a side profile of Patricia Fernandez on her custom-built Indian Bagger, set for the Bagger Racing League

Interview: Patricia Fernandez

The Girl That Raced A Bagger

I’m just going to come out and say it – the motorcycle community is (mostly) full of lads with a love for bikes and a passion for tweaking things that they broke. 

So what happens when the world’s fastest female racer gets on a Bagger for the track?

I’m chewing a bit on the tip of my pencil as I contemplate this. 

Patricia Fernandez is no joke – the 36-year old Oklahoman has been racing professionally since 2012, and has ridden everywhere, on pretty much anything you can think of. 

She’s hopped from superbikes to sidecars, dirt bikes, even competing in the newer racing Bagger classes like the Bagger Racing League(BRL) and King Of The Baggers(KOTB).

Most importantly, she’s done it all in a world where most pro racers (if not all) are guys.

There was so much to ask her, so I decided to go with a little of everything.

 

Tell us about your inspiration for motorcycles, how that all started.

I always loved motorcycles – can’t remember a time when I didn’t.

Patricia Fernandez working on a motorcycle
Patricia Fernandez working on a motorcycle

When I was younger, I just thought motorcycles were cool, and I always asked for a motorcycle or a dirt bike, and obviously, it was a hard no. 

The first time I recall seeing a girl on a sportbike was in the Matrix movie. Neo’s little girlfriend was on a semi-truck, then got on a Ducati and ended up riding it off on the highway or whatever. 

To me, that was the first time I remember seeing a female on a motorcycle. I thought it was so bad-ass. 

When that scene came in the Matrix, I was like, ‘Oh my God. There’s a bad-ass, hot chick on a bad-ass bike, and she’s riding the wheels off it and stuff’. And I just thought it was so awesome.

Now, Black Widow has just come out – and looking at the difference between my past and the present? Huge difference. Now you see women on bikes everywhere. 

Later down the road, I had left my parent’s house – I wasn’t allowed a motorcycle as long as I was under that roof, so I left – and I signed up with The Motorcycle Safety Foundation Class. 

I went into a big parking lot with a little Rebel 125, and I did the course. 

It was funny because they say that women have a lower center of gravity, and for the sportbikes, we have naturally stronger legs and core, where men have a naturally stronger upper body. 

I didn’t really use my own upper body until I went to the big bike after the course – and then the upper body became an issue, and I started to change training and stuff. 

When I started to get into the world of pro racing, I had problems with my starts, and we went to a drag strip where a multi-time champ was coaching the classes.

He said, ‘Women are actually better at starts because they have better reaction times.’ 

Ha! I knew I was meant to ride, but that little tip was great! 

No one ever really talks about that stuff. 

I’ll tell you this: To any woman that gets on the back with a man – I think you’re braver than someone that rides solo, to be honest. 

Riding on the back like that, you have less control. So I think it’s cool that solo female riders are more common now, that women are perceived as stronger characters and capable of handling a bike.

 

How did you find the world of pro racing?

When I started pro racing, there weren’t very many girls, and it was nasty. Pro Racing was a whole different level of competition. 

It’s interesting – at first, when I got into the world of racing, everyone wanted to help me. I was the only girl on the track; they would offer their aid, I wasn’t a threat to them. 

But then I felt as I progressed and as I became faster, they didn’t want to help me. And then I became their competition – and that’s when it started becoming ugly. 

I remember I first wanted pink rims and all this other stuff, but we had to end up hiding it. 

I got to the point where I had to tuck my hair in my leathers, make the bike black, had to make it super incognito because guys would tell me they’d target or fixate on me, or they’d hit me. 

Patricia Fernandez warming up on a bike for the track
Patricia Fernandez warming up on a bike in anticipation of a day at the track.

I’ve had my own teammates tell me they would take me out before they’d ever let me beat them.

In the last 10 years that I’ve been around, that’s gone downhill a lot more, but I think that’s also because there are more women, and we’re around more. 

I’m also more established now, so I think it’s harder to bully me around versus a newbie that just started. I really took it for a while, though. 

I remember a guy would bump you or push you on the track, kind of intimidate you. And then I got tired of it – I got to the point where someone did that to me, and I pushed him right back. 

The racer came in after the round was over, and he literally said to me, ‘I wanted to push you and thought that you would lean back…and when you pushed right back, I didn’t mess with you.’ 

