Meet LaShundra Rucker of SportBike Chic! BGR interviewed her and learned so many fun stories she shared. Like how she randomly stumbled upon motorcycle riding, tales of very eventful cross country trips, and even created a women’s motorcycle apparel business catering to size variety. Keep reading to learn more about her journey and passions!
Please introduce yourself.
I’m LaShundra Rucker. I’m originally from a town in central Mississippi. I’m currently a Sr. Manager at a medical device company where I co-manage a team of Technical Support Technicians. I’ve been working in the healthcare industry for about 17 years thus far. I have a Master’s degree in Network and Communications Management and a BS in Telecommunications Engineering Technology. I am also the owner of SportBike Chic, LLC a motorcycle apparel line for women. My hobbies include riding motorcycles, traveling, attending music events, reading/listening to books on Audible, and learning new ways to build my business, SportBike Chic, LLC, more efficiently.
Each step along the way, I’ve tried to fulfill any life goals. Some of these used to be skydiving, traveling the world, living in a foreign country, learning another language (I need to brush up), starting a scholarship fund for high school students, and being more active in my community.
My current life goals include being a successful entrepreneur, bringing new ideas to life, fulfilling my purpose (whatever that is at the time), writing a book, speaking at TED, and perhaps inspiring and motivating others. Through SportBike Chic, I can execute a few of my latest life goals by filling a need within the motorcycle world. This need is providing motorcycle gear to women who haven’t had many options previously. I also obtained a patent and trademark for my Tank Purse™ idea. As far as the inspiration piece…you never know who you inspire to act or look at things differently sometimes. So with that, I remain open and seek to do my best daily to be cognizant of those whose paths I cross.
Describe your path to how you got to where you are with motorcycling today.
Motorcycling, for me, was completely unexpected. I can’t recall what inspired me to act on the thought. However, I do vividly recall waking up one morning and going to a motorcycle dealership in Elkton, Maryland. I looked around and found this cute little motorcycle and bought it – a Suzuki SV650. I didn’t know how to ride at the time. I had taken the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course about 5 years prior and forgot much of what I learned because so much time had passed. The next closest experience was riding on the back of a friend’s Harley a few times. But that day, the dealership rep put the bike on a trailer and followed me home. For two days, I sat there checking outside every few hours to make sure it was ok. At the time, I didn’t have a garage.
When it finally arrived in North Carolina, I went to YouTube to get the basics, like starting it up and shifting. Soon, things came back and I slowly started to gain confidence in taking the back roads to work. I remember telling myself that I would always just stay on the back roads, ride, and be completely safe.
One night when riding back home from work, my lights went out on my bike. I’m not sure what happened, but I’m guessing my hand hit the power switch and I scrambled to figure out what happened (novice). Low and behold, as my visibility was restored, there was a deer about 2 seconds away.
Shortly after, I found myself taking the highway a bit more often. Soon after I met more motorcyclists and that opened up a whole other world for me.
My current bike is a Yamaha R1. The SV was a great starter bike. It was nimble and made me fall in love with curves. I switched over to a Yamaha to keep up with the liter bikes. I was a bit nervous about the weight of the R1 when I first transitioned and kept it on the low until I was fairly confident in what I was doing. There was about a 100-pound weight difference, which both allowed and required me to be a bit more aggressive in curves. As I learned how to adjust my riding style to Raven (the R1), it quickly ended up replacing the SV. I bought my R1 with about 500 miles. We’re currently over 60k. We’ve gone from Wilmington, NC to Los Angeles where I was caught in hail outside of Flagstaff, Arizona; Raleigh to Oklahoma City and back – where it rained practically the entire way; Raleigh to Mississippi and back – where I met some amazing folks (that was also the trip where my backpack opened and clothes went over the highway); Oxford, Alabama for my Iron Butt. And then there was Key West – we were barely out of a hurricane and rode down anyway – rain the entire time and I lost my rear seat on the way back. Yes, there have been some rides.
Tell us about the Sportbike Chic! What is your purpose? What fuels your passion?
SportBike Chic arose from a somewhat selfish need for me to get some motorcycle gear and things that I wanted to see on the market. After carrying a couple of bags from Walmart on my handlebars during bike week, I was frustrated enough to go back and seek alternatives. I was looking for a tank bag, but something more feminine, like a purse. Surprising enough, there was nothing on the market. So I created one. I started to experiment with magnets and one of my favorite purses. I decided the concept would work, but needed a professional touch. From there, I sought out some assistance in the patent and prototype arenas and 3 years later, the Tank Purse™ was on the market and ready to go.
