Laura is a beautiful woman, who loves anything with wheels and it’s always a pleasure to see dynamo gals like her living life at full throttle. Read on a she shares more of her story.
Laura Byrd (Laura Coffin-Byrd)
Occupation: Travel & Automotive Journalist and Facilitator.
Location: Currently living in Naples, Italy.
Currently rides: 2005 Harley Davidson Softail Deluxe, 2012 Harley Davidson CVO Street Glide
When did you start riding a motorcycle? I started riding street bikes in May of 2003
What got you involved in motorcycles and how did you start?  My father bought me a dirt bike when I was 14 years old and I did a lot of off-roading with the guys. We used to ride gravel pits, poker runs, and on motocross tracks that were not in use. I had a Yamaha 125 and one of those scary three-wheelers they don’t manufacture anymore.
How has riding motorcycles impacted your life? Every time I’ve felt like I was conforming too much as an adult – whether it be because of career demands, family demands, or simply the daily requirement in my life for behavior that is “appropriate, civilized, cooperative and accommodating,” getting on my motorcycle takes me back to being fully who I was at 15 years old all over again.
What has been your biggest challenge with riding a motorcycle? Getting back in the saddle after a motorcycle  accident. I have never wrecked my own bike, but here in Italy my husband and I went down together in a motorcycle accident on the 2011 CVO Street Glide we brought to Italy from the United States. It wasn’t our fault – there was a huge oil spill from construction on the Autostrada. But after riding thousands of miles safely, being two-up on a motorcycle that is going down was the most helpless feeling I’ve ever felt in my life. I still have a vivid memory of my head hitting the pavement, and getting back on a bike, two up, has been the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced. Riding solo makes me feel powerful and in control. Riding on the back and surrendering control – is difficult to begin with, but after an accident, really challenging.
What do you like most about your model motorcycle? I owned a 100-Year Anniversary Sportster that I took to Sturgis, South Dakota in 2004. Riding back I stopped in a dealership in Wyoming and sat on one of the first Deluxe models coming out for 2005. I immediately loved the feeling of heavy, perfect balance. The center of gravity was much lower than my Sportster – even though the bike was heavier. I also love the vintage black & white paint and the white walls that drive me nuts keeping clean. Everything I’ve done to the bike has been to reinforce the classic, vintage feel of it for me.
What modifications have you made to your motorcycle? Screaming Eagle Stage One kit and TONS of chrome. I know denim is big now and some people are not fans of chrome – but I had a chrome swing arm and chrome forks put on almost immediately – then chromed her from the tank up. To me, it looks like jewelry when I’m riding. And I’m not into bling at all, so I want my bike to do the twinkling for me!
When you’re not riding motorcycles what are you other interest? I was a television motorsport reporter back in the nineties and covered everything from drag racing for TNN Motorsport to CART racing for ESPN II. I love racing and being here in Italy gives me a great opportunity to attend the 24 Hours of LeMans again and visit some famous tracks. I’m a travel journalist, so photojournalism is a passion as is any opportunity to explore somewhere new. I recently visited the Ferrari Museum for a story and am going back to “motor valley” (Modena) to do a story on the Ducati and Maserati museums. I love anything with an engine!
What advice do you have for other women riders? Ride alone until you’re a proficient rider. Or ride with one other woman who is experienced and a conservative rider who won’t dare you or challenge you to ride over your head. Log miles and PRACTICE. Brake hard in a straight line, talk to yourself about “eyes up” and “elbows in.” Do NOT jump into riding with a group of men when you’re a newbie. It is very, very easy to want to “keep up with the guys” when you first get your bike and do a group ride. But unless it is a very carefully organized H.O.G. ride with road captains holding intersections and riders using all the proper riding etiquette, it’s very easy to ride over your head, especially when you’re anxious to prove yourself. I’ve watched many new female riders run red lights, take turns too fast, not split lanes correctly – all because they’re with a group and are feeling rushed to ride over their heads by peer pressure. I watched a woman go down on a Fatboy on a freeway off ramp because she was riding fast in a group, nobody signaled and they suddenly dove for the exit. Instead of continuing to ride – something you would learn to do with time and experience – she made a bad maneuver too fast and went down. I did it trying to show off on a dirt bike. Ride alone or with one buddy, practice, and develop good habits that will stay with you in a group.
How tall are you?  5’3 – 5’4 on a good day.
What is your weather like year round? I came here from both San Diego and Seattle. I took the Rider course in two states – once in pouring rain and other time in perfect weather. I’m used to both riding year round in California, and in freezing temperatures in Washington State. Here the weather is extreme. A high of 112 degrees in August, then freezing and torrential rain in the winter. We ride in all of it. It’s about the gear.
How is riding therapy for you? It’s the one time I feel complete. Like I’ve come full circle into WHO I REALLY AM. There are so many roles to play in life and I’ve had to be all of them. A corporate person, a business person, a wife, a step-mom, a teacher, a communicator, a best friend, etc. All those things are part of the person, but one role doesn’t represent the whole person. When I ride, I feel like all those people get in the seat with me and I’m finally one complete, authentic me. I feel FREE and I feel STRONG. As weird as it sounds, I talk to God all the time when I ride. So I guess for some of us, it’s more than the bike, it’s a spiritual thing.
Yes Laura, I’m with you… “for some of us it’s more than a bike.” We are the lucky ones who “get” the freedom of the open road.
Ride ON!
Brenda Fox