New female riders can find inspiration in the accomplishments of many other women who since the beginning of the last century have decided to follow their dreams and dared to live their lives on their own terms around motorcycles. Although all have a different personality they share common attributes, independence, courage and a very special skill at overcoming adversity, personally and professionally. Cris Sommer Simmons is among today’s women riders who is not only riding long distances in a pursuit of freedom and self expression but also devoting her life to educate and inspire other women.
Involved with motorcycles since she was 9-year-old when she began riding with her stepfather, at 14 she was already riding on her own and at 19 she was the proud owner of her first Harley Davidson. In 1983 with Linda “Jo” Giovanni and the blessings of Becky Brown, she participated in the creation of a Women In The Wind Chapter to become an international riding organization with over 60 chapters. Through the publishing of newsletters, it was the beginning of her motorcycle writing career leading to the creation of Harley Women Magazine with the official support of Harley-Davidson. As time went she also contributed as a freelance writer to American Iron, Motorcycle Collector, Easyriders, V-twin Magazine and publications in other countries including Japan, Spain and Australia.
She is an inductee in the National Motorcycle Hall Of Fame, in the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation and in the Sturgis Hall Of fame. She authored 2 books, a children’s book “Patrick Wants To Ride” and “American Motorcycle Girls 1900 To 1950” an Amazon best seller in its category. She is the only American woman to have participated and accomplished the full Cannonball Endurance Run on her beloved 1915 Harley-Davidson named “Effie”. Through her answers to my questions, learn a little bit more about your riding sister. (credit pictures: top L. Klock, middle M. Vallee, bottom Doobie Dan)
Cyril. When you were a teenager you wanted to become a? Cris.I wanted to be an artist or… I wanted to fly airplanes and be a “wing walker”, one who walks on the wings of airplanes while soaring through the air! Thank goodness I grew up to ride motorcycles instead.
Cyril. Tell me about your first time on a motorcycle? Cris. I was 9 years old and it was on my step dad’s old Honda. I was hooked, I can still remember how free I felt… I loved the feeling of the wind in my face even then. I knew it was something I would always do.
Cyril. If you were not active in the motorcycle industry, what would you do? Cris. Paint, be a photographer, write screenplays. I’d probably be into antique cars or airplanes. Maybe be a mechanic or restorer. I love old machines.
Cyril. What is your favorite way to relax? Cris. I actually do crossword puzzles and listen to music. Hiking is fun too. Working on my old motorcycles.
Cyril. What is the last music you downloaded in your iPod? Cris. Train, “Save Me San Francisco” and Doobie Brothers new album “World Gone Crazy” (of course.) My best girlfriend Gail Swanson’s, “Simple Truth”.
Cyril. What are you afraid of? Cris. Something bad happening to my husband or my kids.
Cyril. What is your type of biker? Cris. One who is passionate about life, who loves adventure and isn’t too macho.
Cyril. What is the person you would love to meet? Cris. Paul McCartney or the late Princess Diana. He’s such a talent and the work she did was wonderful. She had one of those smiles they told you she was a good person.
Cyril. Preferred motorcycle to ride? Cris. I love my Harleys! I am a Harley Girl all these years! The old ones are so much fun to ride, but the new 110 cu Screaming Eagle is the bomb too.
Cyril. We are having dinner together. Steakhouse, Italian, Thai, Sushi, French or Vegetarian? Cris. Thai, Sushi or anything with lots of fresh veggies. I love good Italian and French too though.
Cyril. If you would ask me to build a custom, which style? Cris. Bobber.. I love the old school look.
Cyril. Which film made you cry? Cris. Good Will Hunting… a few others.
Cyril. Name five things you hate. Cris. That may be too strong a word for me. I don’t hate anything really. More like pet peeves. I don’t like to be late. I don’t like mean people. Or bigotry. Or back stabbers. Or jealousy.
Cyril. What is your best life achievement? Cris. My family. My kids have grown into amazing nice people. My husband is also one of the kindest and sweetest people on this earth. I have also had a great career. Living my dreams is important to me. Completing the Motorcycle Cannonball was a huge challenge and something I’m so proud that I was a part of.
Cyril. If you would be a season, which one? Cris. Spring. Full of new ideas and adventure.
Cyril. What do you miss most at home when you are in a rally? Cris. My kids and animals. (dogs, cats, horses and a mini donkey) My husband, if he’s not with me.
Cyril. What was the last book you read? Cris. “Biker Chicz of North American” and “The Louvre, a Tale of a Palace”.
Cyril. Where is your favorite vacation place? Cris. Home in Hawaii is a vacation these days.
Cyril. Do you have any guilty pleasures? Cris. Chocolate, ice cream and old motorcycles.
Cyril. Do you collect anything? Cris. Yes… anything to do with old motorcycles and old motorcycle photos. Donkey statues too.
Cyril. What was your worst buy? Cris. Something I bought on eBay that I was unknowingly bidding against my husband for. I won!
Cyril. What was the most embarrassing thing you have ever made? Cris. Probably some food that didn’t turn out.
Cyril. What is the best thing you can cook? Cris. I make a mean turkey. Thanksgiving is my thing.
Cyril. When was the last time you were really angry? Cris. Can’t remember really… I’m very patient. (Ask my husband)
Cyril. What is your perfect weekend when you are at home? Cris. Watching football or hanging out with my family.
Cyril. What is your preferred rally? Cris. Sturgis. I met my husband there in 1989.
Cyril. What is the worst question a journalist asked you? Cris. If I would go out with him… 🙂