Cristi Farrell

American motorcyclist and California native Cristi Farrell hops onto a bike in a remote part of the world at least once a year. Her riding exploits began with a solo circumnavigation of South America a few months after she acquired her riding license. When she’s not riding her BMW 650 GS, she’s co-hosting the Moterrific podcast, writing freelance for motorcycling publications, or doing press junkets. Cristi talks to Global Women Who Ride about her thoughts on the world of motorcycling. [Rashmi Tambe – Editor]

Women Who Ride Motorcycles: American Motorcyclist Cristi Farrell

Photo Credit: Zack Whitford

Name: Cristi Farrell
Age: 37
Country: USA
Languages: English, Spanish
Years Riding: 8
Height: 5’9″
Inseam: 34″
Current Motorcycles: 2009 BMW F650GS, 1978 Yamaha IT175
Past Motorcycles: 2006 Honda XL200, 2006 Kawasaki Vulcan 500,  1971 Honda CB500/4
Miles Per Year: 14,000



Please introduce yourself. I’m a geologist by day, wanderlust expert by night. I didn’t get the benefit of growing up around motorcycles, but I did latch on to solo travel with a death grip as a twenty-something. For almost twenty years I’ve traveled the globe as a solo female, and ever since I’ve learned to ride, I’ve tried to tie in two wheels to every trip. As an American, I am very lucky to work for a company that allows me to take a European-length holiday. Starting from last Fall, I made it a point to celebrate life and treat myself with travel around my birthday somewhere for about a month.

Motorcycling is one of my greatest passions in life. It fuels me through the day-to-day rigors of a stressful career. Travel in general has always been my first love and will always take precedence, so I figured – why not combine the two? I started working as a freelance journalist about a year ago, attending a few Yamaha press launches. Writing reviews for online publications and print magazines opened the door to pitching stories from my motorcycle travels abroad.

Describe your path into motorcycling. When I was in college, my roommate encouraged me to meet her childhood friend Brienne because we had a lot in common. Brienne introduced me to a few of her friends from her days of working at Cycle World and Roadracing World magazines. The relationships I built from there led me to do a couple of print ads. Then I met Joanne Donn (aka Gearchic) via Twitter and met up with her at the Long Beach International Motorcycle Show and The Moterrific Podcast was born.

A lot of my motorcycle industry based connections and friendships started out online. While social media can often be overwhelming, the internet has shortened the distance between two strangers who live thousands of miles and oceans apart. That is a miracle in disguise for someone who loves to travel or is looking for people to ride with. It’s conversation, a couch to surf, a borrowed motorcycle, World Superbike tickets, or even a guided trip. When opportunities fall into my lap, I try to not overthink them much and embrace them with a “yes”!

With the MotoReels crew after an interview in Mumbai, India

With the MotoReels crew after an interview in Mumbai, India

A lot of riders around the world dream of someday riding through South America. You however started with riding there. How did that come about? The South American continent was the last stop of a nearly two-year hiatus in my life which started as a solo backpacking trip. As I was planning that segment, I realized that I didn’t want to travel by bus. So… why not by motorcycle? With only a few months to spare, I did a little research, took the MSF class, and bought motorcycle gear and a few maps. My license arrived in the mail three days before my flight. So really the choice to ride was born out of necessity and I am extremely fortunate I chose that path. I landed in Quito, Ecuador, bought a motorcycle, rode south into Peru, Chile, and over the Andes and back a few times into Argentina before returning to the US for my friend’s wedding. I flew back several months later to finish the circumnavigation north through Brazil’s coastline, Venezuela, Colombia, and finally Ecuador. So basically, after eight hours of riding in a community college parking lot,  my next paved surface was over 42,000 km (~26,000 miles) of South American coastline.  There’s nothing like jumping headfirst into the deep end. More people were convinced I’d die down there than actually pull it off. Just tell me “I can’t” do something and watch how motivating that becomes! I might not be the fastest or the most skilled at anything, but give me enough time and I’ll pull it off.

There were definitely physical challenges to be reckoned with along the way. When it is just you however, bringing quasi-fluent Spanish, a smile, and crude motorcycle skills to the table, you quickly learn your limitations, boundaries, strengths, and weaknesses. You figure out how to surpass them. The constant challenges that one faces while traveling abroad are so vastly different than your average day-to-day. Having tackled those challenging moments while traveling keeps me inspired when I hit roadblocks at home. We grossly underestimate what we are capable of when the going gets tough.

Women Who Ride Motorcycles: Stopped in Brazil for a battery. An image of a Honda XL surrounded by Cristi and some mechanics.

