Hot wheels cool babe

Report and pictures by: 
Ariffin Jamar

It’s like a dance.

Effortless, almost gliding, Miss Leah Petersen guns her bike around the rooftop of the carpark at Turf City, performing stunts with ease.

Wheelies, burnouts, bunnyhops and drifts – manoeuvres usually handled aggressively, but here, with a sense of calm.

Clad in her trademark purple racing jacket and riding her purple Kawasaki Ninja, Miss Petersen shows why she is the world’s top female sportbike free-style rider. Don’t let the girly colours fool you. Like the similarly hued Hit Girl from the Kick-Ass films, her stunts are hardcore, nothing for the faint of heart to attempt.

Miss Petersen is here as part of the 2013 Motul Bike Festival, which also counts as the first leg of her Asia tour.

While no one can knock her aptitude for dangerous stunts, it has to be said that she can also make heads turn with her looks.

It’s not just that she is a striking figure in her bike leathers. Off her bike and without her helmet, the American, who stands about 1.8m tall, with long blonde hair and a slender figure, could easily be a model.

But there are no diva-like airs about her. When asked about her cool riding style, she answers: “I’m a calm person by nature. I guess it shows in my riding.”

Compared to some male stunt riders, who wrangle and treat their bike like a beast, she is not one to get easily frustrated.

“I get frustrated only when I’m practising a new trick,” she says with laugh.

As she cools off her bike and talks to this reporter in the shade, her cool and calm demeanour is surprising, given the dangerous stunts she has just performed.

Having seen her ability, it comes as a surprise that she began stunt riding only five years ago, as a hobby.

She had been an avid biker before that but it was one particular moment that spurred her to try stunts. “My need for adrenaline spiked when I saw a friend spontaneously do a power wheelie on the highway,” says the easy-going Miss Petersen.

Since then, she hasn’t looked back and has toured nine countries across three continents to great acclaim.

After warming up her ride, she breaks into a wheelie. With the front wheel in the air, she rides about 20 metres before switching to another trick.

There is very little hesitation between stunts.

One moment she is standing on the pillion seat, the next her legs are over the handlebars as she breaks into another wheelie. Aside from a variety of statuesque poses, she also burns plenty of rubber as a plume of smoke billows from her back wheel during a burnout.

And if you have seen drifting done only by cars, you will note that Miss Petersen’s figure eights are almost balletic.

The article related to these pictures was first published in The New Paper on Sunday on 6 October 2013.