With my protective jeans…after going down a couple of times, I was fortunate enough to not have road-rash. Now as far as other body parts…different story. I started to look for more protective gear for every-day riding. My challenge is that I didn’t want to wear motorcycle gear to work, change clothes, and so forth. What I soon found was that the protective gear on the market wasn’t meant for women my size. What’s more, I wanted quality products that were affordable. I was certain I wasn’t the only one who needed more size variety in motorcycle gear. I found a manufacturer, worked with designers, utilized apps and technologies to make connections, and made some personal decisions/investments. From there, it became less about “me” and more about fulfilling a greater need for women motorcyclists and passengers. During this process of establishing and growing SportBike Chic, I learned just how under-represented women were in the US motorcycle community, especially plus size women and passengers. It was eye-opening to see how little was available even though the number of female riders had climbed to appx 20% in 2018. I found myself not wanting to stop at the “what’s in it for me.” In my years riding, I couldn’t help but think about the women who had little to wear for protection. This was confirmed as I attended different events and motorcycle shows where women readily confided that there’s “nothing out there to fit my thighs” or “nothing around in my size.” I considered not only the riders, but also the sometimes forgotten about passengers who get on the back to enjoy the motorcycle experience.
What fuels me continues to be fulfilling the need. However, I also want to grow a successful business that’s truly based on the feedback received, finding efficiencies in doing so, and doing my part in helping our women riders to enjoy a more comfortable riding experience, but still get home safe.
What is your vision for women’s motorsports apparel and Sportbike Chic, say ten years from now?
The more I continue on this journey, the more I get feedback from women about their struggles and their needs. This makes me want to fix everything! However, being more realistic, my goal is to introduce a few things a time, ensuring we get it right and then evolve. My vision is to become a women’s first option in motorcycle gear. I want to see women of all shapes and sizes protected on their ride, regardless of whether they are on cruisers or sportbikes. I’d love to see the days gone of women in no protective gear or at least in some protective jeans. As the number of women motorcyclists grow, I ultimately want to see SportBike Chic meet them where they are with gear, size options, and different styles.
I learned a long time ago that we have to “prepare for the slide, not the ride.” While I’m not one to judge, I do cringe a little when I see people riding around in tank tops or flip flops and shorts. In my head, I say a little prayer for their safety. Check us out at www.sportbikechic.com.
What has been your best experience while riding?
Some of my best experiences since starting on my ride journey have not just been about riding but also about all the cool people along the way. I met Wendy Crocket, the first female Iron Butt winner, super cool. Rode briefly with Ricky Gadson years ago. I met and got a chance to talk to Jason Britton. It’s also the random riders who have you in stitches over their stories or relationships you forge along the way. It’s those unexpected conversations that make you realize you have more in common than you think.
Some of my best riding experiences have been when helping to road captain larger groups. Working together to ensure everyone’s safety, the practice rides, learning routes, paying attention to each other’s signals, and the fun part – seeing the number of riders out there getting from point A to point B. I always get a little chill when I look over and see a river of bikes just rolling down the street.
And the worst? (Or not so good?)
My worst personal experience riding was my first accident on Raven. It was the moment when you wake up on the ground from being knocked unconscious. It was the moment when hope and pray it’s not too bad. The first thoughts after waking up were “Can you move your fingers and toes?” If I could do that, I’d be ok. Unfortunately, this “I’d be ok” ended up being after a few days in the hospital and a few weeks to walk again without pain. After all is said and done, you realize just how blessed you really are. It could’ve been worse. The accident itself must have been bad to watch for the folks I was riding with. The recovery was definitely a challenge. However, the worst part was not knowing what happened. When you can’t correct for improvement because you can’t remember is what makes you second-guess yourself at each turn. The trust that you have to build in yourself again, not to mention the trust that you have to place in some of the basic things all over again was harder than I realized at the time. I thought about my braking style, wondered about my tires, riding in the rain…you name it. Then there were the flashes of a crash or impact that you can’t see but just feel. It’s afterward when your brain is starting to put it all together just a little piece at a time so it seems – just enough so that you can handle it.
When a friend was able to fill in the blanks, I still didn’t remember it, but trusted anyway and started to self-correct as much as possible based on that feedback.