And it was a light bulb moment to me – that if I stand my ground and don’t let them bully me, then I won’t get bullied.

Funny thing – I have found (in the world of motorcycle racing at least) women aren’t necessarily competitive against men. But I did an all-female race down in Mexico…and let me tell you, that was just about the nastiest race I’ve ever been in. 

We women might not feel like we need to compete against other guys but put 20 girls together at one time in a room…there’s going to be some hair pulling, haha. 

Groups of women competing like that terrify me. 

One thing to note – overseas, I never experienced any of that underhanded competition there. There’s a lot more community, and everyone just likes each other a lot. It’s more so the really competitive sport of racing on a pro-level – that is where I’ve experienced the most of that stupidity.

 

You competed in road racing overseas. Besides the camaraderie, how did you find the differences between racing in the Western and Central hemispheres?

Well…they refer to it as ‘proper road racing’ there… they don’t like when we call it road racing, haha. 

100%, night and day difference. 

They do everything they can to make it as safe as possible, and it’s impressive to see – and when I’d fly out there a couple of weeks early, I’d be impressed at how much maintenance work they do on a daily basis. 

But at the end of the day, you’re on roads – it’s hard to wrap your mind around like, ‘Okay, apex the tree, hit the wall.’ 

Patricia Fernandez competing at the Ulster Grand Prix
Patricia Fernandez competing at the Ulster Grand Prix

There are so many uncontrollable factors. Either you want to do it, or you don’t. Other pro-racers have gone with me, and they’re like, ‘Absolutely not’ because there’s such a tiny margin for error. 

I remember the first couple of times I went to the Ulster Grand Prix, I was like, ‘What’s on the ground?’ It looked almost like markers when you saw them from far away – but they were actually PEOPLE that lay on the ground for a better view. You’re not allowed to be on the road surface, but they’d want to get as close as they could. 

The first few laps out, I had to get stuff like that out of my head – it was so different compared to what I was used to.

There was one incident, maybe 2018, 2017, I can’t remember. I DO remember commenting on it right before it happened, though…people would take selfie sticks, and they’d stand behind the hedges and stick the selfie stick out over the hedge on the road to get a good view or whatever. 

And there was actually an incident where a selfie stick ended up hitting a racer’s shoulder, and it knocked him off the bike and broke his collarbone and stuff…all because some dude stuck his stick outside the hedge to get a better view. 

And so now they have to make announcements about it, warning people off. 

And I’m like, ‘It’s absolutely ridiculous that they even have to do that – that would never happen here,’ haha.

I think the way I approach proper road racing mentally is a lot different as well. 

For proper road racing, my team – my boyfriend Cory West, and everyone else – knows that they can’t bring up anything negative in any way, shape, or form for the whole week.

I’ve been involved with incidents where a rider goes down or does whatever, and you just don’t talk about it. Don’t bring it up because you can’t think about it. It’s just, ‘Have fun.’ You don’t bring up anything that will unbalance you. You can do it on a circuit but not racing on the road with so many uncontrollable variables. 

So literally all my crew, my boyfriend, everyone knows, there’s a big mental thing because it’s hard to go out and race with the realization of some of the things that can go wrong.

What’s the saying, ‘The faster you go’? Haha.

 

As the ‘world’s fastest female racer’, you’re getting some amazing times clocked. Would you say that the promotion of your female presence interferes at all with your career?

When I have to get ready for photoshoots that show my body off, I’m sweating, freaking out. I would rather do a run any day of the week if I could be completely honest. And I hate cardio. It’s the devil.

Funny how the photoshoots came about, actually – when I first started riding and stuff, I was just a short cute girl, and I felt I was really dismissed. No one ever thought I was going to amount the anything. And to be honest, I didn’t intend to be a pro-racer, but I liked riding and stuff, and it took me where it was. 

On the track, there were a few girls that were around, and they had really bad reputations of sleeping around. They weren’t necessarily there to go racing.

I had a really good coach at the time, Jason Pridmore, who’s now an announcer for MotoAmerica. 

And I remember him telling me, ‘I’m not going to help you unless you’re serious about racing. If you are just trying to come to the paddock to meet guys or do whatever, I don’t want to help you.’ 

And I was like, ‘No, I’m 100% serious and dedicated.’

And so, for a very long time, I didn’t post or do a lot of feminine things or anything because I really wanted to be taken seriously as a racer. 

