The Moto Lady blog recently shared exclusive photos from our Moto Babe Photo Shoot and profiled our rider model, Laura Heidenreich. That profile info came from an interview we did with Laura a few weeks back, which we’re sharing in its entirety below. Laura’s great, and now everyone can get to know her a little better.
In the interview, Laura talks about how she got into riding, about travel, and about her aspirations to customize her own motorcycle. This conversation happened before Babes in Joshua Tree, so Laura also talks about her excitement to attend the event. You can connect with Laura on Instagram, where she’s @heidenreichlaura.
Salzmoto: Where are you from?
Laura: St. Louis, MO.
What brought you to Chicago?
I went to Loyola University, and I actually played soccer there. So I want to say it was the school, but soccer was really what brought my sister and I there. We actually got to play together.
What did you study?
Finance and marketing.
So you’re not playing soccer professionally, what is it that you’re up to professionally these days?
I am the Associate Publisher for Green Building and Designs, which is a sustainable building magazine. I do a lot of business development there, working on the sales side of things. I do a lot of meetings to establish partnerships, but mostly I do a lot of sales. I’m on the phone a lot, but I do a lot of in-person stuff as well. It’s been an amazing role, with a lot of travel over the last year. I’ve been there for almost five years now, so it’s been a huge part of my life after I left college. It’s been great.
Where have you been able to go?
I just got back from Brazil, and we actually tried renting motorcycles while we were down there, but we weren’t sure just how safe that would be. I’ve done a ton of work on the West Coast, which is awesome for riding. I’ve been to Taipei, Macau, Hong Kong, London, and this is all pretty much within a year, so yeah, it’s a pretty good gig.
So you tried to rent a bike in Brazil, and obviously we’re here today to talk about bikes. Let’s go back to the beginning. Tell us about how you got into riding. What’s the origin story on you and motorcycles?
Oh gosh, so it started almost two years ago. My dad’s always been the super adventurous type. He’s been a train engineer for nearly 50 years and now he flies planes for fun. He has a motorcycle — just got back into it, but he’s had motorcycles throughout his whole life. His zest for riding was really inspiring. So he was a big part of it, and then I have a close friend and he was a big part of it too. I was a passenger for a year and I wanted to be on two wheels myself, so I got into it.
The whole process was really fun. I took the test at the Ride Chicago two-day course. Doing it all on my own, too, as a twin, was really interesting. You know, the whole independence thing, the whole identity thing. Doing that whole process on my own was really great.
What was your first bike?
I still have it. A Suzuki GS650.
Ah, so you went with the UJM. That’s a pretty standard first bike. I did a CB650 as my first one. So you really can’t go wrong with the middle-aged Japanese motorcycle.
I bought it from an old Chicago cop. He barely let it go. It was his baby for years.
How many miles were on it when you got it?
What are you up to now then?
I think about 21,000 or 22,000.
Oh that’s not bad for two years. It’s hard to put on a lot of miles in Chicago.
It’s very tight here.
It is. You can only go to Starved Rock so many times.
Isn’t that the truth? I do love that little section on 71 though, where you can actually ride 60 mph and there are some corners.
You can only do Sheridan so many times too.
Exactly. That’s probably my most highly run road.
So your Suzuki is what you’re riding now, but the way we met was that you very generously came out and did a photo shoot with us on the Bonneville project that I’ve been working on this year, which was fantastic. We got some great shots. Congrats on that, it was a huge help.
It’s an amazing bike. A sexy, sexy bike.
Thank you. I’m curious, and I do not want to give you any partiality with your answer, but you started with your Suzuki, what do you think your next bike is going to be?
You know what’s so funny? One of my friends, Chris, asked me at the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, “What do you want, out of all these bikes?” Well, they were all my ideal bikes, but I’ve wanted a Triumph Bonneville for so long. A T100. I remember being at Ride Chicago they told me, “I don’t know what you’re going to get first, but a T100 needs to be your first bike. It was just meant for you.”
So ever since I’ve had my eye on that, but now I want to make my bike my own. The Suzuki has been so good to me. It’s been so good to me over two years, and I have done nothing to it. I haven’t treated it well. It’s parked in the alley behind my house and been knocked over several times, I’m sure, but now I want to make it my own. I want to learn about the bike. I don’t know a whole lot about bikes, so that whole process would just give me that much more ownership over it.
Well, you’ve got to be careful. If you think bikes are taking over you life now…
They’re not, yet. (laughs)
Okay, well, if you get to a place where you can mess with them, they just might. Look around where we are now [the Salzmoto shop]. Be careful. This could happen to you.
I’ll risk that. I’m okay with that. I’m surrounded by a lot of sexy bikes. I’m okay with that. (laughs)
So long as you’re going into this with open eyes.
And an open mind.
