The 37-year-old Kentucky native has made a career out of working in nearly every facet of the motorcycle industry—as a model, journalist, brand ambassador and member of the Iron Lilies, an all-women, all-Harley biker group based in Orlando, Florida. After spending a wild summer riding her bike across 34 states, we caught up with the adventure seeker to talk about her journey, her craziest road trip stories and her passion for two wheels.
THE RED BULLETIN: How did you first get into riding motorcycles?
LETICIA CLINE: I grew up in Cave City, Kentucky, where the way to get around is usually on a three-wheeler, four-wheeler or a dirt bike. My dad always rode and built motorcycles, and he put me on a bike when I was four years old.
When he passed away eight years ago, I rode his Heritage Softail to the funeral, parked it and I didn’t ride again for four years because it was too painful. I had a crisis. I was like, I should grow up and get a real job, so I moved to New York and took a job as a marketing and PR director. Then I went to a supercross race, and I asked myself, what am I doing? I realised I needed to be back in this and figure out a way to make a living out of it.
Now you’re in almost every facet of the motorcycle industry, as a journalist, a racer, an events announcer and a brand ambassador. Have I forgotten anything?
[laughs] I’m an instructor, too. That’s what I wanted— to be in every division of motorcycling – in any way that I can. My goal is to make motorcycling fun and safe where people are riders for life. I can do that by promoting the industry, teaching people how to ride or working with manufacturers to make a starter bike for someone who gets in the saddle for the first time and wants to become a long-term rider.
You also started modelling at a young age. Were there ever any problems being a model who rides motorcycles?
I started modelling when I was 13 years old, and I got a lot of pushback from both sides. I always said that modelling hurt my riding career, and riding hurt my modelling career. I’ve modelled for every motorcycle out there, and back in the day, they only wanted me to pose on bikes. It took me a long time to fight them to tell them, “No, I want to ride on it. If you’re going to shoot me, I have to ride it.” I’m finally at that point.
This summer you rode your Iron 883 Harley all over the United States. How many miles have you logged?
About 15,000 miles in three months across 34 states. I think I hit ten national parks. I climbed Mount Washington in New Hampshire, home of the world’s worst weather. Winds as high as 230 miles per hour have been recorded there, and the weather can change within moments. It can be beautiful and clear, and then snow, wind, hail or rain can come in. For two days of the year, New Hampshire closes down the road up the mountain and makes it for motorcyclists only. It’s part dirt and part concrete. There’s no guardrail, and it’s a 22 percent grade both up and down. It’s crazy. They say that’s where fate is decided.
What’s the most you logged on your journey in a single day?
Sometimes I need to do something to prove I can do it. I was like, I’m just going to ride a thousand miles in a day, and I did. And then I was like, shit, I’m going to do 1,500 miles in a day. When I was able to do that, I realised other things in life aren’t as hard because I’ve already been through some hard stuff. It motivates, pushes and challenges me. I also love feeling like a badass.
Fifteen hundred miles is an insane amount to drive in a car, let alone on a motorcycle, where you have to be incredibly alert. How did you pull it off?
I do what’s called sportster yoga, which is basically a lot of moving around on my bike. My legs fall asleep. My butt totally goes numb. My shoulders just stop working. It’s a mental thing, too. I rode through the desert. It was hot, 109 degrees. I just got determined. I don’t know how I did it, to be honest. I look back, and I think, that’s crazy. But I’ll do it again.
You must have some interesting road trip stories.
Oh god, yes. When I went to the rally in Sturgis a couple of years ago, I was flown in to work as an announcer at Buffalo Chip, so I didn’t have my bike with me. What the hell do you do in Sturgis without a bike? So I just started walking around. Out of nowhere, I heard this voice ask, “You ride?” I look over and see this older man. He just says, “Let’s go!” and I jump on the back of his Harley. Six hours later, we’re sitting on his back porch, shooting guns at a 600-yard target in the Black Hills.
It turns out that 51 weeks out of the year, when the rally isn’t going on, he’s the only motorcycle mechanic in Sturgis. While I was there, I would go to his garage every day and help him work on bikes.
A few months later, his wife found my email, and she wrote to tell me that he had passed away in his sleep. His name was Bob Kelly and he was the coolest person I’ve ever met—probably the most legit biker ever.
As your passion, what does riding motorcycles mean to you?
There are so many things. I feel closer to my father than I did before. I love that riding takes me to places that I wouldn’t go to in a car. You’re exposed to the elements. It’s raw, it’s real and it’s visceral—all your senses are activated. I always say, when you drive a car and you’re looking through the windshield, it’s like watching a movie in the theater. But when you ride a motorcycle, it’s like being in the movie.