Darin Esper, Los Angeles Times

May 31, 2000

For Jodie York of Ventura, there was never a question of whether or not she would ride motorcycles.

York, 31, the first woman to win a race in a production-based class at Willow Springs International Raceway (*), grew up in San Jose in a family of riders. She used to get dropped off at kindergarten on her uncle's Harley Davidson, and her mother rode a small Honda.

The questions for York were when she would ride and what she would ride. 

York began riding when she was 19, but did not take up racing until 1998. She is a fitness buff who participates in running, surfing, dirt-bike riding, tai chi, strength training and cardiovascular conditioning.

She moved to Ventura when she was 24 to study psychology and health sciences at Ventura College, and met her fiancee, Gary Krieger. Krieger had opened a BMW motorcycle dealership in Ventura, at the same time York arrived in town.

York's involvement in fitness and racing came about in the aftermath of the only collision she has been involved in while riding on the street. She was hit by a car that ran a red light in March 1995, and her patella tendon was severed in the crash.
"I did physical therapy and when that stopped I had to keep working out so I joined a gym," York said. "That also led me into riding schools, where I realized it wasn't my bike or me or speed or lean angles that I had to worry about, it was other vehicles."

After attending a motorcycle race at Laguna Seca Raceway with Krieger, York converted her 1996 Yamaha YZF600 into a race bike and joined the Willow Springs Motorcycle Club and began competing in the monthly Toyota Cup Grand Prix series at the famed road course in Rosamond.

"I started watching these people and I said to Gary 'I can do that,' York said. "It was very graceful and fluid, and I had started analyzing my own riding style and technique by taking schools."

"People ask me how I got so fast and I tell them that I have lost count of how many riding schools I have attended. I love to learn."

She rose to the expert class after three races and caught the attention of several racers by consistently placing in the top 10 despite having outdated equipment.

One of the people who became aware of York was Jay McDaniel of Hollywood, who had been looking for a female rider to work with. "She is one of the first women I have seen who is as talented or more talented than most of the men in the club," McDaniel said.

McDaniel offered York the opportunity to race his motorcycle, a 1989 Yamaha FZR 400, in April. York responded with second-place finishes in the 500cc super stock and 500cc modified production races.

York's first victories came in her next outing, May 21, when she won the super stock and modified production races on the FZR. They moved York into third place in the super stock points standings, and fifth in the modified production points, with a double-points race scheduled for June 18.

If York can repeat her performance, she can take over first place in the super stock points standings. She is 45th in the standings for the overall track championship.

"Its fun for me to see her ride my motorcycle to it's potential," McDaniel said. "To my knowledge she is the only woman in the country capable of riding this motorcycle to it's potential."

York and McDaniel are sorting out handling problems with the YZFR6, which was designed for a 160-pound rider. York weighs 120, so they are in the process of obtaining suspension parts that will make the bike work properly with a lighter rider.

McDaniel and York plan to enter the 600 super sport race when the American Motorcyclist Assn. Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited series closes its season Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at Willow Springs.

York compares the fluidity needed for riding motorcycles to ballet, and says the entire experience has an effect on her.

"I just love the wind, the speed and the lean angle," York said. "It's intoxicating."

York and McDaniel are interested in promoting motorcycling for women and scoff at the idea of promoters who would hold races for women only.

"The bike doesn't know what gender you are," York said. "I know I'm a woman, it's not something I think about. I just go out and think about  going about my business."

McDaniel sees York as a potential role model, especially for young girls. 

"I have a lot of little kid friends, male and female, and I really love being able to say to them, 'You can do anything you want,' " she said.

(*) Correction: The first woman to win a race in production-based classes at Willow Springs International Raceway was Lavaughn Montgomery Daniel. Jodie York was the next woman to win, and the first to win multiple races.