So you want to get yourself on a Bonneville, and obviously you’re doing a lot of travel for work and such. Do you have anywhere in mind that you’d like to take a big, epic bike trip?
You know, I’ve done parts of [Route] 66. I’ve met some friends about half way through, and I’ve done a lot on the west coast. I’ve done the Mae Hong Son Loop in Thailand, which is amazing, and we’re hoping to do a trip with Ducati Vietnam.
Tell us more about that.
I’m hoping, fingers crossed, that it’s going to happen. It’s called Project HiLo (http://instagram.com/projecthilo). We’d go experience rural Vietnam to high-end, luxury Vietnam. North to south, pretty much, so a lot of different experiences in between meeting with a lot of the Ducati Club owners. We’d be hearing their experiences, maybe staying with some of them personally along the way. We’ll be staying at some hotels along the way too, but in the in-between and a lot of interesting experiences along the way. So yeah, fingers crossed that can happen.
Outside of that I’d want to do a trip with my dad. I’d love to ride 66, or whatever really, but that wants to be my next trip. I’m not going to have that much time to actually do that with him, so I want to make that happen.
That sounds great. Would you want to do that on your T100? Do you have a different touring bike in mind? 66 is so iconic.
I know, I feel like maybe a Harley. The Sportster, to be honest, I love it. When I rent from Eagle Rider the Sportster is my go-to. It’s so comfortable.
Do you do the 883 or the 1200?
I’ve rented the 1200 both times, and it’s been awesome. It’s been great. I tell you what though, by the time I’d drop it off, the wind just gets me. It’s rough. Both trips have been a little rough in terms of the wind. Chris has been along on like a Fat Boy or something, in front of me, and he’s just easy ridin’ and I’m just struggling back here. I don’t know, I feel like a Harley for 66. My dad’s got a Fat Boy.
Well, that does seem appropriate.
I’ve had my eye on Sportster as well. My wife’s dad, my father-in-law, has had several Sportsters and I’ve ridden several of those. He has an 883 right now and last time we were down there visiting I did some riding around on it, and it’s actually a pretty charming bike. It’s very raw, very visceral. The first time I rode one the motor felt like a bowling ball rolling around inside a washing machine — like it was just going to shake apart. But I got a little more used to it this last time. It’s an iconic silhouette, and there’s so many things you can do to it. So when I think of what some future custom projects might be, the Sportster is definitely up on my list. I could do something similar to what I did with the Bonneville because there’s a huge aftermarket of parts, and just kind of remix it and not try to reinvent those two wheels.
So you’ve got this Vietnam Trip that might be coming up, and you want to do this Route 66 trip with your dad, but you’ve got an adventure starting tomorrow, right?
Oh yes, we booked this over a year ago, and I’m so excited. We’re flying to Palm Desert — although we considered riding it but it was too much time off work.
What’s the event?
It’s Babes in Joshua Tree. I remember following them [Babes Ride Out] since Babes in Borrego, and even prior to that and was so jealous of all these babes getting together. They seemed so amazing, and so I’ve been following the trip ever since. Then immediately when they announced the event at Joshua tree, my sister (I have a twin sister) and I just jumped on it. We booked our flights and we’re just going to rent [a motorcycle] again. I looked into shipping my bike out there and keeping it out there for the winter and storing it out there (I’m out west a lot and so being able to ride my own bike to Babes at Joshua Tree would have been great) but it just didn’t work out. So we’re going to ride from Palm Desert to Babes at Joshua Tree. I think they have a 180 mile ride set up for us out there and a lot of different events, so it should be a fun two day excursion. It should be interesting, but it’s all top secret though. They just announced the final location, which I can’t announce, because they don’t want any spoilers.
Or any dudes. Let’s just call it what it is.
(Laughs) Yeah or any dudes. Pretty much.
Yeah that kind of event I can just imagine needing armed guards to keep all the dudes out.
I’m hoping there’s some police escorts. It’s up to 550 babes.
Oh my god.
I think there was 75 to 100 last year, maybe more. Maybe a couple hundred. I’m not sure, but significantly more [this year].
That is taking off.
Yeah it really is.
The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride grew exponentially this year, and it sounds like this is doing something similar.
How long has that been going on for?
I want to say it’s no more than three or four years.
It started in Sydney, with about 100 riders and this year it was something over 600 riders. The ride this year in Chicago was fantastic. You were there.
Yes I was.
I was there. We had a good time riding and a great time with everybody hanging out afterwords, so it’s great to see these kinds of events growing and coming together.
I’ve been really interested in Babes at Joshua Tree just because so many people who I already follow on Instagram have started getting really excited about the event, or are already on the way. Some are having bike issues on the road and trying not to be stranded, and here you’re having your own issues with cancelled flights.
Yeah, but it’ll work out. It’s been really interesting on Instagram to see these women connect. Even on their way there, they’re finding spots to take group rides up to Palm Desert. So many people already, it seems like, have established close friendships through Instagram. So it’ll be interesting once everybody gets together to finally meet in person and learn a little bit more about each others’ stories.
So I’m curious about your perspective. Obviously you’re going to this women-centric event — which is an understatement — this women-only event, which is terrific. Women and motorcycling is something that’s been a growing movement, which is fantastic because, well, it’s just too many dudes. It’s way too dude-centric of a thing. Obviously I have the things that I love about riding, but I’m curious what it is from your perspective that draws you to bikes and what you think that’s going to mean for bike culture, for women in bike culture, or just what you think it is about being a woman rider that you’re approaching from a different point of view? What has that been like for you?
For me I don’t know if it’s a different point of view, but I’d say that it’s a couple different things. What I love about riding in general is what it’s allowed me to see and experience. It’s unbelievable. I’ve probably seen, over the past year, more of Chicago than I’ve seen in 10 [years] total. So it’s been absolutely amazing just what I’ve been able to see and experience on a bike. Riding half of 66 was amazing. I’ve never seen those parts of the country. So what it’s allowed me to see is amazing. The other thing that I would say for sure is that it’s definitely opened my eyes to different people with different backgrounds and different personalities. That’s a big reason why I want to go to Babes in Joshua Tree — to actually meet these people in person. I have to say that going to DGR on Sunday and meeting so many new people and just how amazing but different everyone was, and how everyone was so welcoming — everyone was just great to experience. That was one of my first [events], and I’m excited to get more connected to the Chicago community. Even just meeting Cat Pham [the stylist for our photo shoot]. It’s been great and I’m excited for more of that — to meet more of the community and gain more friendships.
I’ve had the experience recently in meeting people in person who I had connected with on Instagram, so I’m excited for you to go get to do that a hundred fold at Babes in Joshua Tree.
Yeah, I’m really excited.
You mentioned before that you want to make your Suzuki your own. What did you have in mind?
Oh gosh, I don’t have a lot in mind. I remember seeing my exact bike on Instagram by one of the ladies who’s going to Babes in Joshua Tree and she completely rebuilt it. It was beautiful. It was actually a bike that I could imagine just buying today. I loved the look of it. I don’t know. I’m kind of just now wanting to pull looks, pull bikes, pull parts and get a sense for what I like, and create my own. I don’t know a whole lot about that yet, but I do know that I want to do the work and put the time in and figure out what I like. A big part of riding was finally getting to the point where I’m like “this is amazing.” I remember when the light switch went on going out to Starved Rock where I’m thinking to myself, “I get it!” I just let loose and it was like an epiphany. It was amazing. So I want to keep that process going in rebuilding my bike.
Keep chasing that dragon. I know exactly what you mean. I’ve had that experience where you experience that “thing” and then you kind of forget about that “thing” and then you rediscover it and remember “Yeah, this is what I love about this.”
Now I don’t know what your experience will be on the mechanical side of things, but what I can tell you is that for me it’s been interesting. On the one side there’s that passion for riding, that freedom you’ve got on the road and for me there’s something that’s very meditative about that. You get out on the road and kind of forget about where you’re at.
Then I’ve also found that there’s a separate but similar experience that can happen in the shop. You can be trying to figure something out or trying to get a stubborn bolt loose, or started, or the bike just won’t run for some reason and you’ve got to solve that problem. Or even if you’re just doing something as simple as polishing — you know, some kind of grunt work and mindlessly doing it over and over again — you can get to that same kind of zen space and it’s something where I’m excited for you to start on that journey because maybe you’ll have that same experience.
I can see it really, hopefully, being a rewarding process, and just working toward something sounds exciting to me.
Yeah, wherever you go it’ll be somewhere that you’ve taken yourself.
Exactly. That’s it right there.
Very cool. I’ve run out of questions. Anything else on your mind?
Well I’m trying to get my sister on a bike of her own. She’s had her license for more than a year, and she loves riding on the back of my bike too much, almost. I need her to want to be in the driver’s seat a little more, but that’ll be a project over the next year too, to get her to start riding [more].
Although, twin sisters on a bike is pretty damn cute.
I can’t tell you how many accidents we’ve almost caused. It’s not right. We’ve had other motorcycles ride up [beside us] and take photos. I mean, car drivers do it all the time, but it’s been interesting to say the least.
You could get her a GS650 and you two could build matching bikes.
That be such a great project.
Yeah, that’d be fun. Maybe you could get her hooked on one drug (wrenching), and that’ll get her hooked on the other (riding).
Yeah, I’ll get working on that.
Well thanks, this has been fantastic.
Yes! Thank you.