What it Feels Like to Push Through Your Motorcycle Comfort Zone

Saying yes to flat track racing Harley-Davidsons in Croatia!

By Jess Kline, Photos by Caylee Hankins

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As the flag dropped, I was off with sheer determination and perseverance, racing a Harley-Davidson Street Rod 750 flat track motorcycle on a makeshift racetrack in the middle of the Croatian mountains. With focus in my eyes, I raced against my challenger with everything I had. It was a scene straight out of the Harley and the Davidsons docuseries (if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a must-watch). But the serious gear and high performance bikes were a stark contrast compared to the earlier flat track bikes used in the early 1900s.

push through motorcycle comfort zone riding in croatia
The Harley-Davidson Ride, Ride, Slide! international press event was a once in a lifetime opportunity. When you get an invitation to ride motorcycles in Croatia with other motojournalists you don’t turn it down. With little more than an itinerary and a list of gear to pack, I hopped on a plane to Europe with pretty much no idea of what to expect.
push through motorcycle comfort zone ruben xaus grant martin
Champion racers Ruben Xaus and Grant Martin offered instruction and tips on how to control the Harleys on the dirt course.

As nervous as I was to race that day, I pulled on a leather race suit, strapped the metal plate to my left foot, hopped on a pretty heavy 750 Harley-Davidson Street Rod, and gave away my flat track virginity. No, wait, I earned it, and I showed that bike who was boss.

push through motorcycle comfort zone harley davidson
Starting in second gear, I slowly made my way around corners, hoping to keep the bike from sliding out. I used every skill I had been taught that morning and while I didn’t win the race, my personal goals for the day had been met.
push through motorcycle comfort zone no front brake
No front brake says the label on the handlebar clamp. No problem! I adapted pretty quickly and found my groove on the track.

The best part was the positive accolades I received even before I left the track. I could hear the cheering and see fists pumping the air from my fellow racers, and then I was congratulated by a local Croatian man who was thrilled to see me out racing. Apparently news spreads fast, and when Harley-Davidson comes to town, you make plans to check it out. This man patted my back so many times that I lost count; I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but the smile on his face was big enough to make me smile just as widely in return. A few women who watched the race came up and thanked me for representing “the girls club.”

push through motorcycle comfort zone flat track racers
By the end of the fun day my fellow racers and I were exhausted and sweaty, but with huge smiles plastered across our faces.

When I returned home, my friends commented about how brave they thought I was, and how they could never travel to another country not knowing who would be there. I guess at one point in my life I would have thought the same thing, but then I realized that I would not have experienced half of the things I have in my life if I just stayed in my comfort zone.

Later that day I was chatting with another motojournalist and I commented on how I was the only woman rider racing that day. He calmly shrugged his shoulders while saying that he didn’t even notice. As we discussed it more he said that with more and more women riding these days it isn’t as noticeable. At first I wasn’t sure what to think, because I’m used to usually being the only girl in a group of riders, often characterized by bright colors and other distinguishing features so people know I’m a girl. Why? Well I’m proud of course. I’m proud of my heritage, I’m proud of the fact that my mom started riding in the 50s, when it wasn’t as common for women to ride motorcycles, and I’m proud that my parents chose to raise their daughters on bikes.

There are days where I rock all black and probably look like a boy. There are times I’m torn about my identity on a bike. Sure, I’m proud to be a chick who rides, and sometimes I want to shout it out and stand out, but then there are days when I just want to ride, with whoever, wherever, and whenever, wearing whatever. To hear that another motojournalist didn’t notice that I was the only girl there was cool, eye opening, and intriguing, all at the same time.

When I attended the Sisters Centennial Ride in 2016, I remember someone saying, “The day people don’t notice I’m a girl on a bike is the day that I know we’ve accomplished what we set out to do.”

push through motorcycle comfort zone caylee hankins
Our photographer, Caylee Hankins (shown here), thanked me for representing the ladies out on that track that day. I learned that she is a badass chick who also rides bikes and races flat track in the UK. Isn’t it crazy how motorcycles connect us?
push through motorcycle comfort zone jess kline
At the end of the day, I just want to ride and even though I put myself in situations that some may find incredibly intimidating, I push myself to get outside of my comfort zone because that’s what you have to do if you want to make your mark on the world.

So ladies and fellow riders reading this, I challenge you to do something different. Accept an opportunity, race a flat track bike, travel and ride in another country. We have one life to live, and we need to enjoy every moment. To the women reading this: be proud to be a girl who rides, but be even prouder that sometimes people may not notice.

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