Liz Vandelinder

From Pillion to Podium

A couple of years ago, Liz VanDelinder was a passenger on the pillion of her boyfriend’s Ducati Hypermotard 1100s.

But the 23-year-old from Manchester Center, Vt., wanted more than the view from the back of someone else’s bike.

“I think we both got tired of me being a passenger, and I started to really enjoy being around the bikes,” VanDelinder says. “With his incredible patience and teaching, I found my bearings fairly quickly.”

VanDelinder not only learned to ride, she learned to race.

“I have several podiums from [the 2014] season,” she says. “I won my first race the last round this season. I had one first, one second, and two third places—my best finishes in my class. We do seven rounds of racing. I race three or four races each event. And, yes, I did get a trophy! Proud moment for sure!”

Her first bikes were a Yamaha TTR125 and a 2009 Honda CRF230 SM. She currently rides a 2012 Kawasaki Ninja 250 on the track and a 2013 Ducati Monster 696 on the street.

VanDelinder spends her weekdays as an office manager for VCP Sotheby’s Realty in Stratton, Vt., where she assists agents with their sales to the buyers of second homes.

“I sometimes ride my street bike to work—a Ducati Monster,” she says. “Being the only person at my work place or in any of our offices who rides, this generally raises eyebrows. And I have often gotten the, ‘You don’t look like someone who rides a motorcycle!’ response.

“As a 5-foot 5-inch blonde girl, I know I’m not the picture of someone who races motorcycles, especially when I didn’t get my first bike until I was 21,” VanDelinder explains. “And I understand it. My work garb of a cardigan sweater and khakis, mixed with Sidi boots and gauntlet-style gloves, is hardly riding attire or an image you’d put in a bike advertisement. No matter what style I have, I am my favorite version of myself when I get on my bike.”

VanDelinder recently took a few moments from her busy schedule to respond to some questions from the AMA.

American Motorcyclist: What is your favorite ride?

Liz Vandelinder: It’s really hard to pick just one. Living in Southern Vermont, we have incredible paved back roads that are infrequently traveled by cars. Riding over Killington into Woodstock or from Manchester to Castleton are probably my favorite routes right now.

AM: What is the best memory you associate with motorcycling?

LV: I’ll never forget the class I took to get my racing license with the Penguin Road Racing School. I was worried I wasn’t up to pace, and I was on a bike I’d never ridden and a track I’d never ridden. The instructors and other members of our class made me feel really welcome and confident—regardless of how well I was actually doing. Whenever I would get nervous or frustrated out there, someone always said “But did you remember to have fun?” That was the most important thing to learn for me. Always have fun on my motorcycle.

AM: How can motorcyclists improve their image?

LV: I always compare the image of motorcyclists to the image associated with early snowboarders. What was once considered a dangerous tool for the insane grew into an equal part of the resort and snow industry. I think, as time goes on, the image will continue to improve and be more accepted—especially through the media outlets we have today. Being such a connected society allows us to get the message we want out there, and quickly.

AM: What practical benefits do you personally get from riding?

LV: The most practical benefit I get from riding is focus and piece of mind. I initially thought of how great the fuel economy was for riding to work, but I would ride my bike even if the fuel was twice as expensive as my car. It provides a unique feeling of individual happiness for me.

Liz VanDelinder is an AMA member from Manchester Center, Vt., who was featured in the February 2015 dirt/competition edition of American Motorcyclist.