Dena Sodano Lives Beautiful

Dena Sodano with her 2003 Kawasaki 636.

I remember when I first found out about Dena. I was combing the Chic Riders forums, fascinated by the number of women stunt riders populating their pages – women like Jessica Maine and Alicia Speck to name a few. After perusing a few myspace pages connected to Chic Riders, I stumbled across some video of Dena skitching (assuming I have the terminology right). Anyway, she rode a sport bike like it was a bmx bike – easily and flawlessly. She was smooth and her movements controlled. She was the only other female I’d seen who could ride like Jessica did. Amazing.

Dena rides her motorcycle with none of her appendages actually touching the handlebars or the seat. I didn’t know that was even possible?

Fast forward a few years later and Dena became the first woman to do circle wheelies on a full-size motorcycle. Now she does wheelies effortlessly aboard her 2003 Kawasaki 636. Dena erupted onto the scene at a time when women were finally starting to populate the XDL series and she was able to take two women’s XDL championship titles before the XDL eliminated the series due to a lack of consistent participation.

Dena makes wheelies look easy.

Dena is the first of few women to take the risk of competing and be successful. I think too many women are pushed out of the stunt scene because of pressure from the audience and their peers. This proves that the successful ones have walked through fire and come out perfect on the other side because their love of riding outweighed the scrupulous eye of the “stunt scene.”

There is a small group of elite women stunt riders emerging as the new power circle amongst professional women riders. Dena is undoubtedly a member of this group and I think Dena is doing a pretty good job of proving that stunt riding, like road racing, is a level playing field for both men and women riders as long as you have the heart to live your life fearlessly chasing your dreams and the discipline to train for hours a day.

Read on to discover a small visible secret to Dena’s inspiration – her “Live Beautiful” tattoo.

From Dena:

Dena’s visible reminder to live her life in a way that’s best for her.

“My favorite tattoo isn’t big. It’s located on the inside of my left forearm and reads ‘Live Beautiful’ in a calligraphy font called “Scriptina.” I got it in 2009 when I was really fed up with where I was and what I was doing in life. It suddenly dawned on me the only reason things weren’t going the way I wanted was simply because of me. So I skipped out on work that day and got this tattoo as a reminder to live my life the way I want and happily. I learned you simply go fix it and move along. I have a life and your damn right I’m going to live it! Live Beautiful.”

Thank you to Dena’s sponsors because without them, we’d have no Dena!

Sodano Auto Body & Paint (You’re the best Dad!)

Speed & Strength –

Racing 905 –

Shinko Tires –


SARTSO Jeans –

Bikemaster Parts & Tools –

Motul –

Team Lojic –

Righteous Stunt Metal –


Hindle Exhaust –

Team Motion –

Check out this video to see some of Dena’s mad skills.


Special Ink: Stacey “Get Gone” Hicks

I’m a huge fan of Stacey’s. Any woman who can make a decent living wrenching AND own her own shop is an awesome rarity that makes the world of motorcycling a very interesting place.

I had a chance to get to know Stacey a little bit through this interview I did for IMS. I admit, I was completely enamored by her, her life, her mechanical know how and her shop. She owns RFL Customz, a motorcycle shop specializing in sport bike customization. But not only is she a confident black woman who can wrench like a pro, but she also works alongside her daughters and together, they can do pretty much anything when it comes to transforming a sportbike into a one-of-a-kind show piece. Stacey’s shop is currently being filmed for the Cafe Racer TV show, so we will probably be seeing more of Stacey, her shop and her family on TV soon.

There is nothing this woman can’t do. I would love to see one of her customs in person.

Luckily, Stacey took some time out between builds and filming to tell me a little about two of her tattoos, which have special meaning to her.

Stacey’s words:

“Get Gone” Motorcycles. I’m adding a custom bike by Stacey to my bucket list.

“These are two of my most important tats. The one on the elbow is a symbol of a bike build I did where I converted a sport bike into a Harley Davidson-style bike to match the customer’s Harley truck. At the time, he did not want a Harley, but bought one later anyway!

A piece of living history on Stacey’s body.

The tattoo of the “35” is to memorialize my late Dad, Roger Brown, who was the first Indiana Pacer signed in 1969.”

Stepping Out of the Furnace Fire:Charlotte Lee

Charlotte’s ink has helped her to continue living life fully after suffering the gravity of loss.

Every once in a while, you get a special letter from someone who is gracious enough to share a story so personal to their heart, that their words leave a mark on your memory, just like their ink has left a mark on them. I have been petitioning for stories from friends, family and any riders with ink, but when I got this email from Charlotte, I was touched. So many things happen in our lives and we wonder what the purpose is for it. Sometimes, that purpose is never made clear. All we can do is try to learn from it, move on and make life worth living. Considering how death has become such an integral part of riding after so many years in the saddle, finding ways to cope with it is all you can do to honor those who have fallen. This is why we were so pleased to receive Charlotte’s story. Congratulations on your newfound passion Charlotte! Riding a motorcycle is the proverbial ‘herbal remedy’ for sadness. There is nothing a few twists of the throttle down an open road won’t solve.
Charlotte’s Words:
“I was in the Navy for nine years but an accident during our call of duty killed my buddy and two other colleagues. It got me emotionally and I was scarred forever. My colleague had died in place of me, as we had swapped assignments before the accident. It took me a few years to come to terms with reality until I got the tattoo of an an angel stepping out of the furnace fire, with smoke from the fire turning into seven butterflies flying off in freedom. 
The angel represented my colleague as well as my guardian angel who has protected me from harm through out my life. The furnace fire represents hardship, which we have both gone through in our own way through life and death. The butterflies represent freedom, as my colleague is now free from the bonding of life. It is a reminder to me to be free with what I want to do, as life is short and unpredictable.” 
This newfound freedom is why I started learning to ride a motorbike at the current age of 38. I want to fulfill my teenaged dream of riding a bike on long distance touring. I want to feel the freedom of the wind in my face and the vibration of the powerful machine in my body.”

