Meet Heather MacEachern

Last fall, I put the word out to get a bunch of different girls together for a riding weekend. Heather showed up and quickly became everyone's favorite riding buddy, coach and cheerleader all rolled into one. She's living proof that you meet the best people on two wheels.

Get to know Heather in our newest FAST FRIENDS feature: 

 Photo by Jared Kramer

Photo by Jared Kramer

Heather MacEachern, 2017 KTM 250XC - Nyack, NY  @heathermac909

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN RIDING DIRT BIKES?

I learned how to ride when I was 4 years old, on a little Honda QA50! I was born into a motorcycle family - My Dad used to race, my Mom used to ride, and both of my older brothers ride - so it was in my blood! As a baby and toddler they'd take me for rides on the bikes, so it was only natural that I wanted to ride too. 

I only rode a few times a year up until I was about 12. Then I got involved in school sports and discovered boys and didn’t really ride for another 10 years or so.  I rediscovered dirtbikes again at 22, and started racing at 26.  So I guess you could say I was a bit of a late bloomer.

 Photo by Bob Steiner

Photo by Bob Steiner

WHAT MADE YOU GET BACK INTO RIDING?

In college I played competitive sports that required intense training. When that ended, I moved back to NY, and felt this huge void. I'm extremely competitive by nature, and I needed something to focus that energy on. One of my brothers had just gotten a new dirtbike, so he offered me his old one to ride - a 1994 Kawasaki KDX200. I was 22 years old, and I went riding in the woods for the first time ever!

HOW'D IT GO? 

I was a complete train wreck, haha! This bike was a tank. It was so heavy and I couldn’t touch the ground. I couldn’t make it over any hills or logs without help. I wrecked many times, and could barely pick the bike up when I did. After that, I was sore and exhausted, but I loved the thrill and the challenge. I was like, "This is what I’m going to do from now on!" And so I did!

 Photo by Jim Danvers 

Photo by Jim Danvers 

WHAT KIND OF RIDING DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST?

I love riding and racing in the woods. I raced hare scrambles for 11 years, and then switched over to enduros for a few years. I love the challenge of the changing terrain, and the thrill of not knowing what obstacle might be coming up next. I would have to say that racing National Enduros are my favorite because of the format. I like the idea of being out there for 4-5 hours at a time, and (on most occasions) not covering the same ground twice. I love the constant terrain changes and the tight trail. 

 Photo by JoAnn Galley

Photo by JoAnn Galley

DO YOU EVER TALK TO YOURSELF IN YOUR HELMET? 

I ALWAYS talk to myself in my helmet when racing! I curse a lot, so I probably can’t repeat anything here that I would normally say. I am usually telling myself to get my sh*t together haha. Joking aside, I do remind myself to breathe, focus, relax and not hold on so tight!

 Photo by Jared Kramer

Photo by Jared Kramer

WHAT BIKE DO YOU RIDE NOW, AND WHY?

I ride a 2017 KTM 250XC, and I absolutely love it!  I can’t say enough about the chassis, suspension and engine. It is by far the best bike I’ve ever owned. The center of gravity is low, so the bike feels lighter. And with its counter-balanced engine there is virtually no vibration. This is the first time I’ve ever had a bike that I didn’t feel the need to mess with… the stock gearing and suspension are perfect.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM RIDING DIFFERENT TYPES OF BIKES OVER THE YEARS?

My first smaller bike, the Yamaha TTR125L, was the best beginner bike for me and for the type of riding I was doing. I learned so much on this bike and raced it for a couple of years. 

Then I tried a two-stroke Kawasaki KX100. I raced that for a couple of years then up-sized to a four-stroke KX250F. This was a tough change: The bike was heavier, taller, and so hard to kickstart that my right thigh became noticeably bigger than my left one!

Next, I got an electric start and made my way back to two-stroke through a streak of KTM's: a 250XCF-W, a 200XC, a 2014 250XC-W and the 2017 250XC I'm currently riding. Each bike helped me get to the next level, and taught me the importance of having a machine that's set up properly for the type of riding I'm doing.

There are pros and cons of each. four-strokes have smooth power and stability, two-strokes are lighter and easier to start and pick up off the ground (which seems to happen quite a bit haha). It's really personal preference, and you learn so much the more you ride.

 Photo by Jared Kramer

Photo by Jared Kramer

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE NEWER RIDERS?

1.  Never, ever ride without protective gear! I cannot stress this enough. Gear can be expensive, but trust me serious injuries are even more expensive. It is worth the investment to have good quality protection.

2. Don't give up or get discouraged. This is not an easy sport, and you are going to have bad days. Just remember that everyone has to start somewhere, and don’t be too hard on yourself.

3. Find the right bike for your height, weight and riding ability, as well as the type of riding you’re doing. Take the time to set your bike up to fit your needs.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF A LADIES-ONLY RIDING EVENT?

A couple years ago I had an opportunity to join in a ladies-only ride day with Husqvarna. That was my first time riding with ALL women and it was amazing! I loved every second of it.  Fast forward to this past year, I was contacted by a girl I met through Instagram about an all-girls riding weekend, and I jumped at the chance to join in!  

She and I rode up together (which was the first time we actually met in person!) and that weekend I met a dozen more really great girls, all different types of riders. We rode together, helped each other out, and just had the best time!  Turns out it was the planning event for Over And Out.

I'm taking a little break from racing this year, so I'm really excited to have this event to be a part of and I'm looking forward to meeting some more riding buddies!  

@overandoutmoto @heathermac909 #fastfriends