They will participate in the Cannonball Endurance Run, a 3325 miles grueling coast to coast vintage motorcycle race ending 17 days later in Santa Monica, California. And the first and only American woman who will take this challenge of physical and performance endurance on her 1915 Harley-davidson is no other than Cris Sommers Simmons.
Cris has been involved with motorcycles since she was 9-years-old when she began riding with her stepfather. At 14, she was riding on her own and at 19 she the owner of her first Harley Davidson. She is the co-founder of the magazine Harley Woman, the world’s first motorcycle magazine just for women. She has been a freelance writer contributing to many publications here in the US and abroad. She wrote a children’s book that has sold over 12,000 copies titled “Patrick Wants to Ride” and she also released “The American Motorcycle Girls 1900-1950” which is currently the number one selling motorcycle book on Amazon. She is also an inductee in the National Motorcycle Hall Of Fame, in the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation and in the Sturgis Hall Of fame.
I asked Cris to give me an update on her preparation for what she considers the thrill of her lifetime. Working on her 1915 Harley with husband Pat Simmons she was able to get the bike up and running. She already practiced riding it and got familiar with its hand shift/foot clutch, an experience she describes as a little bit scary at first. The machine is right now in California, getting some extra needed motor work done, adding safety lights, maybe a rear brake and whatever she can – and is authorized by strict regulations- to make the 95 year-old motorcycle as road worthy as she can. Cris will not bring any extra motors, just a few extra parts and tires that she may need.
Her bike featured here is called “Effie”, named after Effie Hotchkiss, the first woman to ride across the US in 1915 (with her Mom Avis in the sidecar) and because interestinglyenough, her “Effie” is the same exact model and year Harley-Davidson she is going to ride. Except that she will not have a sidecar and her Mom is not going! Wanted to know more about the technical aspect of the race, Cris explained: “My bike is in Class 3, for Twin Multi Speed machines and should cruise at around 50 mph. I am told that some of the smaller, single cylinder machines will only be able to do 25 or 30 mph. May be tough for them the first few days, as we will ride in the hills of North Carolina. It is going to be a tough ride for all of us, but I am up for the challenge and adventure. To me “winning” means finishing. I’ll be thrilled if I can do that”. She also mentioned the importance of a good physical preparation for such a long (17 days) endurance vintage race, and is working out three days a week with a personal trainer .
No doubt that all along this phenomenal vintage race, Cris Sommers Simmons will think of her pioneering sisters of the 1910’s, Augusta and Adeline Van Buren, Effie Hotchkiss and all the other women who completed the transcontinental journey after surviving crashes, breakdowns, mud holes, exhaustion, dehydration, etc. And once again she is going to prove to all of you that women are far more capable than society still gives them credit for.
Cris is looking for sponsors and my personal opinion is that all major players from our industry, in one way or the other, should support her efforts. I hope that I will have to forward your offers to her. Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run. (picture Cris by Pat Simmons Jr)