Meet Lauren Leal
Lauren's a pint-size powerhouse who can handle a Harley Dyna Street Bob (103 cubic inches - 1688cc), but discovered (the hard way) that the best bike for her in the woods is a 140cc trail bike. Meet our newest #fastfriend, Lauren Leal.
Lauren Leal, Kawasaki KLX 140L - @electricleal
Interview by Ashley Lusky.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED RIDING DIRT BIKES?
I’ve been riding dirt bikes for three years now. I actually started riding in the woods to improve my street riding skills. Five years ago I took the state’s motorcycle course to get my motorcycle license but I didn’t do much riding after that because I was really afraid to get on the road with other vehicles. My boyfriend convinced me to get into the woods so that I could improve my riding skills overall, and it did help me get more comfortable riding on the street.
WHAT WAS ONE OF THE INITIAL CHALLENGES YOU HAD TO OVERCOME?
It can be really hard for people to get into the woods in the northeast, especially in states like New Jersey where there aren’t many places to legally ride off-road. Getting seat time is the only way to improve your riding, but it’s not like you can just rip through local hiking trails! So finding new places to ride is definitely a challenge, but the more people I meet who ride the more chances I get!
WHAT BIKE DID YOU BEGIN RIDING IN THE WOODS WITH?
I had a Honda CRF 250L at first, and it was a tough start for sure because I was definitely on the wrong bike for my size and for the type of riding I was doing. It was too tall. Even after lowering it, I still had trouble touching the ground; and, it was also extremely heavy – heavier than my boyfriend’s WR 450!
I actually broke my leg on this bike, and when that happened I couldn't even lift it off myself. Needless to say starting out this way didn't do much for my confidence.
AFTER YOU BROKE YOUR LEG, HOW DID YOU GET BACK "ON THE HORSE"?
It was scary at first because I was constantly thinking about protecting that leg. I just had to get out there and do it. My body healed pretty quickly, so it was just a matter of getting my mind to recover too. Getting a bike more well suited for me also helped.
WHAT DO YOU RIDE NOW?
I bought a KLX 140L this past fall and am already in love! It’s not quite a full-size bike, which is perfect for me at 5’4”. I am able to do so much more with this bike because I can actually touch my feet down and I can pick it up if I fall. It has the perfect amount of power for the trail riding that I am doing and I am actually able to pick up more speed because I’m working with less weight and I don’t have that lingering fear of “what do I do if I fall”. It's made a huge difference to how I feel about riding, I am so pumped about it.
WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO A NEW RIDER WHO'S THINKING OF BUYING A BIKE?
Buying a bike is a significant purchase, so you want to make sure you get it right. I highly recommend trying out as many different bikes as possible. Since most shops won’t let you test ride dirt bikes the way they do with street bikes, you really have to take advantage of opportunities within your personal network. I’ve found that most people are willing to let you try out their bikes – I mean, they’re dirt bikes, they’re meant to get dirty!
I went to Over And Out’s kickoff event this past fall and it was one of the best examples of just how open the dirt bike community can be. All of the ladies there were willing to share whatever they had – pads, gloves, goggles, and of course bikes! I brought a Honda XR 200 all the way from New Jersey and it wasn’t kicking over. That could’ve been a huge waste of a weekend for me but it wasn’t because others were willing to share their bikes. It ended up being an awesome experience – probably better than if my bike was working – because I got into the woods on three different bikes.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO MOST ABOUT OAO'S FIRST PUBLIC EVENT?
Besides making smores? Just kidding. I am super excited to meet more women who are enthusiastic about getting in the woods. I’ve met a handful of great female street riders, but not as many woods riders. I don’t ride in the woods by myself – if you do, you shouldn’t… That’s just crazy! I'm excited about Over And Out because I'd love to meet more girls who ride, but also just to have another chance to ride with the few I DO know. ...and to check out these awesome trails up in Hancock!
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A WOMAN WHO IS INTERESTED IN RIDING DIRT BIKES BUT HASN'T TAKEN THE LEAP?
Get up and go! If you know someone who rides dirt bikes, ask them if they will bring you along. There is already a ladies riding community and it’s growing so I think it’s just going to open more doors for women who are excited about woods riding.