Sports & Leisure

Meet the Fastest Woman in the World on Two Wheels

Leslie Porterfield talks motorcycle racing, tattoos, and motherhood.

Are you still officially the fastest woman in the world on a motorcycle? Because I read about this woman, Eva Håkansson, who went faster with an electric motorcycle in 2014.
I am the fastest woman in the world on a conventional motorcycle, which is a regular two-wheeled, open motorcycle. Eva, from Sweden, she went faster on a streamliner. Hers was actually three-wheeled.

That’s a tricycle. That’s not a motorcycle.
Yeah, I know, but it falls in the motorcycle category. It’s an enclosed cockpit with seat belts and stuff, so it’s not the same. I still hold the top record for a woman on a conventional motorcycle, and I’m still in the book Guinness World Records. My top speed, from 2011, was 246.6 mph.

What does a motorcycle do at that speed?
I’m running a motorcycle that has over 500 horsepower and weighs about 400 pounds, so I get a lot of rear-wheel spin. Traction is a constant issue. There are times that my rear wheel has gone up to 60 mph faster than my front wheel, so burning off tires and blistering tires is something that I have to be very careful about in managing the throttle. After a certain point, with that rear wheel not getting traction, I’ll end up getting out of shape pretty quickly.

What’s your worst crash?
Oh, in 2007, I was up to 227 mph by the time the bike got way out of shape on me. I was doing about 110 when I left the motorcycle and tumbled for probably over 50 feet and broke seven ribs, punctured a lung, and had a concussion. That was definitely my worst crash.

How did you get into land speed racing?
I started riding at 16. I bought a motorcycle as a means of transportation for $200. I think everybody that I knew said, first of all, that I’d never be able to get it running, and, second of all, I’d never be able to ride it. I was a very scrawny kid, but I was full of piss and vinegar. I got involved in different types of road racing over the years. Then, when The World’s Fastest Indian came out, in 2005, I just knew I had to go out and go over 200 at Bonneville.

Now you’ve got a tattoo shop in Deep Ellum called Inkling Studios. How did you get into that?
I had a crappy tattoo of roses around my ankle for 20 years. Everybody said this guy Chris Clements was the best, so I went to see him. He covered it up with some flowers and pistons and spark plugs. I wanted feminine gear head, and he nailed it. Chris changed my life. We got married in January and decided to open this shop.

How many tattoos do you have?
We are actually about to finish up my second tattoo today. It’s a tiger that covers my entire back. It’s taken 64 hours so far, and we’ve got about another five to go.

With your 4-year-old twins, does that change your thinking about racing?
It does. Children change everything. Having two little ones, they think it’s fascinating that Mommy rides motorcycles, but it definitely does change my priorities. I’ve slowed down a bit. I’ve got an old ’66 Yamaha 180, the same bike that Batgirl rode. I have not gone to minivan status yet. 

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