The Red Bulletin September 2019 (UK)

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Leah Tokelove

Success is

no easy ride

Flat-track racing is wild, brutal and doesn’t

have a women’s category. No problem for

this rising star of the sport

Words JESS HOLLAND

Photography JUAN TRUJILLO ANDRADES

motorcycle and adventure festival

Camp VC in Wales’ Brecon Beacons

earlier this month, she encouraged

more women to get into the scene

– something Tokelove actively pursues

through her own women’s flat-track

school, Days On The Dirt. Here, she

tells us why she loves playing rough.

bike stuff. I’ve had some bad

ligament damage and bruises – one

of my knees is permanently swollen

from a crash – but I haven’t broken

anything. As a rule of thumb, I’m a

really fluid rider. I’m a bit like a cat:

I always seem to land on my feet.

Why do you run events specifically

for women?

I know how much of a thrill I get out

of riding a bike, so why shouldn’t

someone else get the same? Yes, I race

against the men, but I love being on

girls’ rides. Every time I go to the track

and see more women, I’m stoked

they’re there. I don’t think there will

be enough riders for a women’s class

for some time – but then, in a sport

like flat track I don’t think we need

a women’s class. I don’t just want to

be the best woman, I want to be the

best out of everybody.

The Hooligan race series is aptly

named. Consisting of street bikes

with no front brakes racing on dirt

speedways, the discipline of flat

track is rough, dangerous and scary.

In this heavily male-dominated sport,

it’s tempting to underestimate the

chances of Lincolnshire-born Leah

Tokelove, aged 21 and a little over

5ft tall. But that would be ill-advised.

Having ridden off-road bikes since

she was five, and raced them from

the age of 13, the self-proclaimed

“hooligan with pigtails” became the

only female competitor in the UK’s

Dirt Track Riders Association pro

championships before she was out

of her teens, and is ranked ninth in

the pro class (at the time of going to

press). But Tokelove doesn’t want to

stand out in that regard. At women’s

the red bulletin: What does

being part of the flat-track

community bring to your life?

leah tokelove: I do think, “What

the hell would I be doing if I wasn’t

racing bikes?” The meets, the places

I get to go, like Morocco and

California, it’s all because of riding

motorcycles. It’s made me a more

interesting, well-rounded, better

person. I’ve mixed with people

I wouldn’t have mixed with before.

It’s a real passion that’s driven me

to be the best version of myself.

What goes through your mind

when you’re racing?

Flat track is over very quickly. I do

a lot of positive visualisation before

I start, because I sometimes feel my

mind drifting when lining up for

ages. But the second the green light

hits, all you think about is who you’re

behind and how you’re going to pass.

There’s not much space, so you have

to be tactical. In some races, towards

the end, I’ll make more aggressive

moves, not really caring if I crash,

just going for it. But if you’re in a

good starting position, you’ve got to

stay focused and not let anyone pass.

Are big crashes a part of the sport?

Touch wood, I’ve always walked

away pretty lucky. I’ve been run over

a few times when I’ve fallen off. I’ve

been clipped, T-boned, just normal

Do you face pressure to play safe?

Yeah. The Indian Scout I was riding

in the UK Hooligan championships

last year was 250kg. I’m 5ft 2in

[1.6m] and everybody was offering

their unwanted opinions that I would

never be able to race that big bike.

I was too small, I was too this, not

enough that. But if I’d passed up that

opportunity, I don’t know where I’d

be now. Obviously I know there are

massive risks riding a 250kg bike.

I don’t need every Tom, Dick and

Harry saying, “Oh, you don’t want

that landing on you.” Of course I

fucking don’t. I’m not stupid. But the

second I got on it, I fell in love with

the way it rode. It was like taming

a beast, and once I had it tamed

we had some unreal riding moments

together. I won on that bike. I got

multiple podiums on it.

How do you find strength to push

against those pressures?

People are always going to give you

their opinion and put doubts in your

mind, even if they’ve got your best

interests at heart. You just have to get

that tunnel vision on, disregard all

the negative comments and focus on

what you want to get out of riding

the bike. One of my favourite things

to say to myself is: “Just be your own

person, do your own thing.” That’s

how I’ve worked it out. Be your own.

leahtokelove.com

30 THE RED BULLETIN

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