Then there are the funerals of friends or “family” that didn’t make it. There was one young lady who used to always tell me we were going to go ride together. We were both riders. She had such a beautiful spirit. We never got a chance to go for that ride. I remember the gathering of people who came out for the memorial service was the largest I had seen. I remember another person who I met. I don’t recall much about him at all. I remember locking eyes, smiling, saying hello, and him riding off. Later on that day, he passed away on his motorcycle. When I heard about him the next day and realized who had gone down, there was this inexplicable sadness.
Riding bikes makes you appreciate the spirit of forgiveness and life. Regardless of how you feel at times, there’s a whole other level of forgiveness when people get on the motorcycle to ride. You never know when the last time will be the last time.
Can you relate a good story from your motorcycling experiences?
Cotton balls – Before I was serious about the Iron Butt, I still loved distance riding, even on sportbikes. I used to be ok with wearing two pairs of pants if it was below 70 degrees. When we rode across the country, I had to get to Flagstaff before everyone else because I was still working at the time. That was the meetup spot. The plan was for me to ride solo and wait there for everyone else to catch up. The first day, I went from Wilmington, NC to Little Rock. The next day, it was from Little Rock to Albuquerque, NM. By then, it was Monday and I had to work. I worked during the day time, afterward (I was a little ahead because of the time difference), I rode about a little over halfway from Albuquerque to Flagstaff. By then, that was two days with 800+ miles covered. By the time Sunday night came, I was done. I was absolutely sore and just wanted to get there already. I always thought my seat was pretty comfortable, but two days of hard riding…it got me. This time, I was looking for a solution. I started with some of the gel packs to put in the seat of my pants so that I’d have a softer cushion to sit on. That didn’t last long. Then I wanted something softer. I opted for cotton balls. So here I am riding down the highway with about 4 packs of cotton balls in my pants trying to get to Flagstaff.
When I started Monday afternoon’s ride, all you could see was a pretty heavy overcast. I remember thinking that it got darker a lot quicker than it was supposed to. In the winding roads and mountains, I saw lightning in the distance. I was hoping the lightning would stay on that side. It did. Just then, the road started turning that way. Then the lightning grew brighter, the clouds got darker. Trucks were still passing along as I’m still riding along. I got rained on…big time. As there were thunder and lightning, I started to wonder about flash floods…you name it. I was pretty far away from home to have anything happen so I didn’t exactly have a choice but to continue. My little ditty that kept me going was “God keep me safe. Keep me out of harm’s way.” That turned into a gospel song, then a rap song, then a quiet and peaceful little saying that I still keep with me today when “the ride” gets a little interesting. In my head, I could help but think…”Whose bright idea was this to come across the country by myself in the dark???!!!! In lightning??!!!” I was absolutely through. I didn’t make it to Flagstaff just yet. I couldn’t go any further. I could barely see and was tired from just a long day. I got closer to Flagstaff and just figured I only had a little way to go the next day. So I found the nearest Holiday Inn Express and checked in.
The next day, after work, I packed up my gear – laptop, cotton balls, backpack and I was off. I was almost there. About 5-10 miles out, the rain stung a little more. In my head – this can’t be. Not in a million years could this trip be this crazy – seriously???? Hail?! Yes. I had full gear on, but it felt like I had nothing on at all. Each hit penetrated my gear like I was naked. I get to Flagstaff and try to get out of the weather. I see a mall. All was well…almost. As I was entering the decline into the mall parking lot, my bike started to slide. It was either the ditch, a tree, or just lay it down. I ever so gently (perhaps) went down in the middle of the parking lot of the JCPenney’s side of the mall in Flagstaff, AZ. There was a nice guy in a white pickup truck that got out, along with a younger boy, who I will assume was his son. He helped me get Raven back up. As soon as I was able to get to cover, the skies cleared. I looked up and couldn’t help but laugh a little. Seriously??? From there, I wasn’t staying in a budget hotel and wondering about what comes next. I found a Marriot. It was perfect. What made it perfect? Not the accommodations (though nice), not the fact that I was out of the weather (though I was). It was perfect because it was across the street from a really good Indian restaurant. I ordered butter chicken, naan, and samosas with plenty to spare. I was happy as Templeton from Charlotte’s Web. It was all worth it for that meal. I ate, soaked in the tub, thought about doing my nails with all the cotton balls I picked up along the way, and just relaxed.
