Michelle Lamphere

Women Who Ride - Motorcyclist Michelle Lamphere from South Dakota

Name: Michelle Lamphere
Age: 44
Country: United States – South Dakota
Languages: English, French, Spanish
Years Riding: 14
Height: 5’7”
Inseam: 32”
Current motorcycles: Kawasaki KLR 650
Past motorcycles: Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 1550
Gear: Rukka Armiina jacket, FirstGear riding pant, Shoe Hornet DS helmet, Five riding gloves, Gerbing heated gloves and jacket line, Harley leathers, helmet and boots
Miles Per Year: 10,000


Please introduce yourself.
My name is Michelle Lamphere and I’m from Sturgis, South Dakota – home of the world famous motorcycle rally.  I grew up in South Dakota, graduated from Sturgis High School, and attended a local university where I earned my degree in business administration. While attending university I started working for a local hotel company and after college I stayed with that company, eventually becoming its Executive of Operations and working there for more than 20 years.  In my spare time I love to ride my motorcycle, travel, read books, hike, garden, and spend time with friends and family.

Describe your path into motorcycling.
Because I was from a family that mostly worked in ranching, no one in my immediate family owned a bike.  Most of the men in my family were cowboys and I grew up riding horses, not motorcycles. But of course I saw thousands of them each year coming to South Dakota for the Sturgis Motorcycle rally. I remember walking with my dad on Main Street in Sturgis during the rally one year and seeing hundreds of bikes and thinking how crazy it was that someone would ride all the way across our country on a motorcycle.

The first time I ever rode a motorcycle was when I was fifteen.  My boyfriend had a Honda XR 500 dirt bike which we took out into a prairie dog town to practice with.  I think it was the worst place to learn to ride. Because it was an empty field used as a cow pasture he thought it would be easy for me, but all the prairie dog holes make big mounds and bumps all over the field which made for a rough ride and more steering than I could handle. I was too short to touch the ground so he rode on the back and put his legs down when we stopped. That must have looked so funny.

During college I didn’t really have the money for extras, so I stopped riding and focused on school and then later on work. I didn’t have time to ride for a lot of years while I focused on my job, and in the winters when I did have the time the weather was too bad to ride.  My riding was limited to day rides with friends, in the Black Hills, which is an incredibly beautiful place to ride in.

Finally, when I turned thirty, I decided to make time for riding and I signed up for a motorcycle safety course and got my drivers license. I still didn’t have much time for riding but I borrowed friends motorcycles every summer and kept practicing at least enough to feel comfortable riding. After several years of borrowing other people’s bikes I decided to buy one of my own and I bought a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy.  That was one of the best things I ever did for myself.  My love of travel quickly merged with my love of riding and I started taking trips in the USA and Canada on my bike.

Women Who Ride: Michelle Lamphere at Sturgis with her 2012 Harley Davidson Fat Boy

Michelle Lamphere at Sturgis with her 2012 Harley Davidson Fat Boy

Describe your current motorcycle.
Currently I’m riding and loving my Kawasaki KLR 650 – Betty.  It’s the perfect bike for the type of riding I am doing now because it’s a great all-around bike.  It’s easy to maintain, inexpensive to buy and easy to find parts for even in foreign countries, and can be ridden equally well on roads and off-road.

What’s your favorite motorcycling story to tell others?
Before leaving home last year my worst fear was being in the middle of nowhere and crashing and breaking a limb.  In the third week of my trip last July, that exact thing happened. It turned out, believe it or not, to have been one of the best experiences of my life.  Through motorcycle forums, I met the most incredibly kind and generous people, who all offered generous support to me – a complete stranger at the time – to help me get better and resume my trip. These wonderful people have become dear friends.  And through that accident I learned to slow down and change how I wanted to travel.

Do you have a motorcycling achievement that you take pride in?
In the summer of 2013 I decided it was time to change my priorities a bit. I gave notice at work, sold my house and packed up all my belongings and put them in storage.  My boyfriend and I decided to hit the road for a year and ride from South Dakota to Ushuaia, Argentina.  He was a big inspiration for me as he had already ridden there on his bike two years before. The trip took a few unexpected turns (literally and figuratively!) and a lot more time than I had planned.  But we finally made it to Ushuaia in February 2015.  It was the most incredible adventure ever!  40,000 miles, 20 countries, and dozens of new friends….  

Women Who Ride: In Venezuela with a Kawasaki KLR 650

In Venezuela with a Kawasaki KLR 650

Women Who Ride:  Riding through Baja Mexico

Riding through Baja Mexico

Do you have any motorcycling heroes?
I have several motorcycle heroes and for a few different reasons. When I first had the idea of traveling for an extended trip by motorcycle I started to read books by other people who had travelled long distance by motorcycle.

Ted Simon was one of the first that I heard about so I read his book Jupiter’s Travels.  I also read books by Lois Pryce, a woman who rode by herself through the Americas and later through Africa. Sam Manicom, an Englishman who traveled for several years all over the world has written 4 books which are among my favorites. Laura Klock is a fellow South Dakota rider who set land speed records on her motorcycle.  She and her family still continue to race and they own a motorcycle business in South Dakota and are committed to supporting other riders. Elspeth Beard was one of the first women to travel the world by herself on motorcycle, in the 1970s. There are just so many inspiring women I’ve read articles and books about –  Mary McGee, Dot Robinson, Theresa Wallach, Della Crewe and so many others, all women who loved to ride.

Do you have any advice for people who want to get into motorcycling?
Take a motorcycle safety course and don’t be afraid to take it twice (I did!) or more times until you get confident and comfortable.  Practice your skills regularly.  ATGATT  – All the Gear, All the Time!  Don’t get pressured into riding beyond your skill set and experience.

