Her Story. A series of blog posts telling the stories of 'women who ride' from all corners of the globe. We hope that by sharing these stories we can help encourage other women to build their confidence, learn from others and inspire others.
This month we have a story by Anna Rigby AKA RedSpade of Cumming, Georgia, USA. Red found a passion for club level racing & riding has helped her overcome social anxiety and gave her another angle at life when her body failed her.
We hope you enjoy her story!
My name is Anna but in the motorsports arena I’m known by RedSpade and I live in Cumming GA, United States. I’m 42 years old and my riding story started about 14 years ago. Growing up and struggling with severe social anxiety I never imagined myself to be where I am today. I have my extended family to thank for that. I was introduced to motorcycles on the racetrack: namely most of the men in my husband’s family rode and a couple did trackways and club racing. My father also rode motorcycles and had two Kawasakis when I was growing up, but at the time I didn’t share in the passion. It wasn’t until I attended my first AMA and local club level races that I became intrigued. All these men doing bad ass things on their sportbikes simply blew my mind and I became very interested in the sport. Until then I really didn’t know that women could ride—I’d never encountered a female in the sport until then. There were only two female racers at my local track at the time, but they ignited a passion that burns strong to this day.
CREDIT: Verity Yata - Yata Photography
About 2010 my husband bought this first sport bike, a 1998 Honda Blackbird. Having grown up riding two stroke dirt bikes he was no novice. I quickly took a liking to being a passenger and couldn’t get enough of going on scenic mountain rides with him. After about a year of being a passenger I got my first taste of being on track two-up with a friend, this marked one of the top five most changing and exhilarating moments of my life. After that I was hooked and wanted to finally experience the thrill of piloting a motorcycle on my own.
At the same time this was happening I started to experience crippling nerve pain that brought my life to a halt. There were several months where I couldn’t drive a car anymore, couldn’t clean my house, couldn’t go out, couldn’t stand or walk without being in severe pain. And so the many doctor’s visits started and everything around me felt like it was caving in. The only reprieve I had were my outings with my husband on his motorcycle as a pillion. After about eight months and many tests and doctor’s visits I finally started finding solutions for my neurological issues. At the moment I was able to walk a bit again, I booked an MSF course. It was life or death for me at that point. Living in utter pain not being able to do anything was slowly killing me inside. But because of this pain I learned to never take anything for granted again and so I didn’t want learning to ride a motorcycle to pass me by.
I took my MSF course, albeit awkwardly because I had to shift with my heal (at the time I couldn’t flex my toes up because of the pain so I used the heal of my armored racing boots to snag the lever up). To be honest, learning to ride a motorcycle was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life at the age of 30. Thankfully I passed and the next weekend I went out and bought a used 2011 Honda CBR250r. It wasn’t the motorcycle I’d dreamed of, but it was the only one I could handle in my current condition. Riding was hard and awkward in the beginning. I fell a lot because of cramping pain or becoming off balanced on uneven ground where my feet couldn’t support me, but I didn’t let it stop me. Just eight months later I bought my second motorcycle, at the time my dream bike: a 2008 Honda CBR600rr in a pearlescent orange color. I was in love with the feeling of when I was riding, I felt free and able to be out in the world again even though I couldn’t do much else on my own. I was addicted to this feeling and my first year I put 17,000 on my bikes.
A year after learning to ride I finally did my first track day weekend with my husband. I still remember the anticipation and absolute fear. But in those two days I learned more about riding than I had over the entire previous year of being on two wheels on the street, and this is where the true obsession started. As I pushed myself and worked with coaches, I began to develop a deep appreciation for race craft and all the intricacies of learning your machine to its fullest. So many lessons made me realize that the more I learned the more I found I didn’t know anything. And so, I was obsessed with learning as much as I could.
Eleven years later and tens of thousands of track and street miles under my belt I feel fulfilled and happy in my journey. Along the way I learned that what I was scared of and what gave me anxiety, was laughable in the face of the dangers I was experiencing on my bikes. Riding helped me overcome my social anxiety and gave me another angle at life when my body failed me. I even finally got to do some club level racing which was my absolute dream when I started out. I’ve also become mechanically inclined which is pretty amazing considering I have two left hands. The concept of mechanics was lost on me and it took me a while to grasp, but now I feel it’s given me a much more rounded education in how things function in the world.
Along the way I’ve met countless amazing individuals that have brought value and joy into my life. The friends I’ve made and experiences I’ve amassed could have never happened without this sport. I’ve also lost friend in the process as well. It’s a sobering moment and a reminder always that this sport is so very dangerous. Most people that don’t ride will never understand what we experience on two wheels and why we continue to put ourselves in harms way. I can’t quite explain it other than the feeling of sheer joy I get from hitting a corner just right is equivalent to pure bliss. The feeling of trust in your own handiwork at 155mph and the moments of mental clarity that is flow state are unparalleled to anything I’ve ever felt in my life before. So yeah, you could say I’m just a bit obsessed! Marco Simoncelli once said, “You live more for five minutes going fast on a bike than other people do in all of their life” and he was not wrong.
Follow her journey on Instagram: @RedSpade