I worked the next day from the hotel. Finally, everyone else caught up. I took the last day and a half off to finish out the trip with everyone else. We took a little detour to see the London Bridge. Who knew it was in Lake Havasu? We almost ran out of gas in the desert and got to LA just in time to meet the trailer to drop off our bikes. None of us had that much time off work so we rode out and flew back. All in all, it was a historic trip for us. Not too many people we knew at the time had traveled across the country on sportbikes. It was kinda cool.
If you could change anything about the world of motorcycling today, what would it be?
In such a male-dominated culture, I would have to say that the women riders aren’t as seen, recognized, and sometimes even valued as much as I’d like. You can see in the “Men’s Clubs,” in the available gear, in the recognition of accomplishments at times and so forth.
I appreciate seeing women motorcycle and social clubs that are committed to riding and charity work, growing the sisterhood of women riders, and making a difference in the world. When I’m in Facebook groups and see my sisters making their strides and hitting riding milestones, it makes me proud. With the addition of social media, organizations, and magazines that promote women riders, like Black Girls Ride, we can capture the female experience, sisterhood, and revel in their accomplishments a little more. Women are here in the motorcycle world. We have been for quite some time. I’m looking forward to hearing more of their voices and seeing more of their impact as the numbers continue to grow.
Do you have any advice for people who want to get into motorcycling?
Ride because you love it. Ride because you want to experience the freedom, the open road, meet more people…all of it. Don’t try to create a different persona or join an organization just to prove a point. Be who you are or are becoming, and enjoy the wind therapy, peace, and connections that riding motorcycles can bring.
Also, ride your own ride. Independence and freedom are pivotal aspects of being on 2. The control that you have over your life during those moments is undeniable. You rely on your abilities to think for yourself, be aware of your surroundings, gauge speed, distances, braking and stopping points, estimating gas stops, etc. If you want to get more experience riding with other people, that’s ok. However, no one will ever be able to ride your bike for you. If your skillset isn’t there to do some of the extra speed or stunts or anything else, that is ok. Ride to your ability. There are some things that you will have to think about, learn, and execute. No one purchases and rides a bike if they aren’t willing to assume the risk. Trust and believe…there are risks. But what you gain in confidence, experiences, and community can be worth so much more.
The one thing that I learned when I started riding motorcycles was this one rule that I keep with me. Look through your turns. This one rule allowed me to find confidence when going into a curve since it teaches you to prepare, have clear focus and visibility in where you’re going, and get there. That’s not just in riding. That’s life. Look where you want to go, focus on how to get there. Focus your energy. Focus your prayers. Focus your belief. Your faith will take you there. It’s fear that makes you look at the ground. Since you tend to go where you look, it’s the focus on the ground and losing sight of all else that’s happening around you that may cause you to fall. When you approach a curve (obstacle in life), lean into it, look where you’re going, and trust in all that God’s given you to get to the other side safely. Your part is to trust, believe, and not be afraid to lean in with full commitment. Don’t allow fear to make decisions for you or take you someplace you don’t want to go.
Finally, respect your bike. If you don’t, you will be humbled. I mentioned something about assuming the risk previously and it’s true. There are rules to riding a motorcycle. When you break those rules, there are consequences. Even those riders who stunt or race, they’ve embraced and mastered their bikes to the point where they both trust what is going to happen next. Respect is indeed earned with practice, familiarity, consistency, and some seat time.
If you could go on a ride with any of your motorcycling heroes – living or dead – who would they be?
Any number of the women pioneers would be awesome to ride with. Some so many women have been “the firsts” but not always well-known at the time. Of course, the usual women pioneers come to mind – Bessie Stringfield, Dot Robinson, SJ Harris, the Van Buren sisters, and mom and daughter duo – Avis and Effie Hotchkiss. Their journeys signify something historic and groundbreaking at every turn. I appreciate that they didn’t say no. I can appreciate that despite the times in which they lived, (in some instances, before they even had a right to vote), the pioneer and sometimes rebellious spirits led them to defy the odds and do something great.
If you could teleport to any other place and time in history and ride your bike, where and when would that be?
I don’t think I’d be teleporting to another time in history. There’s too much to see and do right here and right now. I can certainly see myself taking a visit to all of the amazing places today. I still have places like the Blue Ridge Parkway, riding on the Pacific Coast Highway, traveling across the US (taking the northern route this time), or seeing Vermont as the leaves are changing colors. Before I could even fathom another place or time, I’d prefer to see everything that this time has to offer.
What’s your dream bike? If you could design your dream motorcycle, what would it look, sound and feel like?