Later, I was working for Motul, and the lady who was in charge of marketing at Motul approached me and was like, ‘Why don’t you ever think about doing some glamorous stuff? You’re a pretty girl.’

And I was like, ‘No, no, no. I’m serious. I want to be taken seriously.’ 

And she goes, ‘Think about your name.’ 

My name tag on social media is Lady_Racer926.

She goes, ‘You’re a lady first, and you’re also a racer. You’re already accredited. You need to market yourself. You have something no one else has.” 

This was after I was already pro and was racing overseas – and it was a light bulb moment to me. Then I was like, man, maybe I should start utilizing that. 

A three-part photo: Patricia Fernandez in a bikini, on a super bike, and in full leathers.
A three-part photo: Patricia Fernandez in a bikini, on a superbike at the Ulster Grand Prix, and sporting full leathers prior to a race.

It worked. 

Now, I’ll have a world record photo of me racing overseas or doing something huge, and social media is like, man, whatever. But if you have a photo of me in a bikini, it’s 10,000 likes.

I’m like, ‘What’s wrong with these people?’, haha. 

But that’s the way the world works. 

One racer could be a second faster, but if this other racer has 100,000 followers on social media, that guy will most likely get the sponsorship before the other rider.

 

You’ve done sidecar racing. You’ve done dirt biking. You’ve taste-tested so many different, diverse niches of the motorcycle industry. Is all of this a conscious decision to give something a try, or is it just, ‘hop in my sidecar and don’t die’?

So, it’s 100% ‘hop in my sidecar and don’t die’, haha! 

So, with the sidecar, I was at a club race meeting to race my motorcycle, and they called me to the registration office. A guy shows up, and they’re talking about a monkey (I figured out later that the passenger in a sidecar is called a monkey). 

It happened to be a race weekend where they were doing an exhibition thing, and they had the sidecar races. I guess the guy came to the registration office and asked if there was anybody that could be the monkey for his sidecar (his guy didn’t show up). 

And the office was like, ‘We know someone crazy enough to do that.’ 

I told him that I had never done sidecar racing before and asked him if it was hard, and he was like, ‘Oh, we’ll practice in the parking lot.’ 

No joke! We did a couple of laps, and I was like, ‘Ok, let’s do this.’

I always joke around and say I’ll try anything twice. Surprisingly enough, this was also the same thing with the Bagger. 

Patricia Fernandez sitting next to her Indian Racer Bagger at the Bagger Racing League

When they recommended me, when Cory approached me and asked if I’d like to race a Bagger, I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ I’m super short’.

That was my biggest concern. I like to lie and say I’m 5’3′- it rounds up, right?

My whole thing is, I’ll try it. And that’s what I said to Cory. ‘I don’t know if I’ll be good, but I’m willing to try it.’ 

But it’s cool because everything correlates in a certain type of way. When you do the dirt bike stuff, you’re on smaller bikes, but getting control of the rear end breaking loose and learning how to control that, actually makes you a better rider in the rain on the sportbikes. 

And when you’re on a sportbike, and you’re in the rain, and it gets loose, it’s almost the same thing as being on a dirt bike. 

If you just talk about controls and skills, it may look different, but it all relates.

 

How did you find the bagger as a race bike?

It doesn’t matter what you put me on – if I’m riding solo, I’ll just ride around. But put ONE PERSON next to me, and then I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s on. I have to win.’ 

I always joke around and say, ‘I’d race an ostrich, a unicycle, whatever – just let me race.’ 

With the Bagger, I went out, and I was like, ‘Oh, let me try it.’ 

And every lap, I told them not to clock me because I was nervous, but they did anyway.

My first lap was 210. My second lap was 209, 208 – every lap was just dropping. 

And then I came in, and I was like, ‘I think I CAN ride one of these.’ 

And they’re like, ‘Ohh, you’re riding one all right.’ 

They already knew – it’s just about getting comfortable and adapting to something that’s a little different. 

A view of Patricia Fernandez trying out the Indian Bagger for the Bagger Racing League

It is a little difficult because you don’t get a lot of seat time on the Baggers like you do a sportbike. These motors really aren’t made for what we’re doing. So you actually want to keep your seat time down.

I was used to hour-long sessions on the sportbikes. On those, if I run out of gas, I can come in, splash a bit of gas in or change tires and go right back out and ride for an hour straight. You can’t really do that on these baggers. Not at this performance level, considering how fast and hard we’re riding them. 

It was definitely weird hearing, ‘Take a break, don’t ride.’ 