If I had to say anything about choosing a bike it would be that “bigger is not always better”.  We live in a world where people seem to want a bike to make a big money or fashion statement and I think that’s the worst way to choose a bike. Pick a bike that fits your skills, your physique and the type of riding you want to do.  My KLR is awesome, but it’s still heavier than I want to deal with when riding on my own.

Women Who Ride: At Sturgis with friend Jennifer

At Sturgis with friend Jennifer



Women Who Ride: Riding on Needles Highway through Black Hills, South Dakota

Riding on Needles Highway through Black Hills, South Dakota

If I were to visit you and we went riding for one short morning ride, where would you take me? :)
I have a favorite ride in the Black Hills that would be a bit more than a short morning but would be an incredible ride and we could finish before lunch. The road passes Mount Rushmore National Monument and would take us through the Black Hills National Forest.  We would leave Rapid City headed south on Highway 16 toward Keystone and after visiting Mount Rushmore would ride back to the turn for Iron Mountain Road and then ride south to Custer State Park where we would see buffalo and mountain goats, deer and other wildlife. The rock formations and towers along the Needles Highway on our way out of the park are unique and incredibly beautiful.  We pass Sylvan Lake on the way out of the park’s western side. We would then turn north on Highway 385 and return to Rapid City through Hill City, the cutest small western town filled with a working railroad, saloons and galleries. [Link to Route]

What’s the best part about riding in your state?
South Dakota has incredible wide open bright blue skies and miles and miles of prairie grasslands and farmland. The Black Hills are laced with incredible curvy riding roads and spectacular views.  Most of the Black Hills is covered in pine and spruce forests and is dotted with alpine lakes.

The Badlands National Park is another incredibly beautiful place to ride with its moonscape-like land of red and pink sandstone layered cliffs.  It’s such a beautiful place to ride. And there is a huge variety of riding to choose from which should make every rider happy – dirt track, hill climbing, road riding, forest trails, etc.

What kind of food can riders expect to stop for on the way that is typical to your state?
Something that is typically very American food is the perfect burger and fries.  In South Dakota you can find buffalo burgers in a lot of restaurants.  We also eat fresh trout from our streams and lakes.

If a motorcyclist from another state visited yours, what are the top rides you would recommend?
My favorite rides are those that show the beautiful land of the Black Hills which include the Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Road, Spearfish Canyon, Vanocker Canyon, and Badlands Loop all in western South Dakota. 

How does the topography of the place you live affect the kind of motorcycling you choose to do?
With the Black Hills in my backyard, I have all sorts of riding options open to me – from curvy paved roads that run through the forest over hills, to off-road trail riding in a full range of difficulties.  The Black Hills are about 150 miles long and 80 miles wide and look like an island rising out of the prairies of the central United States. The rest of South Dakota has a lot of rolling soft hills and prairie and grassland. 

What is the traffic like and how does it affect motorcycle riding?
There isn’t much traffic in South Dakota except during the Sturgis rally, so this isn’t a problem.

What are the best months for riding?
South Dakota is located in the northern central United States, so the summer months from May through October is the best time of the year to ride which includes.  During the other months we get a lot of snow and freezing rain and the roads may have ice, so we have to be more careful about choosing days to go riding.

Is it safe to ride at night where you live?
It is pretty safe to ride at night in South Dakota. It’s a rural state and we don’t have much crime at all. But there is wildlife all over the state deer, raccoons and skunks which can be a road hazard, especially at night when visibility is reduced, so I usually don’t ride at night.

Is motorcycle theft a problem?
We have very low crime rates and generally motorcycle theft is not a problem in our state. 

Are there any motorcycle specific laws?
South Dakota is one of the few states in the USA that does not have a helmet law. Lots of riders come to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and love that they don’t have to wear a helmet in South Dakota. I personally wear a helmet all the time.

Are there any motorcycling related political issues that affect your ability to riding?
There are starting to be more limitations as far as access to off-road trails in the National Forest Service land for dirt bikes and off-road riding. The local National Forest Service offices can provide maps and tell you which roads you can ride on and which ones you cannot.

Can you describe the motorcycle license test?   
All riders are required to take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course which can be completed over a weekend or during a one-week class before applying for a driver license that includes a motorcycle rating. I took mine in 2000 and again in 2010 just as a good refresher to make sure I was still following all the laws and safety suggestions.  The cost of the class is around $300 and includes the use of a motorcycle in the class so you don’t have to own one before taking the class.  

Do you have access to high quality motorcycling gear in your part of the world?
Sometimes the inventory in South Dakota can be a bit more limited when it comes to finding things in various women’s sizes because our population is so small and the stores don’t stock much inventory.  Buying products and having them mailed to us provides an additional option. 

Is there a local motorcycling event that you try and attend regularly?
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is one of the biggest motorcycle rallies in the world and has been held every August since 1940. I’ve attended it nearly every year for the past 25 years or more.

Are any motorcycle related sports popular where you live and do women actively participate in them?
Most women riders are street riders who enjoy rides on paved roads. There is a dirt bike community and some women participate in racing and riding off road and on tracks. We have a drag racing track, hill climbing, short track, dirt track and other facilities as well as lots of off-road trails in the Black Hills and in other areas of South Dakota. 

How are women motorcycle riders treated by most people and by male motorcyclists?
Women who ride in South Dakota are respected and treated as equals.  In fact, there aren’t as many women riding as there are men so women are really supported and appreciated for their willingness to ride.  

Do female and male motorcyclists have the same amount of freedom to pursue motorcycling activities?
Female and male riders have all the same opportunities to pursue motorcycling and related activities in South Dakota. While I know that may not be the case everywhere I do think most of the United States is that way.