Former Olympian track cyclist and now professional jockey, Victoria Pendleton has always had a passion for fast-paced sports. Recently passing her motorcycle test and picking up a Street Triple, she’s pursuing a long-held dream of escaping on a motorbike.
Invited on a factory tour at the Hinckley headquarters, Victoria got to sit on some of the most iconic Triumphs ever made and see the inner workings of the factory.
Winning a gold in the 2008 Olympic Games, and a gold and silver in London in 2012, alongside nine first-place finishes in the Track Cycling World Championships, Victoria has been at the very top of track cycling.
As she says herself, once you’ve stood on the top step of the podium at your home Olympics, what next? FTR sat down with her to find out why motorcycles and why now?
“My first motorcycle experience was riding around the velodrome on a 250”
For Victoria, riding a motorcycle was always on her bucket list. Being an athlete has its restrictions, and that includes not riding a motorbike. However, the pull was strong and, defying a few rules, she had the opportunity to jump on a motorcycle in a couple of moments throughout her career.
“My first motorcycle experience was riding around the velodrome on a 250cc motorbike. It’s one that we would use in training to draft behind. So I had a little go on it and thought, ‘this is brilliant!’. I probably wasn’t really allowed to ride it, so I won’t say who let me do it.
“I went on an off-road experience a while ago. It was my first time riding outside; I couldn’t believe the sense of freedom it gave me. You just don’t get that feeling in a car.”
“I’m all for off-the-grid”
“Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time or space to pursue it further, until now. What really drove me to do this was the idea of going on a big holiday. I know a lot of people say this, but watching Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman do the Long Way Round really inspired me. It made me think it would be a great way to see a country.
“I’m all for off-the-grid holidays – and a motorcycle gives you the access to do extraordinary things.”
When we spoke to Victoria she had only just passed her motorcycle test a couple of days earlier: “I thought the Module 1 part was a bit tricky, but I passed. I picked up a Street Triple yesterday afternoon and I’ve been out on it twice already. Seems like a really fun bike to ride, but easy enough to handle for a novice like myself.
“Seeing how they build the Street Triples here in Hinckley was fascinating and there are so many famous bikes in the Visitor Experience. I’ve also got my eye on the new Scrambler 1200s, but I think I’ll stick to the Street Triple for now until I get a bit more practice.”
“It’s good for the soul”
“As an athlete, I’ve always been restricted in what I can do. You know, I wasn’t even allowed to go running because of the risk of twisting my ankle. Since moving on from cycling, I’ve been ticking things off my list: horse racing, surfing and now motorcycling.
“Being outside and experiencing the world on a motorbike really appeals to me. When you do a sport that asks you to be very focused and present, it’s hard to find other things that demand that amount of attention and concentration. Motorcycles are one of the things that really do require your full attention.
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“If you’re not someone who meditates, having that space, that focus, that mindfulness helps a lot. There’s also something to be said for the risk factor. Riding racehorses, catching a big swell, riding a motorcycle – you have to be super aware and present. It’s something we don’t do enough in modern-day life. It’s good for the soul. You feel alive.
“I’m still looking to experience life”
“It’s all about being focused and being in the moment. That’s where I like to be. As an athlete that’s where you always are. My thought process while training would be: ‘I need to be going exactly 50kph, stick to this line, breathe once through that corner’. In order to be the best you have to take every opportunity as if it were your last chance.
“I guess it’s like an affliction in many ways. I want to feel that adrenaline rush and I miss the commitment and dedication of being an athlete. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone actually makes me feel comfortable – it’s weird!
“I’m lucky really. When you stand on the podium at a home Olympics singing the National Anthem, where do you go from there? You’d think you could just put it in a box and put it away, but I’m still looking to experience life, and life is better on a motorbike.”
“Now’s the time to get some miles under my belt and think about taking my Triumph on a big trip.”