I’m like, ‘I want to ride….’

 

There’s, of course, the King Of The Baggers (where you made your debut), and then there’s the Bagger Racing League. Do you prefer to promote one or the other?

I will promote anything that I do. 

a side profile of the Indian Bagger

So when I race in the Bagger Racing League, I promote the Bagger Racing League. When I race King Of the Baggers, I’m going to promote King Of the Baggers. 

As a racer, I’m not an organizer, and I’m not an owner. 

For me, what’s best is to race. I want to race everywhere. Every day, every week, every chance I get. 

When they first did that Bagger race last year at Laguna Seca, I think everyone thought it was going to be a one-time exhibition thing. And when it got four and a half million views in 10 days (or whatever it was), they were like, ‘Holy cow, this is a big deal.’ 

Now, it’s such a big deal that there’s competition – obviously, whenever something becomes really popular, multiple people want to capitalize on it.

 

Do you see yourself doing anything else, going into any other niches of the motorcycle industry?

 I’ll never NOT ride a motorcycle, but it’s a sport like any other, so usually, the older you get, it does become a little more difficult – and we’re in a sport where age, unfortunately, takes its toll. 

I guess it’s one of those things where the future is kind of bittersweet. As a racer, you know you won’t be able to race as much later on. 

For me, I’ll do anything – race a Bagger, be involved in user test or development, coach, advocate for women or rallies – anything that keeps me close to the world of riding and racing.

Stuff like that, it’s always going to be a part of me. 

The Custom-built Indian Bagger for the Bagger Racing League that Patricia Fernandez rides

I definitely don’t think I have the engineering brain for the designing part of things, though it’s cool to be a part of the customization of my Indian Bagger. I mean, everything we’re doing now is basically testing and development for these motorcycles. The parts that we’re developing now, in a couple of years, people will be able to buy, to build their race Bagger. 

Also…I actually would really like to go back to paramedic school. 

One of the sides of being a motorcycle racer is you meet a lot of really nice paramedics and nurses, haha! Every other race, you’re like, ‘Hey, it’s me again,’ haha. 

It would be cool to maybe be a paramedic at a racetrack once in a while to be able to help out.

I can also see myself at 80 years old with all-gray hair, still on a motorcycle, and going to a rally being all like, ‘I was the first woman to race a Bagger,’ trying to help other girls be a part of it. 

That would be something really neat to do if I stopped racing – maybe marketing or organizing for an event.

Bottom line, as long I can still ride, I’ll be happy.

 

Do you have any parting words that you could offer to any females wanting to start motorcycle riding or racing? Any advice you can give?

Just do it. 

I’m serious, haha, that’s all I got. 

Just. Do. It. 

Patricia Fernandez in transit with her tires for racing

They asked me that question on TV this past weekend, and it was funny – they’re like, ‘What advice do you have?’. 

I’m like, ‘Do it. Go out there, take a class, get your license, buy a motorcycle.’ 

The best thing you can do in this industry is buy a motorcycle and promote it. 

I mean, if you think about it, I wouldn’t have even been allowed to buy a motorcycle however many years ago. Crazy thought, but true. If I came in with cash to a dealership a couple of generations ago, they would refuse to sell me a bike because I was a woman. 

Now, women are racing and doing everything they couldn’t in the past. 

My biggest advice is if you want to do it, do it.

Never let anyone push you beyond your limits – because that’s the biggest risk to feeling safe and comfortable. 

Whatever your speed is, whatever your pace – whatever makes you feel comfortable, you do that. 

Don’t ever let someone make you do something that makes you uncomfortable because that’s when dangerous situations happen, whether it’s on the street or a race track. That’s what I tell ladies. 

This past weekend, I met a lot of ladies that were interested in riding, and I’m like, ‘Well, tell me this, has your husband or your boyfriend ever scared you when you were on the back?’ 

And they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah.’

I’m like, ‘You need to ride then. You need to get your own license – because, at the end of the day, no one can steer you but you. If you want to go 15 miles an hour, you go 15 miles an hour. If you want to go 50, go 50.’ 

But that’s the biggest thing when I try advocating for people – especially women. And even if you try riding and it’s not good for you, you’ll end up a better passenger anyways. 

This is for any ladies that are nervous or scared about the concept of riding: 

Learn it, but learn at your own pace.

Keep riding. 

Above all else, make sure to enjoy it.

 

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