Monica Lanese

What does an ex-Air Force gal who used to build bombs and operate fork lifts do on her downtime as a civilian? Ride motorcycles, of course! Adventure bikes, cruisers, dirt bikes, she rides them all! Read more about her and riding in North Carolina in the south of the United States. It might just make it onto your travel destinations list like it did mine.

Women Who Ride: Monica Lanese with her Triumph

Name: Monica Lynn Lanese
Age: 42
Country: USA (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Languages: English
Years Riding: 25
Height: 5’ 6”
Inseam: 33
Current Motorcycles: 2012 Triumph Tiger 800 XC, 2003 Harley Davidson 1200 Custom Sportster, 1975 Yamaha XS360
Past Motorcycles: Kawasaki 1991 EX500, Honda XR650L, BMW F650, Yamaha IT175, 2001 Yamaha YZ125, 2001 Yamaha Blaster
Riding Gear: Shoei Hornet Helmet, Klim Overland Jacket and pants, Current gloves, Gerbing’s Heated Gloves, Sidi Boots
Miles/Year: Every year is different but I plan on about 15,000 this year


Please introduce yourself. Hello! My name is Monica and my story isn’t one of traversing the world, continents or even countries. I haven’t been a part of any charities, yet, nor have I paved the way for woman in the sport of motorcycling in any way. My story is simply one of a woman who has loved motorcycles ever since she can remember. My earliest memories of what I wanted to do when I grew up all revolved around a motorcycle, and I still am dreaming of working the motorcycle industry in one way or the other.

I was born and raised in Northeast Ohio. Not a lot happened in my small town. I knew once I was old enough that I wanted to find adventure. I joined the Air Force and learned how to build bombs, drive tractor trailers, forklifts and cranes. Pretty exciting stuff, at least I think so. After my 4 years was up, I decided to travel and work seasonal jobs in resorts or resort towns. I would switch up motorcycles to fit the environment I would be going to next. I worked on the beach in Destin, Florida, I worked on a ranch in Colorado, spent time in Wyoming amount others. Riding has always been my main hobby, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather spend my time doing, other than raising my beautiful little girl that is.

Finally settled here in Charlotte, NC in the Lake Norman area. It is beautiful and so close to amazing roads, dirt or pavement. I landed a dream job working in a Euro bike shop but sadly had to leave. It is still a dream of mine to work in the motorcycle industry again.

My long term goals are to do as much ADV style riding as I can. I would like to ultimately do trips that last weeks, maybe even months, a trip around the world perhaps. In the short term, I would like to experience some of the Backcountry Discovery Routes and as much of the United States and Canada as I can.

What made you want to ride? That is a great question. I have just always had a love for motorbikes. There must be some kind of motorcycle gene. When I was 14 my dad bought himself a Yamaha VMAX. He still has it today. In fact I did my Oral Communications Senior Speech in High School on that bike. He built himself a pretty sweet chopper when he was young, but sadly it was stolen. I don’t think he ever got over that! I have always known he loves motorcycles and I knew that I had an affinity towards them at the age of 6.

In middle and high school I would always read my dad’s Motorcycle magazines and dreamt about one day having one. I loved them all, sport bikes, cruisers etc. I still do, I think there is a place for every make and manufacture. When I was in my later teens I was taken with the sport bikes. I did a lot of research and I knew when it came time that the Kawasaki EX500 would be the right bike for me. That was in 1991.

I spent my 20’s on a sport bike, my early 30’s on dual sports, and my later 30’s on a Harley Davison. Now in my 40’s I plan to spend the rest of my life on the big Adventure bikes.

I would say my second love when it comes to motorbikes are Vintage Euro bikes. Especially BMWs. There is something so sexy about the Boxer motor… old or new!

What bike did you first start on and why? That is a bit foggy, there were a bunch. I had a very best friend when I was in High School in Chardon Ohio, Reid Ingham. He had a bunch of vintage bikes, dirt bikes, etc. I owe everything I know about riding to him. He started me on old Canams and vintage Yamahas. We did a lot of trail riding and he even taught me how to ride on ice with studded tires. There would be a bunch of us every weekend that would meet down at his pond in the winter, we would ice race against each other. I wish I was still doing that to this day. So much fun!

Women Who Ride: Ice Racing on motorcycles with studded tires

Ice Racing on motorcycles with studded tires

What are you riding these days? The bike I am currently riding the most is a 2012 Triumph Tiger 800XC. I love everything about it. It can go anywhere. The Tiger has taken me through mud, dirt and rocks. It has also handled tremendously well through the California curves on the Pacific Coast Highway. I love the way it looks, how it handles and the potential it has to take me wherever I want to go.

