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From Wild Horses to Iron Horses with Nina Kaplan

breaking hearts & Burning Rubber

My Name is Nina Kaplan, I am from Davis, California and I live in Los Angeles. I have been around motorcycles my whole life, my dad is a Norton and British bike enthusiast, so I grew up going to Moto Rallies. I rode a little growing up (dirt bikes or on the back as a passenger with my dad) but I preferred riding horses more. My dad gave me a sticker when I was like 12, a ‘Ride the Iron horse’ sticker from a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course, it was a horse made out of steel/motor parts and I loved it; it captivated my imagination as a child. Fast forward into my late twenties and I had been living in London and was looking to start riding. The process in England was long and expensive and as my curiosity grew, it coincided with me returning to the states to live in 2011. By this time I was very much wanting to ride motorcycles.

As I moved back to California and into my folks house while I got my feet on the ground in America (after 7years of living abroad), my dad fostered my budding enthusiasm for motorcycles giving me one of his spare bikes to ride. I rode all over my hometown on a 1986 Ducati Cagiva Elefant (a 650 dual sport). I eventually got my first job and used my whole first paycheck to buy a motorcycle. My first bike was from a collector friend of my dad’s, it was a 1982 Honda CB 900. It was big enough to get me around on the freeways of the Bay Area. I had no idea where I would wonder on the path of motorcycle discovery at the time of purchasing my first bike, but I was happy to be diving head first into this hobby that had been such a huge part of my life growing up and something that consumed all of my father’s time. I guess the motivation to ride has always been there, I just had to wait for it to develop fully and take hold. My father has probably been the biggest influence.

The bikes I ride now are a 1991 Harley Sportster, a 1994 FXRP, and I have two dirt bikes a vintage Yamaha (1976 iT 400 2 stroke) and a 2006 KX 250 4 stroke. I grew up with vintage bikes (my dad’s Norton’s are from the 50’s and 60’s) so I dream of a vintage bike of my own. I like Harley’s and American made machines, so for me, my dream bike would be a 60’s or 70’s style chopper with a panhead or shovelhead motor. Something really custom and cool.

Nina Kaplan

I have been on lots of Motor trips some of the best were: Riding from NY to SF in 2015; Riding solo from LA to Montana in 2016 (5 weeks and 8 states); a self-guided 12-day adventure trip in Guatemala with 2 other women; in 2017 I spent the summer riding motorcycles in England. I have been in every odd situation under the sun it feels like. A memory from each trip...

Riding across the country in 2015 was my biggest and longest trip every, I was taking it all in and loved seeing the country from two wheels. We had lots of weather on this trip and I remember being terrified of riding through Breckenridge, Colorado when it was raining in the mountain pass, we had to ride about 120 miles in it to stay on schedule. We put rain gear on and did the dang thing. I was with four other women. When we were done, we were exhausted but proud that we’d braved such adverse weather.

In 2016, I did a solo trip. I spent 5 weeks crossing 8 states meandering from LA to Montana. The most memorable thing from this trip was a crash I had on my bike in Colorado. I was on the mountain roads and was riding fast through the curves. My eyes went wide in a turn and then ended up wide in a turn. I pulled the front brake as the bike was on the gravel and it dipped down on the left with lightning speed. I fell clear off the bike and the person I was following saw a cloud of dust behind them and circled back to assist me.

I was so mad I crashed, cursing myself and my riding. As we picked up the bike and assessed the damage on it, an old mountain biker man pulled up to see if we needed a hand. He heard the story of my crash and gave me the swiftest and most effective pep talk I have ever had. He reminded me that I was in a position to carry on with my trip and made me thankful that was the case. I jumped on my friend’s bike, and he rode my bike with bent bars and a dented tank back to Denver. We spent a week getting the new parts on in Denver, while I accepted and processed the whole situation. After the week, I hit the road again, into Wyoming and eventually crossing into Montana. The feelings I had as I crossed the final state line into Montana was indescribable. I felt so empowered, thankful and free.

In 2017, on the adventure trip in Guatemala, we rode on a mixture of dirt and paved roads, navigating around the whole country with minimal Spanish. We had booked hotels in each destination for the night and I was so proud that we were able to accomplish all we had set out to do without missing or re-arranging our plans. This was overall one of the wildest and adventurous trips I’ve been on. We had weather, language, and navigational challenges. I got a flat tire. We saw volcanoes and lakes and nature that was unparalleled. One of the most fun trips I’ve ever done!

Atwyld

In the summer of 2017, Harley Davidson UK gave me and two friends some promo bikes to do a ride from London to Devon. The day we set out for the trip we were on the motorway leaving London, when a friend's bike, who was riding in front of me, started acting funky. I saw the shock from her bike (the long spring part) fly by me at eye level while we were on the motorway, I stayed behind her keeping an eye on the shocks of her bike, 10 minutes later, her fender hit her back and she skidded to stop while we were in the fast lane of the motorway. We pulled to the shoulder and assessed the damage, the bike was unable to be ridden until the shocks were rebuilt. We spent the next 10+ hours getting to our Airbnb in Devon, with a variety of funny and uncontrollable things happening. We were so happy to finally all be together in a beautiful stone farmhouse for the night (at 12 pm) as we heard a thunder and lightning storm raging all around us, we were happy to have made it to the destination without being caught in the rain at midnight.

I am always in gear when I am riding on a trip or around LA. I believe in the benefit of good gear. I ride in Kevlar reinforced jeans from Atwyld, a leather jacket, my BH & BR boots and gloves, and a full face Bell or Biltwell helmet. I feel extra secure with the BH & BR boots because of the specially developed Vibram soles. I have stood in many groups with women on motor trips and observed that usually, 3 out of 5 of the women have a pair of BH & BR boots on!!! I also like wearing a bandana around my neck, I hate feeling the little rocks that kick up from the road hit me on the face/neck or arms. The women’s motorcycle industry has experienced great growth in gear products that are made by women riders for women riders.

I have learned a lot about packing over the years, and it is very important to have a tight and functional pack. I usually ride my FXRP on longer trips and it has saddle bags, I use these for things I may need to grab quickly. I also tie a backpack onto the sissy bar, which I can lean against for back support.  Each pack job is different, but the ideas of taking less and using space efficiently are always the guiding principles. I tend to run cold in my body temperature, so I always take a Patagonia puffy down jacket with me, it rolls up into the size of a fist and it keeps me warm when it’s cold out.

I am attending Born Free 10, a big motorcycle show and I am preparing my dirt bikes for some summer adventures riding the trails around Mammoth California.

I guess dirt riding would be my new skill. I got my first dirt bike in June of 2017 and just got a more modern dirt bike in March of 2018. I am looking to do a lot more dirt riding this year, bringing my skills as far along as possible.

In the future I am looking forward to refurbishing my house, getting my Hippotherapy license so I can use my Occupational Therapy license to work with disabled kids on horses.  

BH&BR