Strident, confident and at the top of her game, Rachel Pearson is quietly making it in the high-pressure, celebrity world of television.
It’s a scenario scarcely imaginable a couple of years ago, with the lead video editor at at a major US sports broadcaster in a “bad place”, constantly teetering on the brink of depression and anxiety.
The daily rushes of adrenaline fuelled by the buzz of deadlines successfully met and passing celebrities were only temporary. She needed something more… and she found it in motorcycling.
Finding the courage
Deterred by fear of what her parents might say as a teen, she watched as her brother beat her to the bike. But it was a passion that burned deep inside for a decade until the day she confronted her demons.
“I found the courage to ride when I felt completely trapped in my life in all aspects. I was going through a tough time, in a bad relationship and those negative thoughts and feelings spread everywhere. My fun, exciting career, which I loved, was even starting to lose its colour.
I went and bought my Bonneville. It was instant freedom – the best decision I ever made
“I spent a lot of time in a dark room alone with my thoughts and realised I needed a focus. I was growing more depressed and anxious and it was at that point I decided I needed to start taking action in areas where I’d hesitated in the past because of what others would think,” she recalls.
“So in January 2018 I cut my hair off. New year, new me. And three months later in March, I went and bought my Bonneville. It was instant freedom – the best decision I ever made, even if my bro said ‘mum and dad are going to kill you’.”
Los Angeles-based Rachel, 33, named her T100 Bonneville Black Betty, after her grandma, whose St Christopher’s cross she wears on her bike keychain to keep her safe.
“I always wanted a bike and knew how to do an oil change even before I got one. I did my research and that helped me out of the hole because it was something to focus on,” she adds. “But I could never have envisaged the effect that getting Betty would have on my life.
“I didn’t want to leave the house or be seen before, but now I want to be seen because I’m so proud to be on my bike. She’s class, heritage, Brando, McQueen, Beckham, awesome and totally badass. Full of tech too… man, even my car doesn’t tell me how many miles of fuel I’ve got left.”
I can almost feel the bad stuff lifting during my ride
Whenever she feels the dark clouds gathering now she has an instant fix: “If I’m upset or p***ed off, I stick on a playlist, grab Betty and ride by the ocean where the only thing I can think about is the stunning scenery and me being part of the bike. I can almost feel the bad stuff lifting during my ride and then a little bit more with each ride.”
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A new family
Another big part of that lifting, she says, is the community’s reaction to her not just as a rider but also as a Triumph rider: “You raise eyebrows and get attention on a Triumph. I stopped for a coffee yesterday and met a guy on a Speed Triple and we chatted like we were old friends because of that instant bond the brand brings.
“Betty has changed all aspects of my life and opened the door for everything to improve because when you’re riding the Pacific Highway, the Malibu Canyons or weaving through the mountains north of LA, nothing else much matters.
“I’ve come a long way thanks to Betty and last week, as I parked my bike in the studio lot, this guy shouted ‘I see you!’ as I looked around to see who was checking my bike out. It was former basketball legend Chauncey Billups.”
The right time
No big deal for someone who shares a studio with actor Billy Crystal and athletes including Magic Johnson and Julie Foudy, but for Rachel it was all about the bike: “She turns heads. And I’ve still got a bit more customising to go. I want to black her out as much as possible, lose the fender and bring some new pipes.”
Then she and her “best friend” will be ready for a trip that two years ago would have filled Rachel with dread: a road trip across the western United States.
She says: “It will be amazing because I have discovered my Bonneville at the right time in my life, when I was mentally ready.”