View slideshow Seventh grader sets motorcycle world record
Father introduces sport to daughter, Rivas duo excel on Utah Salt Flats
At 12 years old, FC seventh grader Cayla Rivas broke the world record for speed in her motorcycle class using a 250cc engine. At the American Motorcycle Association's BUB Speed Trials on the Bonneville Speedway in Utah, Rivas raced her bike at 62.968 miles per hour and became the first and only 12-year-old to break a record at Bonneville.
Seventh grader Cayla Rivas set the world record for speed in her motorcycle class, 250 MPS-PF, using a 250 cc engine, Aug. 29. At the American Motorcyclist Association's (AMA) BUB Speed Trials on the Bonneville Speedway in Utah, Rivas raced her bike at 62.968 miles per hour, setting the bar for future competitors.
Only three months before setting the record, Rivas started riding for the first time. Her dad, Chris, presented Rivas with the idea to join the sport, and she agreed to try it out. He is also a motorcycle racer, and has become highly respected and well-known in the racing community across the nation, especially in the last few years.
"My dad asked me if I wanted to race and I told him I thought it would be fun," