Reckless Reda is one of the last women traveling and riding for a motordrome in the United States. The motordrome is a silo-shaped wooden cylinder where dare-devils will seek thrill riding machines (typically karts or motorcycles) vertically, performing tricks cradled by the centrifugal forces.
In 1911, the first motordrome debuted at Coney Island. In the hey-day of live action and thrill shows at carnivals, portable motordromes began sprouting up around the country to provide a wider audience with the ultimate thrill. People encounter an experience like no other, standing at the top of the drome, looking down at the riders. They feel the rush of wind as the riders whiz past and are even allowed to extend dollars out, watching as the riders accurately seek out and grab the bills at high speed in the drome.
At the American Wall of Death, the company that Reckless Reda rides with, the riders perform on vintage Indians and Harley-Davidsons. They aim to preserve the experience that audiences had in the 1900’s. Two of the company’s early riders, Jay Lightnin’ and Samantha Morgan, have been inducted into the Sturgis Hall of Fame. Nowadays, you may even catch a show where Jay Lightnin’ tears up his motordrome alongside the crew.
Reda fell in love at first sight of the motordrome and instantly found her calling. She’s been acclimating herself to the wall by performing on the four-wheeled kart, and is looking forward to trading it for the vintage motorcycles. Dive into the experience with Reckless Reda and see what it’s like to be a traveling performer for the thrillist act of the Wall of Death!
1. So, it’s been like a year since we’ve known you, and you caught our eye immediately. Kristen and I rode down from Orlando to see you at a festival and we were like “who is this badass chick that is riding along the wall?”, and we had to know you and fangirled when we met you... So, we wanted to just capture your story so people can be as inspired as we were when we met you. Let’s start with, how did you get started riding motorcycles in general?
I got into motorcycles by riding bicycles actually. I used to teach a women’s bike mechanics course and was just looking for the next thing. So, I started riding motorcycles and the more motorcycle things I started getting into, I eventually found this little wooden barrel that we’re standing in.
2. What made you make the transition from someone just enjoying bikes to doing that thing that everyone is so scared to do (Wall of Death)?
After I saw a show, I couldn’t get it out of my mind, it’s like having a crush on someone and i couldn’t get it out of my mind. After a show I asked Charlie what it takes to get a woman on the wall and he said, “well, why don’t you come find out?”. So i came out and for a couple of months I didn’t get to do any riding, I just helped set up and tear down and run the show and “paid my dues” so to speak.
3. What do you think the biggest challenge of learning to ride the wall or overcoming the fear of doing something so differently, from horizontal to vertical.. a whole different plane of riding?
The most difficult part is getting used to the g-forces hitting you. It makes you dizzy at first. But it’s like conditioning, you take them, get used to it, and it gets a lot easier. Eventually you get used to it and can spin a hundred times without blinking or getting dizzy whatsoever. But the hardest part about doing the show is actually not the show part, that’s the most fun part... It’s all the other work involved. The stuff no one ever sees. The tear down, the set up, living day to day, traveling town to town, constantly around dudes.
4. That’s my next question, what’s it like being a part of this boy’s club? Motorcycling in general is such a boys club, but you’re even in this more masculine, elite boys club. I don’t even know how many women that are currently riding the Wall of Death, only a few?
In the United States, I’m the only female traveling performer. Sandra, that rides for the California Hell Riders, does two shows a year. Other than that, that’s about it. So I feel pretty lucky to be able to do this. I know the guys won’t admit it, but I get treated differently. And feel like I have to work harder all the time. But that just shows the way that it is in our world. And after the shows, guys that wouldn’t even look twice at me, come down the stairs and say, “wow, you’re so badass!”. So it’s fun to change people’s perspectives about what they think about women.
5. So what throughout this whole experience have you discovered about yourself, you know... traveling, picking up something that’s new and different?
That’s a good question, it teaches you endurance, and how much you’ll put up with something to get what you really want. When I first started helping set up and tear down the wall, just doing that that was the most intense workout on the planet. Each one of these wall panels comes apart, there’s 20 of them, and they weigh 400 pound each. So, sticking through it and not giving up was one of the strongest lessons I’ve learned through this. Normally, when a job sucks, I can walk out and say “I’m out of here”. But this is more of a commitment. Plus they stitched my name on this shirt, so...
6. What’s your biggest piece of advice for girls that are afraid to maybe get on a bike in general, or girls that are trying some sort of stunt riding or something adventurous and dangerous, maybe that other people would discourage them from, what would you say to people like that?
A lot of people ask me what my background was, if I grew up on motorcycles and all that. I didn’t even ride a bicycle until i was 19. I got into all of it on my own. I wanted to do it. I sought out the resources that existed. I started hanging out around garages and other people that knew about the machines that I was interested in, so eventually started learning a lot. There are a lot of women groups forming now too! Connecting with other women is important for new riders, new dare devils, and any other girl that can do anything. Connect with the right people, especially the ladies that will take you places.
7. Do you think that this has made you a better rider in general, more than when you’re on normal roads going straight vs round and round?
Absolutely, that bally act that we do on the stage out front when we’re riding the motorcycles on the rollers... that’s all in the core movement and hip movement. Going no handed like that has enabled me to ride on the street, just moving my body going no hands on the street, although nobody gives a crap. But I wasn’t able to do that before so I’m a little more adventurous with my road riding.
8. So what’s next, we just heard from Billy that you’ve got two months off coming up and then the season comes up again, so what’s next for you?
Don’t tell anybody, but I hope I’ll be riding the bike (on the wall). I’m looking forward to getting two wheels on the wall. That’s what really attracted me in the first place.
9. Who are your biggest influences, male or female, that you really channel to get the courage to ride the wall?
One of my biggest influences has always been Emma Goldman who was a well known anarchist from the early part of the century. She always had these messages for women and all people to liberate yourself and do what you want to do. I feel like I take that with me to every aspect of my life and I’ve never doubted that I can’t do anything that any guy can do.