Leslie “Tigra” Gammage describes herself as just a plain woman, but a better way to describe her is a woman who perseveres. And what better time to convey that message than during this time of crisis in our country.
As a novice rider, Tigra completed the Four Corner Challenge, earning respect from the motorcycle community and building a following on her Facebook Page, Tigra CruisHer, emphasis on the “Her”. Now, with over 2700 followers and counting, Tigra hopes to be an inspiration to anyone who wants to start riding, but doesn’t know where to start.
As they say, “You gotta start somewhere” and Tigra started from ground zero. She didn’t grow up with motorcycles, nor did she have any immediate family members or friends who rode. Instead, she always drove convertibles, enjoying the wind in her hair while cruising down the highways of Georgia. It wasn’t until 2007, later in her life, that she considered getting on a motorcycle.
“But I didn’t have a clue,” she said.
So she started from scratch. She ordered the DVD “Ride Like a Pro” to learn the basics and then took her first class. Even though she totaled her first bike, a 2007 Kalasaki Ninja 650, she never gave up and just kept practicing. By 2009, she was unstoppable, impressing her fellow riders when she rode all the way from Georgia to Detroit on a sports bike.
After several cross-country tours with friends and an international ride in Barcelona, in 2018, she was ready to put her riding skills to the test. She and two friends entered the Four Corners Challenge where riders have 20 days to hit all four corners of the U.S.- Key West, Florida, Madawaska, Maine, Blaine, Washington and San Ysidro, California. Although her co-riders cancelled, she was determined to carry on and go it alone. She finished the ride in 18 days, covering 48 states and 10,329 mi, despite stubborn lower back and leg pain. Unprepared for the extreme temperatures, the ride home was even more grueling as she faced monsoons in Arizona, hail storms in Texas and riding one-handed in the Dakotas to save her fingertips from frostbite.
Today, Tigra can ride with the best of them, but it wasn’t always like that. In fact, she described a moment at the beginning of her Four Corners ride on her way to Madawaska, Maine when her first instinct was to say “no way.” However, she was moved by how open the locals were when she was invited to a warm cup of coffee and a chat by a group of elderly white men.
Tigra said she learned that “people are the same everywhere. They have a curiosity. They are willing to help and listen- [even] share a cup of coffee with you.”
It was then that she decided to become more open to different experiences- like joining a group of locals for a “blessing of the bikes”. She described the moment when the priest blessed her on her bike as “very powerful” and from then on, she had no fear.
Now, she says,“I feel like there is no limit. If there is something I want to do, I can do it- jumping out of an airplane- I’m not scared [anymore]. I have a strength in me that I didn’t know was there. My passion is and remains the same- to let my bike take me on impossible journeys that I now know are possible.”
When asked what’s next, Tigra said that she would someday like to ride in Alaska as well as cross the border into Mexico and Canada. While she has participated in several charity rides and rallies, she would like to lead her own rides to raise money for breast cancer and lupus, two diseases that have affected family members and friends.
As soon as the coronavirus is no longer a threat, Tigra plans to organize and lead an Iron Butt Ride, a 1000-mile ride completed in just 24 hours, to celebrate gaining her 1000th member on Facebook, which she says has been “growing like wildfire.” She herself has already completed the Iron Butt three times already and she hopes to keep challenging herself and her followers with more difficult rides in the future.
She also hopes to promote female riding, as she knows that sometimes women are more hesitant to ride, especially on their own. But she can relate as she, too, did not believe in herself until she started riding. As a chronic pain sufferer with a knee replacement, she wasn’t sure she had the stamina or the strength. However, once she was able to surpass her own expectations, she realized that it was her mind setting the limits, not her body.
However, most of all, she just wants to get people out riding. She aspires to become a guide for first-timers and people who just might need a little friendly push. She wants the newbies to know that it doesn’t take any special riding skills or celebrity- just passion.
If you’d like to support or join Tigra on her rides, you can follow her on her Facebook Page and her upcoming YouTube Channel and join her Facebook Group.