Cristine Sommer-Simmons

American rider and author Cristine Sommer-Simmons is the quintessential rockstar motorcyclist. She has been riding her Harleys for almost 43 years. She currently owns a 1915 Harley-Davidson, 1934 Harley-Davidson, 1939 Harley-Davidson, 1988 Harley-Davidson and a 2013 Harley-Davidson. Cristine is the author of The American Motorcycle Girls 1900-1950, a top-selling book that depicts women riders from the early days of riding in American motorcycling history. She has been inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame three times.


Please introduce yourself. 
I’ve been riding motorcycles most of my life and I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without them. I have worked as a motorcycle journalist for over 30 years, co-founding the world’s first women’s motorcycle magazine Harley Women back in 1985. I sold that in 1990 and have freelanced since for many motorcycle magazines worldwide, including my own column in Hot Bike Japan for over 14 years. For the past five years I have been the Women’s Editor and columnist for American Iron magazine, one of the best-selling motorcycle magazines in the US. It has always been my passion to encourage and empower women to live their dreams, especially if it involves riding motorcycles.

I’ve done lots of interviews, TV and radio and had some amazing experiences and met some the coolest people on the planet.  I met Jay Leno long ago and have been honored to be, I believe, the only woman author to be interviewed on Jay’s Garage twice for my books.  I was featured on CBS Sunday Morning a few years ago and became close friends with some of the women whom I had written about  in my book The American Motorcycle Girls 1900-1950, women like Gloria Tramontin Struck, Helen Kiss and Margaret Wilson. I also got to meet and hang out with the “real” Rusty Dennis, whom the actress Cher portrayed in the movie Mask.


Please describe your path to how you got to where you are with motorcycling today. 
My first ride was at age 9 on the back of my stepfather’s Honda. I loved everything about it! I can still remember how I loved the feeling of the wind on my skin and the feeling of freedom, even at that young age. I was always ready for a ride! One of my neighbors had a Harley-Davidson Sportster and I can still hear the sound of him revving that bike up in his driveway.

When I was 14 or 15 I got my first bike, a Yamaha Twin Jet 100. Even though it was a small street bike, I was too young for a driver’s license, so I rode it in the empty parking lots near our house in the western suburbs of Chicago, in the alleyways and on the weekends through the unoccupied industrial area near our house. I rode with mostly boys then, I never saw another girl rider until many years later. I didn’t ride much during my high school years but met my future husband on a blind date through a friend. He had a big Harley-Davidson and I think that’s partly why I wanted to meet him. He taught me to ride his Harley when I was 19. Soon after that, we were married and I got my first Harley-Davidson, a 1977 Sportster. Many miles two children and many motorcycles later we divorced in 1988.

ChristineSommerSimmons_Wyoming 1981

Riding in Wyoming in 1981

In 1989 I was in Sturgis covering the rally for my magazine when I met Patrick Simmons through some friends who worked for Harley-Davidson. Pat was a crazy motorcycle nut just like me and was in Sturgis to play with his band the Doobie Brothers. We have been together ever since and our love of motorcycles is a strong as our love for each other. Together we raised our kids, adding another son in 1990. In 1994 I wrote my first book, a children’s motorcycle picture book called Patrick Wants to Ride, which went on to sell over 12,000 copies and win a Brighter Image Award from the American Motorcyclist Association.

Describe your current motorcycles.
I love everything about my motorcycles. Most of the bikes I ride now are vintage, really old bikes, though I still have my two “newer” Harley-Davidson’s – a 1988 Heritage Softail and a 2013 Softail Slim. The old bikes are fun, but for me it’s impossible to stay clean while riding them. They have a “total loss” oil system, which really means, it comes out on the rear chain and all over the rider.

Do you have a motorcycling achievement that you take pride in? 
I am proud to be one of very few women inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame and the National Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame. In 2009, I wrote a book called The American Motorcycle Girls 1900-1950. I took me three years to put it together after many years of research. I was so excited and honored to share the stories of these amazing women who blazed the trail for the rest of us women riders.

