ride? Do you hate questions like this?
No I don’t hate questions like this!
Making a statement? Perhaps… maybe just to do what you love no matter what others think, whether it’s riding a motorcycle or bungee jumping or basket weaving. Be strong and independent, stand up for what you believe, and live life to the fullest.
Most people are surprised at first but most of the time, the reaction is “Wow… that’s cool!” I’ve found that there isn’t such a prejudice against women in the sport. The majority of men that I ride with respect me as a rider, regardless of my gender. There are a few folks who’s first reaction is “Oh, that’s dangerous” to which I reply, life is dangerous and worth living. I’d rather go out doing something I love than dying of heart failure on my living room couch watching t.v.
When did you first ride a motorcycle?
My first motorcycle ride was when I was 22. I was dating a guy, Ken, and we decided to head out to the beach for a picnic. It was a glorious day as we headed up Bear Creek Rd. Not 5 miles into the ride, we hit some gravel in a turn, the bike low-sided, and we tumbled off. Now these were the days before helmet laws (and before I understood what ATGATT meant) so we were just wearing jeans, sweatshirts, and tennies. Given that, we were extremely lucky in the lack of injuries. I sprained my ankle and had a few scrapes. I vowed NEVER to ride another motorcycle again – those things are dangerous!!
Fast forward a few years when I was dating another gent, Al. He rode a Harley and I knew how much he loved the bike and riding (I referred to the bike as his mistress due to the amount of time and money he spent on it!!) so when he invited me to go on a ride with him, I told him my experience but that I was willing to give it another go. To his credit, that was probably one of the slowest motorcycle rides he’d every taken… but he put “his” ride aside for my sake and I was impressed by that.
I’m not sure what changed but all of a sudden the joy of the dappled sunlight, smell of the redwoods, valley and vista views just touched my soul and my heart soared. The bug had bitten… hard. I rode pillion with him for four years before he moved back East to be closer to his family. But, I told him and myself I would NEVER ride my own bike.
What kind of bike was it?
Can’t remember really… a sport bike of some type. I was impressed that Ken checked on me first after the accident and then the bike.
What was the first bike you owned?
Before Al moved out of state, he gave me a birthday gift of an MSF course. My impetus to take it was to learn how the bike operated so I could be a better passenger. But I walked out of the course with a grin so wide I thought my face would split… never say never, I guess.
We went shopping the following weekend and I came home with Suzy – a Suzuki GZ250 (I always wished it had a cooler name like the Rebel!). It was a blast to ride and I spent 1-1/2 years on it, learning the back roads, taking multi-day trips (even all the way to Reno… it didn’t blast up the hills but it didn’t break down… the little bike that could). I often wish I still had it just to toodle around town.
How many bikes have you owned?
Honda Shadow 750
Triumph Trophy 1200 (current ride)
SV650 (current ride)
CRF230 (current dirt bike – my daughter has one too!)
How many bikes have you ridden?
Other than the ones I’ve owned, I’ve ridden several others on bike swap rides with friends. One that had me giggling like a school girl was a DRZ400.
What do you own now?
See above. Sometimes, when I open my garage and see four bikes, trailer, and all the gear in there, I think “Who lives here again?”
How many miles do you expect to ride this year?
Probably about 20,000.
Riding gear (street) of choice?
I have both textile and leather gear. First Gear textile pants, Kilimanjaro textile jacket, Sidi boots (have to be by far the most comfortable boots on the market). The right gear for the right ride.
It’s always a challenge however to find gear that both fits and is attractive. The market has started coming out with more feminine styles but so far baby pink and baby blue are their ideas of what women want to wear (have you seen those Icon chaps with the fringe? Oh puhleez!!). I’m hoping that the manufacturers will start to notice the rise of women riders and step up to the plate with more choices for them.
Riding gear of choice on the track?
I still have yet to do a track day but am signed up for a ladies’ track school this June. I have leather gear for that.
Riding gear of choice in the dirt?
I have a 661 armored jacket that I wear under my jersey. I look like a linebacker but it has saved me many times. Thor knee guards which have also saved my a** (or knees). Helmet, gloves, boots… the usual.
How would you describe your involvement with motorcycling now?
Nothing like I ever thought it would be!! I lead a women’s riding group, have started a women’s touring company, and am very active in the community in my area. I mentor new riders, help organize events, plan some kick a** rides, and have contacts within the industry who are very supportive of the business I’m starting.
What attracted you to motorcycling? Why do you ride?
