Racers have to deal with obstacles daily, from bad weather to malfunctioning rear brakes. And that’s just racing in general; motorcycle racing has its own complications. That’s especially true of a relatively new series like King of the Baggers. But the most dedicated racers are always ready to compete, learn, and improve—not just themselves, but the sport as a whole. And that’s definitely the case with Patricia Fernandez.
The World’s Fastest Female Roadracer, Patricia Fernandez is ready to race it all
As I learned during our recent Zoom call, Patricia Fernandez didn’t grow up around bikes. Although she “always thought motorcycles were cool,” she didn’t own one until she moved out of her parents’ house. And she didn’t start out with a racing bike: her first motorcycle was a used $4000 Suzuki.
However, after going through the MSF and riding regularly, Patricia Fernandez made friends who regularly did track days. And she “was addicted from day one” once she got out there. Then, after competing in club races, her friends convinced her to try pro racing. Patricia didn’t think she could make it—“I cried the first time I did it,” she told me—but she qualified. And after going pro, teams in the US and overseas were inviting her to compete.
As of today, Patricia Fernandez has been a pro racer for nine years, mostly competing in MotoAmerica and roadracing events. Ireland’s Ulster Grand Prix falls into the latter category. And she earned the title ‘World’s Fastest Female Roadracer’ after setting the lap speed record there in 2016, Cycle World reports. Australia’s Phillip Island track is one of her favorites, but she would love to race on a MotoGP circuit like Jerez.
But while she’s mostly raced sportbikes, Patricia Fernandez also likes trying new things. Her partner Cory West owns a dual-sport business, and she regularly rides a variety of dirt bikes. She also owns a Yamaha Ténéré adventure bike and an FZ-07 (MT-07) street bike. Plus, she recently competed on a stock Indian FTR flat-tracker in the RSD Super Hooligans race at Laguna Seca, RoadRacingWorld notes.
However, that’s not the only Indian race bike she’s riding this year.
Patricia Fernandez is the first woman to scrape pegs in King of the Baggers
For the 2021 King of the Baggers series, Team Saddlemen swapped its Harley-Davidson bike for an Indian Challenger. A Challenger that Patricia Fernandez has been racing, making her the first and so for only female KOB competitor. And as she explained, that’s come with several unique challenges (no pun intended).
Some of these obstacles are physical, or rather, dimensional. Even with lightweight racing components, Patricia Fernandez says the Saddlemen Challenger weighs 635 pounds. It’s 70% heavier than the MotoAmerica Superbikes she typically races, Jalopnik explains. And in many ways, King of the Baggers machines are still prototypes, with multiple one-off parts. “Every session we’re learning—there’s no notes, no data,” she says.
Also, a bagger isn’t shaped like a sportbike. With the latter, “you stay really connected to the bike,” she explains. A King of the Baggers motorcycle, in contrast, almost has to be treated like a motocross bike, she says. “[Racers] are completely disconnected from the bike as far as possible,” Patricia explains, and have to hang far off the bike. That way, the racers can maximize the lean angle without scraping the engine cases and exhausts.
Plus, as she and fellow Indian racer Tyler O’Hara experienced recently, riding a bagger uses noticeably different muscle groups. “It’s a totally different style,” she says. And it doesn’t help that the bagger’s racing-spec seat comes up to the 5’3” Fernandez’s belly button. “You know those little pop-out training wheels? I wish I could have those,” she quipped.
But the other obstacle has little to do with the bike. Patricia Fernandez being the only female KOB racer means she needs women’s safety gear. And even with more women riding motorcycles, their gear is in some ways a step behind men’s gear. “A lot of female suits aren’t airbag-compatible,” she says. And she wears “men’s boots and men’s gloves because…they’re better-padded and more racy.”
But she’s helping make sure she won’t be the last
However, none of this has stopped Patricia Fernandez from racing. She got a feel for the riding style by riding West’s Harley-Davidson King of the Baggers bike. Though that might be putting her test rides lightly, seeing as she ground down his bike’s shifter, she said with a laugh. Being able to test and develop new racing parts for the Challenger and other baggers is also an upside of competing. “I’m doing something that’s literally never been done,” she gushes.
As for the other physical challenges, her road course and Superbike experience come in handy. Superbike road courses regularly see riders hurl down multi-mile straightaways at triple-digit speeds. It’s an intense strain on the body, particularly on the head and neck muscles. Plus, compared to racetracks, road courses have “a significantly higher danger factor,” Patricia Fernandez says. There are obstacles, like hedges and walls, and no real run-off points. “You build up your percentage” gradually, stopping short of 100% for safety. “It’s just psychologically different,” she explains.
Also, while she can’t really do much about the gear situation, Patricia Fernandez does her part in bringing in and supporting female riders. She’s been an instructor at Femmewalla, teaching riders to be comfortable on their bikes, RevZilla notes. And being a female racer riding on a ‘relatable’ street bike like the Challenger, she’s inspired other women to ride and compete as well. “I think it’s one of those things that they say, ‘You never think it’s possible until you see someone doing it,’” she muses.
As of this writing, Patricia Fernandez stands at 12th place in the 2021 KOB series. And she wants to come back in 2022. But even if she doesn’t, she’ll still find some way to keep on racing.
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