Charlotte started learning to ride in hopes of traveling cross country. After some classes and guidance, I’m sure she’ll be well on her way to miles of thundering happiness.

MI Featured Rider of the Week: Living Brakes, Heather Rowe

Photo by Tony T-Bone Colombini from Blacktop Magazine.

Heather Rowe has an interesting hobby. She likes to hang her “ass” off the edge of a Sidehack, which is a speedway motorcycle with a third wheel attached. She races with her husband at local Southern California speedways every chance they get. The Sidehack has a 1000 cc motor and no brakes, which Heather says is the fun part! The Sidehack can reach speeds up to 100 mph in the dirt, which can get exciting when you have several Sidehacks racing on a small oval course enclosed by a wall.

Husband and wife team – Heather and Jeff – in action.

“People love the Sidehacks,” she says. “It’s pretty strange to see a person driving while another person hangs their ass over in the dirt.” Since the Sidehacks have no brakes, the person hanging off acts as a brake as they shift their weight over the back axle, thus helping to propel the machine out of a corner and avoid the wall.

Heather and Jeff having some fun between races.

So what is it like to hang your body off a slammed, over powered machine in the dirt? Heather says “It’s like a dance with an 80-year-old woman who wants to kick your ass!” I’d assume you’d have to be a racer to understand what that means, but I’ve met some pretty tough old ladies, so I can relate.

Superbeast Sidehack racing under the lights.

Heather and her husband race their Sidehack at the Inland Motorcycle Speedway in the San Bernardino-Industry Hills area on Wednesdays, and they also race in Victorville and Costa Mesa. She said that her and her husband also plan to race in Las Vegas and Auburn this season.

Heather in true rocker style aboard a bike just a little bit smaller than what she’s used to.

As you can see, Heather is fully inked from head to toe. Her right arm is made up of skulls with different kinds of pony tails, as she believes a woman can be strong but feminine at the same time. A saying by Pablo Picasso is inscribed on her left arm, which reads ‘It takes courage for a man to listen to his own goodness and act on it.’ Do we dare to be ourselves? “That is the question that counts,” she says.

Heather has full sleeve tattoos on both arms.

Heather’s cake toppers and portrait. Pretty cool.

Heather’s Day of the Dead cake toppers and portrait. Some pretty alternative, yet fascinating art.

A chilling portrait of her great, great grandfather who was the war chief of all apache is showcased on her left cafe while her mother’s portrait adorns her right thigh. She has a Day of the Dead-style wedding cake topper with the words “better together” over it. She and her husband have been married for 17 years and say this phrase to each other often.

Heather’s war chief on her left calf.

Heather’s back is completely inked with the same scheme that is painted on her and her husband’s chopper. Additionally, she has a bird and “steam-punk” gear tattoo on her back designed by artist, Jason Greely of Lowbrow Ink in Grand Terrace.

Heather’s full back tattoos.

“I love racing for the fans and I love the family of Sidehack racers we have,” she says. “We’ve got each others back, at least until we get out on the track, then it’s all about racing!”

To find out more about Heather’s Sidehack racing, visit her Facebook page or check out her website. If you’d like to learn more about the schedule, Heather or Sidehack racing in general, you can email her.

Photo by Tony T-Bone Colombini from Blacktop Magazine

Featured Tattoo of the Week: Gizmo’s Memorial Tattoo of Danny Boi

Gizmo’s memorial tattoo of Danny Boi.

Gizmo and Danny Boi were best friends. They were both members of the Ruff Ryders Motorcycle Club and as Gizmo says, they were “in sync with each other.” Gizmo lost Danny to a hit and run in 2008 and got this tattoo in his memory. We’ll never forget our fallen riders. Below is Danny’s last interview before he died. RIP.

Michelle’s Plumeria: Beautiful yet Deadly

Michelle is about flexing her muscle and going fast on her motorcycle.

Michelle Wilcox rides every chance she gets. She also road races in local racing clubs and she’s all about having fun and enjoying her motorcycle. She has one tattoo on her wrist that is a symbol of strength to help her through life’s battles.

Beautiful yet deadly, the Plumeria is a contradictory yet synergistic symbol of how riding can effect your life.

This is what she had to say about her tattoo:

My tattoo is a Plumeria flower, beautiful and delicate – and deadly! The Plumeria is a highly poisonous flower that represents many things to many cultures. It is my symbol of independence. I got it after a bad divorce and it is a reminder of my youth and travels. My Dad was in the Navy and I lived in many places, including Hawaii, but always next to the ocean. Riding to me is beautiful and independent, but if not done correctly, it can be deadly, just like the Plumeria. I am an Accounting Manager. Both my riding and my tattoo are shocking to those that first meet me. I like that.

Michelle races with M1 Grand Prix on a 50cc road race bike. Many road racers say they learn more on the little bikes, which makes them faster on the big bikes. I’ve tried it myself and it sure is a lot of fun.

A Tribute to her Children: Carlene’s flowers


Carlene Rhodes is a good friend of ours and works for Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. She also was a jet ski enthusiast. When she’s not at work, she’s caring for her three boys and spending time at the river. Read on to find out more about Carlene’s tattoo.

Carlene’s son trying his luck on a stand-up jet ski.

Carlene’s words:

I got this tattoo to symbolize my kids… they are a huge part of me. My tattoo consists of three hibiscus flowers – one for each child. Each flower represents largest to smallest as oldest to youngest and they are done in their birthstone colors.

Carlene’s floral tattoo, which contains three hibiscus flowers – one for each son.