I ride for the sights, sounds, smells (well, most of them – Central valley in the summer is really stinky!! ;), and the people. Riding down the coast with a brilliant blue sky and ocean, the sea salt spray in the air; riding up north in the wine country in the fall as the colors explode in the vineyards; the redwoods around the Santa Cruz Mountains., sunlight streaming through the trees; stopping along 96 on our Oregon trip for a dip in the river; the smiles and camaraderie that is shared with people that you would never have met if it hadn’t been for the love of two wheels.
And the autonomy of riding on my own, taking whatever road I feel like, stopping whenever I want… it is a spirit-soaring, soul-searing adventure. I’ve had moments when everything just clicks and it actually has brought me to tears of joy upon occasion (yeah, I know, I’m such a girl! Lol)
If you’re married or in a relationship, was it something you discussed? Were there issues? Were there deals made?
Not married or in a relationship. If I do meet someone, it will most likely be another rider. It’s the only way he’s gonna keep up with me!
Does that person ride with you? Or perhaps wants nothing to do with it?
My daughter, who just turned 16, has expressed an interest in riding on the street. We started dirt bike riding about three years ago as an introduction to riding on 2-wheels. She loves it and I love that we get to spend time sharing that together. I told her when she’s 18, we’ll talk about a street bike. I want her to spend some time in a cage with a bit more protection around her to learn the road and what nutters there are out on them!
What do you think about when you ride?
First focus is on the road and the bike and my surroundings. On really technical roads, that’s pretty much where my head is at most of the time… that and the rush of taking that hairpin at just the right angle and line. If I’m leading a group ride, I concentrate on making sure people are behind me and keeping a comfortable pace. If it’s just me, I think how lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing. J
What one piece of advice would you give to someone coming to motorcycles for the first time? I’m thinking about the “mid-life” rider now?
Make sure it’s something you really want to do and not just because it’s “cool” or your husband wants you to ride or whatever. I always recommend the MSF course as it’s not only a good way to learn the basics, but also to find out if perhaps riding is not for them. Our sport is a dangerous one and takes dedication and perseverance to be the best rider we each can be. It’s serious stuff – not just a “hobby.” Find a good mentor, read up on some of the great books available (Motorcycling Excellence, etc.), and practice, practice, practice.
What bike would you recommend (and why)?
For a beginner, I always recommend starting out on a 250 of some sort. There are some really great options for a cruiser style (Rebel, GZ250) or sport (Ninja 250). When I was looking for my 250, people would warn me that I would outgrow it fast so why not get something bigger? My reply was that I was comfortable on the 250 and could build my confidence until I was ready for a bigger bike.
The starter bikes hold their resale value extremely well and there is always a market for them – they’re light and easy to maneuver. I’ve heard of too many women being coerced into buying bikes that were too big for them and then were intimidated by the bike and didn’t get the chance to really enjoy the ride.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve done on/with a motorcycle?
Experienced life to the fullest, seen some amazing places, and met some of the best people I have the honor of calling friends.
If you could pick one place you’d recommend as a riding destination / experience, what/where would that be?
Only ONE?!? We live in one of the most amazing motorcycle areas in the world and you want me to pick just one?!?
The coast is always one of my favorite places to ride – I seem to have some sort of affinity to the sea, it’s majesty and power… the section of Hwy. 1 way up north that goes inland in a cacophony of twists and turns that have to be what people mean when they say riding is better than sex (although one wonders if maybe they need to re-evaluate their sex life… but I digress).
The passes in the Sierras – Tioga, Sonora, Monitor, 88 – are just spectacular; Tahoe, Russian River, and the roads up north – 36, 299, 96. And our local roads – 9, Pescadero, 84 (that one section in the upper-middle west side that has that ribbon of back and forth one after the other). Ooooo, wait… 178/Kern Canyon and 190 into Death Valley. Uh oh, I’m not doing too well on picking one place, am I?
I’ll be riding in Italy this summer with my daughter and a few friends. I’ve also wanted to ride to Canada, across the U.S., as well as in Australia and Ireland. They’re all on the ever-growing list of things I want to do in this lifetime.
If someone handed you a blank check and said “go buy a motorcycle you’d enjoy riding (not just collecting), what would you pick?
Oh so many choices!! I’d consider an FJR as a possibility, as well as a BMW – the R1200R catches my fancy for some reason but I have yet to take it for a test ride as I fear once I do, it will find its way into my garage! The Ducati Monster is one sexy beast too – I love the sound of those pipes. Wait, do I only get to pick one? LOL
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Tags: TylerRisk, Dangerous Curves, NorthStar Moto Tours, South Bay Riders, NorthStar Moto Tours, First Gear, Kilimanjaro Textile Jacket, Sidi, ATGATT