Women Who Ride: Monica Lanese riding off-road in North Carolina

Monica Lanese riding off-road in North Carolina


What was the last great trip you did? It started in Tucson AZ where the Tiger was initially purchased. From there we traveled over to California spending some time in Glamis. Rented some four wheelers and had a big ole’ time. I had a pretty major crash but I rallied! Then up the Coast. With each passing city, I fell in love with the coast of California more and more. Santa Barbara and Carmel-by-the-Sea were two of my most favorites. The stunning views, the ocean… just everything. It was in the beginning of the year so there wasn’t a lot of traffic. Hardly any slow moving RV’s or endless lines of cars.

Continuing on through the Oregon Coast. Wow! What an amazing place. I did not know that there were large sand dunes in Oregon. I thought that California had stunning coastal views….I have news for you…So does Oregon. Beautiful! We continued East through he bottom of Washington State I believe then finally ending up in Spokane WA. A trip of a lifetime. Thank you MPG…you know who you are. ;)

Women Who Ride: Monica Lanese in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

Monica Lanese in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

Do you have any motorcycling heroes? I love Burt Munro, what an inspiration. Can you imagine what he could have achieved with the proper tools and resources? His story is just amazing.

I have been following Neil Peart’s story. He has truly been through some personal hardships. Reading his story about how riding helped him through his toughest times is truly inspiring. Plus, I’m a huge RUSH fan.

I would also like to mention that there are a lot of people who ride the adventure style that I admire. Just everyday people like you and me. I like to read the ride reports on I like to try and learn something from them all.

Can you tell us a good motorcycling story? I bought my first new bike in 1991 when I was 20 years old. I had just arrived at my first duty station in the Air Force. Ellsworth AFB, Rapid City, South Dakota. I arrived in November, and by February I had enough money saved up for a down payment on my dream bike at the time – a Kawasaki EX500. I just could not wait until summer to buy it. I had waited my entire life for that moment, so in a snow storm I went down to the Black Hills Harley Davidson shop, also a Kawasaki dealer at the time, and I bought it.

After getting it home to the barracks, I rode it to work every day. Even in the snow. In the mornings when everyone else was scraping the snow and ice off their windshields, I was brushing the snow off my seat. I would ride to work with my feet down. Yeah, I wanted to that bad.

It was very windy in South Dakota, in the summers. One summer the wind blew it over on one side and cracked the fairing, the very next week the wind blew it over on the other side. Cracked that side of the fairing. That was bad luck!

Women Who Ride: Monica Lanese with her Kawasaki EX500

Monica Lanese with her Kawasaki EX500

Do you do maintenance and repairs on your bikes? I used to tinker a lot when I was younger on the older vintage bikes. Oil change, chain lube, leaning the carbs etc. Now with the newer technologies, I leave it to the experts. However, I am interested in learning and doing a lot of the maintenance myself. I just need a good teacher, someone to spend time with me to show me the ropes. Any takers?? When I lived and worked on a hunting ranch in Colorado I had my Honda XR650L. I had to re-jet the carburetor myself. Luckily, I had a little experience with that and it went well.

Do you have any advice for people who want to get into motorcycling? I feel I was lucky to learn as a kid. Kids have no fear. As with anything, if you want it, GO GET IT! Look for a local Motorcycle Safety course and take it. You can learn a lot! READ! Read a ton of magazines and blogs to see what types of riding and bikes are out there. Don’t be afraid to test ride and find the bike that speaks to you.

A thing that most people don’t think about when buying a motorcycle is gear. It’s usually just an afterthought. A great idea is to go and talk with the parts and accessories department at a motorcycle shop. They can properly fit you for a helmet, inform you of the type of protection you may need and go over a ton of different options. Your gear is an investment and it is very important to be able to fit that into your budget weather you’re buying a new or used motorcycle.



Women Who Ride: Monica Lanese rides through North Carolina

Monica Lanese rides through North Carolina

If I were to visit you and we went riding for one morning, where would you take me? I am lucky enough to live an hour and a half from some of the best riding around. The Blue Ridge Parkway. In that same area are endless dirt roads, some are graded, others are very rustic. We could ride up on top of mountain ridges or through dirt trails. There are endless little waterfalls to be seen and depending on the time of year we could be riding past large icicles.

