When we catch up with American motorcycle racer Patricia Fernandez she’s at Colin Edwards’ Texas Tornado Boot Camp. Even when she’s not racing, it seems Patricia can’t get enough of bikes. The Motul sponsored rider has certainly made a name for herself in the world of racing for her skill on the circuit as well as the road. The Oklahoma rider competes in MotoAmerica and Irish road racing, where she was crowned the fastest women on two wheels. We caught up with the adrenalin-loving biker between races.
We’ve heard about Colin’s bootcamp. It sounds like a playground for bike nuts.
I’m a regular at Texas Tornado. I first went down there in 2015 and my boyfriend is one of the main instructors. The best way to describe it is a summer camp for adults with motorcycles and guns. You eat there, sleep there, ride bikes and shoot guns. At night everyone has a drink and plays games. I’ve made some really close biking friends here, like fellow racer Peter Hickman. I’m taking part in my first dirt bike race at the boot camp at the end of February.
You broke your own record with a 121.03mph average at the Ulster Grand Prix making you the fastest woman on two wheels. Tell us about that.
The Ulster Grand Prix in Northern Ireland is the world’s fastest motorcycle road race. I first broke the record in 2016 on a 600 but when I got on a 1000 I went even faster and I’ve been breaking my own record ever since, which is where the fastest female time came from.
What’s it like to ride around there?
I love it. It’s intense. Especially on the big bike [Kawasaki ZX-10]. It’s really fast and flowy. The best way to describe it is you’ve got a smile on your helmet but your butt’s clenched. You’re both terrified and thrilled. It’s like a roller coaster: scary but fun at the same time.
Have you any desire to do the ultimate road race, the Isle of Man TT?
I’ve done the North West 200 [red: the next closest thing to the TT] and the Armoy road races in Northern Ireland twice. For the past two years running, I’ve been invited to the TT but it’s hard for me to get over there from the US. I’d have to come out and do a couple of one-week training sessions and then commit to about a month over there. At the moment, it’s difficult for me to take that much time off from my US racing but I’d definitely love to race in the TT.
What’s it like racing in Europe compared to the US?
Racing in America isn’t quite as popular as it is in Europe. When I went to the North West 200 it was unreal how many people attended. It was crazy. I felt like a celebrity. I’ve definitely got a soft spot for it.
Describe the feeling of doing 200mph on the road, whizzing past trees, hedges and lamp posts.
When I sit on the side and watch these road races it’s totally different than participating in them. When you’re on the bike all you’re thinking about is “where’s the next turn”. You don’t think about the grand scheme of it all. Everything is broken down into small bits. Time slows down and you don’t feel like you’re actually going that fast. It looks a lot crazier than it feels.
How do you get into the zone?
For me the worst part is waiting. I just want to go. All the anticipation and the build-up beforehand is where the nerves are. I’m not nervous when I’m riding. Usually right before the race I go into the camper and listen to music and do laps in my head to get more focused. Everyone knows to leave me alone during this time. When I set off I’m fine because everything slows down.
You also race on circuit. What’s the difference between racing on a circuit and the road?
Oh man, it’s huge. They are two totally different worlds. There are so many factors that make it different. On a circuit you can get so many more laps in compared to a road race. I can go into a turn as fast as I want on a circuit and not worry too much about it. On a road there’s no room for error so when I road race I definitely hold back a lot and slowly build it up. If I’m on a circuit I can see the turns coming up. You don’t see that on a road. It’s a narrow tunnel with trees, walls and hedges. You have to do it so many times before it becomes second nature. You don’t need that repetition on a circuit.
How long does it take to feel comfortable road racing?
It wasn’t until my fifth year of doing it that I went out 100% confident. It’s the little things you pick up in a road race, like a hedge, or a mark on the pavement, that you can use as a brake marker. And it’s things you don’t see until it’s race time. I remember on my fifth year of road racing after coming back in and it suddenly all clicked, and I was like “wow everyone was right”. It’s literally taken me five years before I knew where I was going and what I was doing.
Bike racing is one of the very few universal sports that isn’t segregated by gender. How does it feel racing against men?
In motorcycle racing, there’s no difference physically and mentally between a woman and a man. It’s part of what’s appealing to me. It’s one of the only sports left in the world that’s not gender biased. I like the fact I don’t get any special treatment. I’m under the same rules and regulations as the male next to me. Some people don’t like it, but for me it’s amazing. I know that I’ve qualified as equally as the men and I’m just as fast and worthy to be there. You don’t think about it while you’re riding. Once you put the helmet on everyone’s equal and we all respect each other as riders. Every year there’s more and more women in this sport. The culture is changing.
What’s your advice for aspiring female riders?
Follow your own heart and don’t listen to anyone. If I listened to what the majority of people were telling me I wouldn’t be doing it. Everyone saying I’m too small, too old and so on, that I would be targeted because guys wouldn’t want a girl beating them. Don’t let anything break your determination. Yes, it’s difficult. But that makes it more of a driving factor.
Riding must be physically demanding. How do you keep in shape?
I work out A LOT. Riding the 600 it’s more about your weight as every pound counts. In the 1000, you need to be strong. It’s like wrestling a bull. I do a lot of gym work, cross training, mountain biking. Yoga. I started focusing on strength because my forearms couldn’t hold on to the bike. It’s crazy how much the power affects you.
Last question. How did you get into biking?
I’ve always enjoyed motorbikes and riding with my friends. I did my first track day in 2010 and kept getting faster and my friends said I should think about racing. My first ever pro race was in Jersey in 2012.