Stopped in Brazil for a battery for her Honda XL200

Motorcycling in South America: Dirt bike in Mendoza, Argentina, with a panoramic view ahead

Stopped in Mendoza, Argentina

Women Who Ride Motorcycles: A roadside stop in Southern Venezuela

A roadside stop in Southern Venezuela

Tell us a good story from your travels.
When I flew down to Quito  to look for a motorcycle to purchase for my South America ride, I met up with a friend of Glen Heggstad‘s. Neither Glen or his friend knew how inexperienced of a rider I was. While his friend and I were trying to figure out what style was best for me, I dropped at least three of his motorcycles… on top of me. Bruised, with a near-destroyed ego, I felt like quitting. I took a weekend trip outside of the city to get perspective, and when I got back I made an offer on Blanquita, the little Honda that could. Compared to the top heavy, raised suspension KLR and an older BMW with especially effective brakes, it came down to the fact that she just felt better when I wore her like an accessory.

What are you riding these days? I ride a BMW F650 GS. She’s fickle. She loathes the fact that one day I might have an Indian Vintage parked next to her, or a Yamaha TMAX scooter, or even a larger displacement F800 GSA. She’s served me well since 2012.  We’ve tackled 22,000 miles of pavement, and probably less than 1,000 of those were unpaved. We’ve slayed a deer together, dodged a few lanesplitting bullets in LA traffic, and once…she bucked me off then landed in my lap. If you love her, set her free. If she comes back to you… you high sided. Love is a curious thing indeed.

Women Who Ride Motorcycles: Cristi Farrell in Eastern San Diego County with her blue 2009 BMW F650GS. She is all geared up.

Cristi Farrell in Eastern San Diego County with her 2009 BMW F650GS.

How did Moterrific happen? In the beginning of 2013, I was left wanting to do something to contribute somehow to an industry I was so passionate about. I reached out to Joanne Donn and we talked about doing a podcast. I was just tossing around the idea but before I knew it, she was all URL’d and ready to go. We jumped right into it as you can tell from the growing pains of our electronic dysfunction. I think after the first 15 episodes, we found our stride.

After she moved from San Francisco to Philadelphia, the three hour time difference between us made it harder to find time to record, edit, and post episodes. However, it’s been a great way for us to keep in touch because our conversation continues long after the recording has stopped. For a while I was doing one-off interviews while she was moving just to keep the show running, and I need to find my way back to that. It has been tough, a real labor of love to set aside time and energy from our busy careers, side jobs, relationships, and trips to keep working on our podcasts.

Women Who Ride Motorcycles: Cristi Farrell and Joanne Donn - co-hosts of the Moterrific podcast. The image shows a white woman and an Asian woman wearing motorcycle jackets and helmets. They are laughing.

Cristi Farrell and Joanne Donn – co-hosts of the Moterrific podcast

What’s your dream bike? I am reluctant to call any motorcycle sexy but there is something undeniably sexy about a 1973 Ducati 750 SS. The way the fairing touches the headlight and flows back in a clean, delicate line beneath the tank. It’s a fantasy really, complete with a skin-tight leather onesie and inappropriate footwear. Or a 1960s BMW R60.

Is there any other kind of motorcycling that you’d like to try your hand at? I’ll try pretty much anything once. Twice if I don’t think I’ll die. I plan to hit the track on a 300 cc sportbike. I’ve got a rally crew hounding me to join their addiction. If I survive that, riding on ice looks pretty fun.

If you could ride with any of your motorcycling heroes, who would they be? An adventure with Lois Pryce would be epic, a day of motocross with pioneering legend Mary McGee, or cruising the back roads of the Midwest with Gloria Struck would definitely be high points in my life.

Have you made any close female friendships due to motorcycling? Joanne, of course. Alison of Alison’s Wanderland, even though she lives in a different country now; Jacqui Van Ham, who is a spokesperson and emcee for Victory Motorcycles; Sasha Valentine of CafeRacerXXX and Brittany Morrow of Rock The Gear.

I have always struggled a bit with making female friends because I have such a strong personality, but there is something about motorcycling that attracts strong, independent women so it works to my benefit. I’ve met many people I deeply respect as a result of the motorcycle industry and have the pleasure of calling them a ‘friend,’ both male and female alike.

If you could change one thing about the world of motorcycling, what would it be? If I could change one thing about the world of motorcycling, it would be to dispel the myth that it is too scary or too difficult to learn. Or that it is for any one “type” of person, be it based on race, age or gender. I’m such a klutz, can’t seem to walk without tripping over myself, but somehow I manage to ride a motorcycle just fine. It is a dangerous love but like anything in life, if you love doing it, you will do the best you can to educate, train, and protect yourself so that you can continue pursuing your passions for years to come.

What kind of legacy do you hope to leave? I’d be content with someone looking back at what I have done in life: motorcycling, traveling, or otherwise, and saying – “That was cool. I’m going to do that.”

Women Who Ride Motorcycles: On the Galveston Ferry at the end of a three day journey on Indian motorcycles. The image shows Cristi on the deck of a ship looking out at the water, with an Indian motorcycle next to her. (Photo by Robert Pandya.)

On the Galveston Ferry at the end of a three day journey on an Indian Vintage (Photo by Robert Pandya)