Conversation with Susan Carpenter; LA Times Motorcycle Writer and Rider

By kevin | Interviews

Feb 27

Susan Carpenter, photo by Don Kelsen / latimes

(photo by Don Kelsen / latimes)

I found out about Susan Carpenter through a friend of mine. She is one of the few people writing a column on motorcycles for a daily anywhere in the US. We caught up via email and this is what she had to say.

Tell me a little about yourself

I’m the motorcycle columnist for the Los Angeles Times, which means I ride a lot of motorcycles and I write a lot of stories about it. When I’m not being Throttle Jockey, I’m the single mother of a 5-year-old boy and I do the usual motherly things which are fun to me but probably too dull to write about here!

When did you first ride a motorcycle?

The first time I rode a motorcycle, I was on the back. My bicycle had just been stolen and I was considering buying a scooter. My boyfriend at the time suggested I buy a motorcycle instead. He started looking around for a used bike. He found one in the paper, we went to look at it together, and next thing I knew I was on the back being whisked around the hills of San Francisco. That was 1992.

What kind of bike was it?

A 1983 Suzuki GS400.

How many bikes have you owned?

About 12.

How many bikes have you ridden?

Several hundred.

What do you own now?

Nothing. Last year, I sold the last two bikes I owned – a 1999 Ducati Monster 750 and a 1969 Royal Enfield Bullet – because I never had time to ride them.

How many miles do you expect to ride this year?


Riding gear (street) of choice?

G-Line by Hein Gericke

Riding gear (track) of choice?

Spidi lizard suit

Riding gear (dirt) of choice?

I own MSR, but I’m due for a re-gearing and would like something a little more cool. Not sure what I’ll find.

How would you describe your involvement with motorcycling now?

When I started motorcycling 16 years ago, it was purely for transportation. It’s morphed through many phases since then and is now mostly about work, which is fun but also intense and high pressured. I’m a female mainstream journalist writing about a male-dominated enthusiast-driven sport, which can be challenging.

What attracted you to motorcycling? Why do you ride?

I was looking for an economical way to get around the city of San Francisco after my bike was stolen. Once I learned how to ride and started feeling more comfortable as a motorcyclist, it became more than just a mode of transportation. It became a form of empowerment and an extension of my personality.

What do you think about when you ride?

Everything – the bike, my surroundings, my life, the world.

Do you feel like you’re making a statement as a “woman rider”?

As a woman rider, I don’t really feel like I’m making a statement. I’m just doing what I want to do. But my column has taught me that a woman on a motorcycle who is also in a position of authority is perceived in multiple ways. To some people, I’m a threat. To others, I’m a joke. To others, I’m an authority. How I’m perceived, I think, depends on how a person weights the different parts of who I am. I think it all depends on what part of me a reader chooses to value: the fact that I’m a woman, the fact that I’m a long-standing motorcyclist, or the fact that I write for one of the top daily newspapers in the country. How people respond to me and what I do? That’s all over the map. Mostly, it’s positive.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone coming to motorcycles for the first time?

Take the safety class before buying a bike to see if it’s right for you.

What bike would you recommend (and why)?

There are a lot of really great bikes out there, and I’d recommend any number of them, but those recommendations are too numerous and depend on too many rider variables to list here.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done on/with a motorcycle?

In May 2007, I traveled to Northwestern China and rode 1,700 miles of the Silk Road on a Chinese dual sport. That is – by far – the coolest thing I’ve ever done on a motorcycle.

If you could pick one place you’d recommend as a riding destination / experience, what/where would that be?

I loved the Silk Road.

If someone handed you a blank check and said “go buy a motorcycle you’d enjoy riding (not just collecting), what would you pick?

The Ducati 1098 S

Susan Carpenter, photo by Don Kelsen / latimes

(photo by Don Kelsen / latimes)

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[…] bloggers who interviewed Sue Carpenter: Motorcycle Misadventures, and a pre-axe interview with Mid-Life Rider…and let’s not forget Helmet Hair (from whom I lifted the photo…sorry HH I’m […]

robert mellon August 17, 2009


the u tube review you did on the 2009 indian chief was great, all i keep thinking of is riding around arizona. i am the owner of imc of pittsburgh. if you are ever this far east please stop in and ride around pittsburgh on a new chief.

thank you
724 816 9202

x games December 31, 2009

Thanks that was a fantastic post!

ray gould April 5, 2010

i would like to know what brands i can explore for off road riding
would appreciate whatever help u can give. 562/903-8900

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