Here’s a link to a great route:


What’s the best part about riding in North Carolina?  The best part of my area is that it is in the mountains. On a beautiful day in the winter you can start off in 60 degrees and end up seeing snow up high. The scenery is breathtaking. Tons of curvy mountain roads to keep you occupied for hours. There are endless dirt routes that seamlessly blend together via curvy tarmac road with large sweeping curves. Plenty of fun for the pavement lovers as well. We also have the Tail of the Dragon, this road has an amazing 318 curves in 11 miles. []

In addition The Snake is close by as well, with 33 miles 489 curves, 1 mountain and 1 valley. []

We have the mountain roads and wooded area to ride in, but 3 hours to the east is the Atlantic Ocean where the terrain is more on the straight side.

What are the best months for riding?

Every month is rideable. I have heated gear so no temperature will detour me. The only thing you have to watch out for would be icy roads in the higher elevations. It is a year round playground in North Carolina!

Is it safe to ride at night? I have no worries about riding at night. Drunk drivers, deer and other animals can be an issue but as far as North Carolina being personally safe, I feel fine.

Is there a local motorcycling event that you try and attend regularly? I can’t get out much during the week for bike nights. This year I am trying to attend March Moto Madness in Tellico Plains TN. It is a big Adventure/ Dual sport camping weekend with a lot of riding events.

Are there any motorcycle specific laws? In North Carolina we do have a helmet law.

Are motorcyclists discriminated against in any way? I personally don’t feel any discrimination. People are always coming up to me and asking about my bike and the type of riding I do. It looks out of place a lot. A bigger bike packed full of mud with knobby tires. To see a girl on it makes people curious.

How do the police treat motorcyclists? I feel like the police are so used to seeing motorbikes of all kinds in this area that we are all treated the same.

Can you describe the motorcycle license test? Here you have to take a written test. Not very difficult at all. Then a skills test. I wouldn’t say it is difficult but you do need to have basic skills. I can see it would be a challenge on a HUGE cruiser, but not on anything else.

Are any motorcycle related sports popular where you live and do women actively participate in them? Here we do have a lot of Motocross type events. Girls are very much involved. We have a lot of sport bike enthusiasts in the area too that are woman. We also have sport bike tracks in the area that cater to woman as well. As far as the Adventure riding on big bikes that I do, I am sure there have to be more girls in the area that are involved with it. I have yet to meet one or ride with one personally though. I am always on in the Charlotte area forums, as far as that is concerned I believe I’m the only one as of now.

What is the traffic like and how does it affect motorcycle riding?
Traffic on the Blue Ridge Parkway can get busy in the summer, but in the winter it’s not bad at all. I like to be on the remote dirt back roads so there is never any traffic. As far as commuting to work…forget it. Rush hour here can triple your commute time and that’s not fun on a bike. Too dangerous!

How do car drivers treat motorcycle riders on the road? We are invisible for the most part. Defensive driving and staying out of the blind spots is what I try to do.

Is motorcycle theft a problem? In my experience I have not worried about theft. I live in a decent part of town. What I worry about most is having my helmet or gear disappear when I’m in a store or restaurant. I don’t have hard bags that I can lock. So far, so good, no problems.

How are women motorcycle riders treated by most people and by male motorcyclists? There are so many woman riding these day, all types of motorbikes, that men riders treat us the same way. I ride with all men and they all have been great to me. Very supportive and helpful, especially when I am face first in a mud pit or upside down in a ditch. They are there to help me if I need it.

As far as men that don’t ride, they look a lot! We get a lot of attention. Almost too much. Sometimes it’s hard to go out for a bite to eat without feeling like a side show sometimes. It’s all good though. :)

Do you have access to high quality motorcycling gear in your part of the world? Absolutely! We are very lucky to have access to basically anything we want. I sold high end motorcycle gear and the technology of the textiles is just amazing. The newer armor offers superb protection. Luckily there is a full scale of price points available, even the lower end products offer really great protection.

I would like to see more options for the woman riders. Most companies are catering for the woman rider; more options are available every year. For me personally, I don’t need pink or colorful gear that looks overly feminine. What I would like is the exact same products and colors offered to men, just cut more for a woman’s curves. The woman’s ADV gear is far and few between, but I know Klim is going to have a nice option coming very soon. I’m excited for that!

Do female and male motorcyclists have the same amount of freedom to pursue motorcycling activities? 100% Yes. It is a coed sport, there is room for everybody. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a day, riding with my guy. Now all I need is the guy! favicon