I was so enthralled by the old motorcycles that in 2010 when I heard about a ride called the Motorcycle Cannonball – a pre-1916 cross-country 3,300 mile endurance ride across the country from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to Santa Monica, California – I signed up without even knowing how to ride one. We had a few old bikes in our collection but I had never ridden anything older than a 1956 motorcycle. I had to learn to ride my 1915 Harley-Davidson twin 3-speed “Effie” and only had about 80 miles of experience riding with a foot clutch and tank shift when I left the starting line. I also had no idea I would be one of only two women riders (and the only American) among the 46 registered riders. I did very well, despite a few mechanical problems and rolled into Santa Monica in 20th place. I had an all-female crew, mechanic Athena Ransom, Crew chief Laura Klock, and Toast Boyd, videographer. I wrote my third book, The American Motorcycle Girl’s Cannonball Diary about this ride.

I rode in the 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball again in 2014, this time aboard my 1934 Harley-Davidson VD “Buddy”. This was a longer ride, over 4,000 miles from Daytona Beach, Florida to Tacoma, Washington. This time I was one of 4 women out of 105 riders and finished well. Currently I am slated to ride “Effie” again on the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball, from Atlantic City, New Jersey to San Diego. California.

Riding the vintage bikes has been a huge challenge. There is so much more to think about and you have to advance and retard the spark by hand and then, there is that BIG part, which is kick-starting a bike. I think everyone should try this if they get the chance. It’s a whole other way to ride and so much fun once you get the hang of it.

Cristine on her 1915 Harley-Davidson Effie, which I rode 3,000 miles on the 2010 Cannonball

Cristine on her 1915 Harley-Davidson Effie, which I rode 3,000 miles on the 2010 Cannonball

What’s your favorite motorcycling story to tell others?
Gosh, there are so many memories. I loved riding with Women in the Wind, a women’s motorcycle club I joined in 1983. We had so very fun rides together. Most people were shocked when they saw us on the highway. One time, we had a bridal shower for one of our members and we had it at someones’s house and hired a male stripper. You can imagine the confusion the guy felt when he pulled up to the house and there were twenty or thirty motorcycles in front of the house! There were lots of cross-country rides over the years, riding through the mountains and my first ride to Sturgis in 1981.

Have you made any close female friendships due to motorcycling?
Oh, so many! Most of my close female friends I met through motorcycles. Women in the Wind Founder Becky Brown is an old and dear friend. Also, my crew from the Cannonball. I’m also a proud member of the Motor Maids, who just turned 75 years old this year! They are an amazing group of wonderful women who ride, ride, ride. I am close friends with many, but 90 year old Gloria Tramontin Struck is like a mother to me. I just adore her and her daughter Lori. Gloria is still riding long distances on two wheels and is so fun to be with. Lori is one of my best friends and she rides with her mom. Just a few weeks ago, Lori’s daughter Kathy got her first bike and the trio just rode together to the 75th Annual Motor Maids Convention and put on over 1,600 miles. Way to go ladies!

Cristine's 2010 Motorcycle Cannonball " Effie Crew". Clockwise from top left - Cristine, Laura Klock, Athena Ransom and Toast Boyd.

Cristine’s 2010 Motorcycle Cannonball “Effie Crew”. Clockwise from top left – Cristine, Laura Klock, Athena Ransom and Toast Boyd.

Do you have any motorcycling heroes?
There are so many. Dot Robinson, of course. Dot really paved the way and was the founder of the Motor Maids. Her daughter Betty Fauls is still riding and with the club. Bessie Stringfield is another hero and as a woman of color really had to break through some barriers to ride. 1930’s and 40’s Indian motorcycle riders Louise Sherbyn and Helen Kiss were both early Motor Maids and, Margaret Wilson and Cookie Crum, who both passed away recently were close friends. More currently, Laura Klock and her two daughters Karlee and Erika are making names for themselves racing on the salt flats, as well as Leslie Porterfield and Erin Hunter Sills.

Do you do maintenance and repairs on your bike?
I do most of the maintenance and some repairs. Though on the Cannonball I learned more about the old bikes.

What’s your dream bike? 
I think I have my dream bikes… I am so grateful. I wonder if the 9 year old me could have dreamed that the thrill she got from riding would still be with her at 58!

Cristine's 1939 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead

Cristine’s 1939 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead

Are there vintage bikes made by other brands that you covet or are you strictly a Harley girl?
I am mostly a Harley girl, but also own a 1911 Wagner 4-11 Model, the same bike that Clara Wagner rode in 1910 on the 300 mile endurance ride. 

Any thoughts about the Global Women Who Ride Project?
The project is so cool. No matter where you live or what you ride, we have a common goal and this project brings us all together. Good luck… it’s a great idea!


Visit Cristine’s website at

All content on this website is copyrighted to Global Women Who Ride. If you want to distribute or republish it in any format, contact