The best part about Raven, aside from the weight, is the deep throaty sound of the Two Brothers exhaust. I love that sound. However, if I ever decide to upgrade, I could see myself on a Vmax. I don’t feel as though I’m ready for an all-out cruiser. So it seems as though the Vmax gives me a combination of the two. I get the horsepower and torque than I’m used to, but with a different riding position for a more comfortable ride. For longer distances, I will say that I’d look for saddlebags and more space to put clothes in to avoid having to plan so much and ship items from point A to point B.
What is your favorite Sunday ride to do when you’re back home?
Fort Fisher. Taking the highway is just an easy ride. While I normally like back roads for curves, this ride out gives you just enough time to clear your mind of anything that’s bothering. Getting there early enough, you can sit on the beach for a while and then stop to eat. I’m a beach lover at heart. It’s a perfect place to go and be reminded just how much bigger the world is outside of your own. That’s a guaranteed nice ride and I get to enjoy the beach. There are times when there’s just no destination in mind – wherever there’s a curve or no traffic.
What was the last great book you read?
Trevor Noah – Born a Crime. I loved this book. As he recalled his childhood in South Africa, my mind goes back to when I lived there (as a Marine). It was interesting to hear his account of growing up and some of his experiences being “born a crime.” South Africa had a deep history of apartheid that lasted for decades. It was one thing to hear the system, but something completely to hear the different accounts of people who I met when I was there and his.
Noah’s narrative was so engaging, yet comical that I couldn’t stop listening. I had to tear myself away at times to get other things done. His combination of wit, humor, and perspective made for a really good listen (Audible) while I was driving. There were tons of laugh out loud moments that it made the extra gas worth it. I’m sure there were some moments where I kept driving around in circles trying to see what would happen next.
Any good music you have discovered of late?
I primarily listen to gospel music. However, when I’m riding, I like old school-like everything. I’ve been trying to get into some of the newer music. I suspect that I’ve crossed that age threshold where I don’t quite relate so easily to some of the newer music that’s popular these days. I will say that kids keep you young. I have vivid memories of singalongs to India Arie, Ella Mai, Billie Elish, Tasha Cobbs, Lauryn Hill, etc…
I rarely listen to music anymore when I’m riding. Ever since my iPod went out in Charlotte, I pay closer attention to the sights, sounds, smells, and feel around me. If I listen to anything, more often than not, it’s something older like Linkin Park, 50 Cent, Royce Da 5’9, Eminem, and recently Cardi B (yes, that kind of mood). They’re an easy go-to because the beat and rhythm are usually on point. Then…after I get it all out, it’s back to William Murphy. However, if you have good recommendations, I’m open.
The last great meal/food/cuisine you had?
Since my first encounter with Papasito’s in Houston, I’ve been trying to get back there for a meal. I love all types of foods – Hispanic, Indian, Italian, Southern of course. However, I like things that are a little more on the healthier side when possible.
I love breakfast. There’s such a variety there, but my comfort foods are sautéed kale, sautéed tomatoes, multigrain toast, and a fried egg. The next favorite on the list is breakfast at Carlyle in Shirlington, Virginia. Every time I go, it’s usually the same thing – blue crab and shrimp fritters, eggs with asparagus, and some type of breakfast meat.
Aside from that, I think I could eat brussel sprouts a few times a week and be ok with it.
What kind of legacy do you hope to leave?
I hope to leave a legacy of inclusion. I want women to know that someone did think enough of them (all shapes and sizes) to invest. When I say that I want to build this brand based on feedback, it’s because it’s no longer meant for just me. When women talk, I want them to know that they were heard. When they think of SportBike Chic, I want them to know that we listened to what they had to say regarding styles, needs, weight concerns, pain points, and experiences. I want them to know that we (everyone who works to bring our products to them) see them and they matter to us…to me. I want them to get home safe as much as anyone else who may have a smaller frame or more “mainstream”
Any thoughts about Black Girls Ride Magazine?
It’s a gift. I can appreciate the inclusiveness of Black Girls Ride magazine, Facebook group, coverage, and articles. This is something that we need more of – a means of bringing light to the female riding experience. Black Girls Ride goes beyond just “black.” While it is inclusive of all ethnicities, it gives light to women who are sometimes overlooked, along with their struggles, efforts, accomplishments, and voices. It’s a beautiful platform that provides inspiration and a spirit of sisterhood to our women riders.