The Secret Life Of Cris Sommer Simmons

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. Who were your childhood heroes? Cris. Probably my older brothers and sisters. I thought they were so cool.

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. Preferred actor and actress? Cris. Love Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep. He’s an amazing actor and she’s pretty good too.

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. Do you have any tattoos or piercings? Cris. Yes…

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… 🙂

22 Responses to “The Secret Life Of Cris Sommer Simmons”

  1. 1 David Uhl Dec 8th, 2010 at 9:33 am

    This was enlightening, will be helpful for the painting of her. thanks cyril.

  2. 2 Joe Mielke Dec 8th, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Great gal. She is a pleasure to be around and has many great stories to tell.

  3. 3 live2rideaglide Dec 8th, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Hey Cyril , What an awesome interview of an extremely interesting person. I so enjoy your articles about and with the unique and sometimes even controversial individuals that surround our motorcycle culture and industry . The people you meet as you ride, build and appreciate the bikes are many times, as enriching as the machines. Chris sounds like a bikers’ dream come true. An accomplished writer and passionate advocate of motorcycling in it’s truest form , I am looking forward to reading her book on female bikers, sounds intriguing. Many of us grew up in the time when women bikers were perceived as oddities and even weirdos and for the most part found little or no acceptance in the biker community or especially outside of it. I am glad that attitudes have changed and that opportunities for the girls have resulted in so many taking the front seat as well as the back. I have met and ridden with many female riders and for the most part have found them to be knowledgable and skillful in all areas of motorcycling. I have also found that they almost always smell better than most of guys I ride with , with a few notable exceptions. Please keep the interviews and articles about the people coming. You do a great job and we enjoy the fruits of your labor. Hey Chris , keep glidin’.

  4. 4 OMG Dec 8th, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Role model for all female riders.

  5. 5 LENNY ASTC PERFORMANCE Dec 8th, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Saw Chris pull in to the Santa Monica pier on the cannon ball run. This was an amazing ride for an amazing woman. Great moment in motorcycle history.

  6. 6 Larry Dec 8th, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Great questions and answers. Thank you for the contribution.

  7. 7 Quint w/ Dec 8th, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Thanks Cyril, for letting us get to know a little about Cris. I am so impressed by the Cannonball riders, all of them. They are my idols.

  8. 8 Helena Switz Dec 9th, 2010 at 12:18 am

    A lot of accomplishments. On behalf of all women, thank you Cris.

  9. 9 ROGUE Dec 9th, 2010 at 8:25 am

    She is all that and more. I am so happy for her.

  10. 10 Ann Skemp Dec 9th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    You ARE an inspiration!

  11. 11 Jim Petty #55 Dec 9th, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    Very good interview with Cris. She really is as patient as she says. Cris and her husband Pat are both the type people that make you feel good just to be around. I was fortunate to get to hang out with them on the Cannonball run.

  12. 12 DPD Dec 10th, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    After the “Perfect Weekend” answer (on top of everything else), I’ll admit….I’m crushing a little bit.
    Good article.

  13. 13 Shirlee Vallee Pitt Dec 10th, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    My daughter, Cris , is one of my unique ,and talented seven chickens; she is the epitome of Patience, (she has to be with me, as I’m “Shirl, in a whirl”…and she is always trying to” hone me in, as I’m a Rough Rider”,;'(, like Teddy Roosevellt,), she is a beautiful person with a heart of gold, who always puts her awesome family first, and so deserving of all her awards, and has rightfully earned the fruits of all her deeds and accomplishments…I am proud to be her mother, and every day I realize how she inspires me with her words of encouragement, her caring, and her lovely smile..

    I am her grateful mom,
    Lil Chiki

  14. 14 Dec 10th, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Sounds like a Wonderful Person and I will bet that She had a lot more to tell!

  15. 15 live2rideaglide Dec 10th, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Hey Shirlee , You got a keeper there. You are proud of her and justifably so. Good job raising her and the others.

  16. 16 Sasha Dec 10th, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Cris is a jewel of a soul and person. She is truth.

  17. 17 Mike Tomas, Kiwi Indian MotorCycle Co Dec 11th, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Cris, You are quite the lady, achiever and a super nice person. Congrats on your Cannonball run achievement.

  18. 18 Chris Hall Dec 11th, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Nice interview with Cris, she certainly is a special person and her family are too. Shirley you have a daughter to be proud of and I think it’s brilliant that you are on here to say how proud you are, you did a great job with her too.

  19. 19 nicker Dec 11th, 2010 at 8:00 pm


    The best any human can do is to live as an example of what can be accomplished, applying the appropriate commitment, effort, love and diligence. Sounds like you’ve done it.

    True leaders lead by example, the rest are irrelevant at best, tyrannical at worst.
    Followers either Do or Don’t “get it.”

    Thanks for setting the bar high for those who Do…… the True Scooter Tramps ………. 🙂


  20. 20 Brian Klock Dec 15th, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    A tribute to a wonderful lady and someone I am proud to call friend. I had the incredible fortune of meeting Chris and Gloria Struck at the same time this summer – talk about great story overload! Both incredible women, I am awed by your ability to tell the stories for generations to come Chris and am thankful for your dedication to do so.
    Fast forward to the Cannonball and you picking Athena Ransom and my wife, Laura to travel with, this allowed me to meet Pat and what and incredible duo you are. YOU should be so proud of your accomplishments and we as a motorcycle community are blessed with your presence. Happy Holidays!

  21. 21 Wyatt Jan 6th, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    I have had the good fortune to meet Cris upon occasion at Sturgis. She is a very real/creative person and the type of individual that is a great role model for my grandchildren. Can’t give a higher compliment than that.

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