Readers and their Rides

Mickee Rarick and Her ’03 Ridley Speedster

Written by  December 31, 2005

When the innovative Clay Ridley began building small motorcycles with automatic transmissions in his Oklahoma City factory, he created the opportunity for many non-riders or motorcycle passengers to proudly ride their own bikes. One of those riders is my friend Mickee Rarick from Spearfish, South Dakota, just west of Sturgis. I met Mickee and her husband, Jim, during my 1991 trip to the Sturgis Rally, and we have become very good friends. We look forward to getting together every year during Rally Week. In past years, Mickee rode with Jim on his Harley dresser or with me if Jim was working or otherwise unavailable. Sturgis 2005 was different, since Mic was twisting the throttle on her own motorcycle. Let me introduce you to Mickee by way of the interview that follows:

CC: What is your occupation?
Mickee: I’m a homemaker, and I have a home business distributing alternative medicine products.

CC: When did you learn to ride?
Mickee: Five years ago I took a rider safety course. I didn’t ride a motorcycle again until 1-1/2 years ago. When I got the Ridley, my husband, Jim, helped me re-learn. We would go to the big parking lot at the college to practice and then ride around Spearfish. Then I just went out and rode on my own to practice. Jim was a very good teacher!

CC: What is the year and model of your Ridley motorcycle?
Mickee: It’s a 2003 Speedster.

CC: What influenced your decision to buy a Ridley and what do you like most about it?
Mickee: I felt I could hold it up and would be able to handle it. One great feature is the automatic transmission. There’s no clutch, and I don’t have to shift it. That’s one less thing for me to think about while riding. I think the Ridleys are so cute! I love the looks of it!

CC: Did you buy your bike locally?
Mickee: I bought it at the Ridley stand during the 2004 Sturgis Rally. Since then I discovered a shop in Spearfish that can service the Ridley. They do a great job, backed up by the Ridley Company.

CC: You live in such a beautiful area! What are some of your favorite places to ride?
Mickee: I started out going up Spearfish Canyon, then to Deadwood and down Boulder Canyon, then to Sturgis and home. This fall I rode to Hill City one day and Mount Rushmore the next, my longest ride so far!

CC: Do you generally ride with a group or alone?
Mickee: Both. I ride with other girls, but their motorcycles are all bigger. Then sometimes I just take off by myself to practice.

CC: Your bike attracts a lot of attention. What do people ask you about it?
Mickee: Oh boy! When I stop for gas --or anywhere -- people just come over and want to look at the Ridley. (I call her Purple!). They want to know where I got it, what kind of engine it has, how much gas it takes, how fast it goes (70mph), whether I would sell it (NO!). They want to ride it. They take pictures of Purple and me, and we just have more fun!!! The women love it. They all want one!

CC: What will your next bike be?
Mickee: Well, since I am 62 I don’t know if I will have another one. Ridley makes just a little bit bigger motorcycle now (also no shifting), but I am not sure if I want to move up at this stage. I am happy where I am!

CC: How do you like riding during the Sturgis Rally?
Mickee: Love it! Just love it! I want to be in the middle of everything going on! Sturgis was my home, so I know a lot of people there, and that makes the rally even more fun.

CC: What is your most memorable riding experience? Why?
Mickee: You shared that experience with me. You and I were riding back from Sturgis on the service road. alongside I-90 one evening, since I don’t feel comfortable on the interstate yet. A thunderstorm was coming, and we were trying to get to Spearfish before the storm hit. It was dark, and we were going along about 55 m.p.h. with me in the lead when I saw a deer in the ditch to the right of us! I pointed it out, and then I thought, “Boy, if another one comes along I am going to faint!” I decided to keep my finger near my horn button, and if another one came along, I would honk at it. About two seconds later, there stood another deer right in our path. I could see his eyes looking into my headlights, and he was not moving! I honked the horn, and the deer darted off the road to the left. I am not kidding -- we were just feet away from it, and we were going nearly 55! That horn saved us. Then we both stopped on the road to catch our breath. We made it to Spearfish just before the storm arrived!

CC: Yes, that was quite a close call! You handled the situation very well, alerting me to the deer and keeping both of us out of trouble.

CC: What was your impression of the annual motorcycle rally as you grew up in Sturgis?
Mickee: Well, I grew up with the rally. My Dad and Mom were great supporters of the rally from the beginning. They had a Ford Dealership in Sturgis back then. When Pappy and Pearl started to build the race track, they needed Dad’s Ford tractors to do some leveling. Dad would go up to the track in his good clothes, white shirt and hat, and get on the tractor and go around and around on that track to help build it. I mainly remember sitting in the stands watching the motorcycle races with my Dad. We would bet pennies on the racers. I loved the starts, the noise of the engines, the dust, the excitement, and the wrecks (providing no one was hurt)!

The first rallies were very tame. There were only about 40 couples in the Jackpine Gypsies Club. They would ride all in a row with sparkling, clean bikes - husbands and wives. They wore little hats, white shirts with ironed creased sleeves, and black bow ties. Spic and span! I remember them crowning the Jackpine Gypsy Queen in the park.

After a while things began to change. -- big time! The crowds started getting bigger and bigger! Sturgis busineses started to take the windows out of their stores and put in motorcyle products. The streets were lined with vendors. There used to be just one block of motorcycles on Main Street but now there are at least 6 blocks of bikes, plus the whole town is full of motorcycles! The rally has expanded outside of Sturgis. It isn’t just Sturgis anymore; it is the whole region now. People come from all over the world to ride in our beautiful Black Hills!

CC: Thanks, Mic.

The following photos illustrate the smaller size of the Ridley compared to my Harley. Here are some comparisons between the Speedster and my ’90 Heritage Softail:
Seat height: Speedster-24”, Heritage-25.5”
Weight: Speedster-515 lb. (GVWR), Heritage-710 lb. (dry)
Wheelbase: Speedster-52”, Heritage-62.5”
Engine displacement: Speedster-570 c.c., Heritage-1,340 c.c.
Transmission: Speedster-Ridley CVT automatic, Heritage-5 speed manual

Don’t let the size fool you. The Ridley is a full-fledged motorcycle with plenty of power and speed. Mickee trusted me to take Purple for a ride, and I was impressed. Now that Mickee is riding her own motorcycle, Sturgis will never be the same!

Story and photos by Stripe