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Tracey Bryan

Always been curious about the world of sidecar racing? Wonder why a motorcyclist would choose to be a passenger instead of a rider? Global Women Who Ride talks to New Zealand road racer Tracey Bryan who de-mystifies it for us. [Rashmi Tambe, Editor]

Women Who Ride: Tracey Bryan on a Formula 1 LCR as a passenger with Aaron Lovell. The image depicts a white and red motorcycle sidecar on a racetrack.

Tracey Bryan on a Formula 1 LCR as a passenger with Aaron Lovell

How did you get into racing sidecars? I started racing at the age of thirty – a lot older than most of the others! (laughs) I just wanted to have a go to see what the fuss was about. Twelve years on, I’m still racing. I am the only woman who rides a Road Race sidecar in New Zealand, competing on both tracks and road circuits.

Back in 2006, a friend and I brought a $500 sidecar and tossed a coin to see who would ride and who would be the passenger. I became the rider. Eventually we upgraded to a more modern chair which we painted in girly colors and called Pinky! Interesting side story – this was the 1996 Isle of Man winning chair raced and built by seventeen time Isle of Man winner Dave Molyneux.

My first experience of a road race was at the famous Wanganui Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day.  On the very first lap of the first race, I came around a corner to find both my dad and my brother lying in the middle of the road, having crashed before me.  I nearly gave up right then as my dad was seriously injured. I’m glad I didn’t as I have gone on to achieve so much and met some amazingly talented women.  My brother and I now hold the lap record at his track in the classic sidecar class.

I went on to win three consecutive New Zealand Formula 2 titles with various passengers, and a third place in an Australian Championship round. At the same time, I was also passenger-ing with my brother on a classic Triumph sidecar built by our father.

I am currently passenger-ing on one of the fastest Formula 1 sidecars in New Zealand for LP Racing with rider Aaron Lovell.  We are the current title holders of the Barry Sheene Trans-Tasman challenge and the NZ Suzuki Tri-Series. Unfortunately, we crashed badly due to brake failure at the second round of the NZ National Championship earlier this year after holding a comfortable lead in the points.  I spent a number of weeks in a neck brace with a C5 neck injury and am lucky to be walking around and not spending my life in a wheelchair or worse.

I had planned on being the first NZ woman to passenger a sidecar at the Isle of Man in 2015 with another Kiwi rider but unfortunately I could not get medical clearance in time to enter. We will see what the future holds and how my body holds up this season! (laughs)

Sidecar racing is in my blood. We are preparing for the season ahead ready to take on New Zealand’s best and hopefully heading over the Tasman Sea to take on Australia’s finest next year.

Global Women Who Ride: Sidecar racing at Hampton Downs Motorsports Park. The image depicts a bunch of sidecars lined up at starting position on a race track.

Sidecar racing at Hampton Downs Motorsports Park, Waikato, New Zealand (Photo credit: BJ Photography)

What’s it like to ride a sidecar vs. a motorcycle? Riding a sidecar is like riding a car! (laughs) It sounds funny but they really do handle very differently. With a bike your lean and steer, but with a sidecar you turn the handlebars and point where you want to go.

It involves a huge amount of trust between the rider and the passenger.You have to work as a team because the movement and timing of the passenger is crucial to how the bike will take the corners. The clutch and gears are generally the same as a regular motorbike. The braking system is usually set up with one foot brake to controls the three brakes on the front and rear.  There is a brake on the handlebars but just for emergencies. The tyres are racing slicks, more commonly found on lightweight racing cars.

To ride or passenger a sidecar in New Zealand, you do not have to have any special training. Anyone can jump on one and have a go as long as they have a motorcycling licence and a chum as crazy as they are!  My first time out, when we were coming into the pits I had forgotten that there was a piece out the side of the bike and I rode my poor passenger into the side of the gate! (laughs) I’d say it’s best to do a few track days first!

Women Who Ride: Tracey Bryan with Tina McKeown on their sidecar "Pinky". The image depicts a pink motorcycle sidecar on a race track with two motorcyclists dressed in black suits riding it.

Tracey Bryan riding with Tina McKeown  passenering on their sidecar “Pinky” (Photo Credit: Doug Cornes Photograph)

Why would a motorcyclist want to be a passenger in a sidecar? The passenger on a sidecar is not as passive as a passenger on a standard motorbike. Even though the rider is in control of the handlebars, speed, and braking, the passenger is in control of the handling and cornering. It is very much a team effort.

Being a passenger has its own challenges. You have to be in tune with the forces of the bike and distributing your weight appropriately, always trying to predict what the rider is going to do next.  It’s not as much about strength as timing.

You each have to trust that the other will do their job and do it well. Having been both a rider and a passenger, I can say they that are both equally important.

Personally, I find riding a little more intense because I feel responsible for the passenger. There is so much that goes through your head during a race. Conversely, if you don’t trust your passenger, you can not ride well because you’re not in the right head space.

Women Who Ride: Tracey passengers with brother Bryan Stent (Photo Credit: Mike-D Imagery). The image depicts a motorcycle sidecar on a race track with a rider and a passenger. The passenger is leaning way over and almost touching the ground.

Tracey passengers with brother Bryan Stent (Photo Credit: Mike-D Imagery)

To follow Tracey Bryan’s racing exploits, you can check the LP Racing Facebook page.