Life in the Fast Lane

For Shannon Anderson, a competitive nature and love of precision found an outlet through the high-speed world of motorcycle racing.

My passion for speed and competition started as a kid, racing go-carts around my parents’ tobacco shed. I always wanted to race the grown-ups instead of my younger sisters because I sought the greatest challenge and competition. Looking back, I’m guessing those grown-ups let me win, but I didn’t know any better and took great pride when I won a race.

Go-carts were fun, but my true desire was to have a motorcycle. So I obtained my motorcycle license soon after getting my driver’s license and bought my first bike. I quickly realized that racing was still in my blood, but that my desire for riding fast and aggressively did not translate to the street. A friend told me about a race class down in Illinois, and while I had no formal motorcycle racing experience, I found it intriguing and a safer way to direct my energy.

I was not sure what to expect, but I bought the appropriate gear, prepped my bike, rented a trailer, and headed out. Surprisingly, I hated my first few times on the track. I felt very awkward and timid. Thankfully I stuck out the class and by the end of the day found enjoyment in the challenge of trying to get faster with each lap. I left the track that day with my race license and, shortly after, sold my street bike for one I could prep for racing. My knowledge was minimal, but I asked a lot of questions and utilized the help of a mechanic who worked with racers. I took my time and slowly learned to go faster.

After 16 years of racing, not a lot has changed. I’m still learning, I ask a lot of questions, and my goal each time on the track remains to get a little better and faster with each lap.

Since my start in racing down in Illinois, I have raced all over the country. Most of my competition is with men, although the number of women racers has increased a little since I started in 1999. I have never found my gender or sexuality to be an issue at the track. The racers and racing community are extremely supportive and respectful of me.

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My profession is in financial advising, and because I wear business suits every day, my motorcycle racing hobby often takes people by surprise. When I first started racing, I was nervous to have a racing picture in my office for fear that people would think I was an aggressive risk-taker—not a characteristic you’d necessarily want in someone you’d hired to manage your money. In actuality, most racers are less adrenaline junkies and more analytical and technical in nature. Adrenaline without caution and precision can get you hurt, and those types of racers don’t tend to have very long careers on the track.

Going fast is fun, but not that hard, and speed is not where the thrill comes from. The true rush comes from the challenge of managing all the variables out on the rack. Racing requires total presence of mind in the moment. There is zero time to think about anything else.

Getting it right entails less rider input than you might think. The mechanics of the motorcycle are complex, and the more I let the bike do its thing, usually the faster I go. When everything is in line, I meld with the bike and feel like I am flying around the track. When I don’t get it right, at a minimum I go slower, but on occasion it results in a crash. I have crashed over the years, and I usually get up and walk away. In 2003, I high-sided while going relatively slowly around a tight corner, resulting in a fractured pelvis and broken collar bone. Those injuries prompted some time off, but I only found myself dreaming about racing and decided life was too short to not do what I love. Some people may think I’m crazy for risking my life participating in such a dangerous sport, but I feel it is far crazier to let fear get in the way of something I love.

My enjoyment for racing comes from the challenge and intensity. I learn something new each time I go out on the track. I try to win, but my ultimate goal is to have fun. I live by a quote from Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of the Special Olympics: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” I compete with my entire being and my whole heart, and in doing so I feel like a winner every time I’m on the track.

If you have an interest in racing or even just riding on a track, there are a lot of opportunities to bring your street bike to a track day. Many track days are designed for non-racers, and they are an excellent opportunity to experience a unique type of riding that you will not get on the street. If you don’t have a motorcycle and want to learn, Madison College offers classes and they provide a motorcycle for you to use.

Whatever your interest, whether it’s on a motorcycle or something entirely different, I encourage you to go for it! Don’t let fear or excuses get in the way. We all have feelings of intimidation and uncertainty when trying something new. I felt that way my first time on the track, but pushing through was worth it because I discovered something that I’m passionate about. And don’t worry about being perfect or being the best. Just be the best “you,” and you will find success.


Check out Shannon racing on Facebook at Chick Power Racing or at chickpowerracing.com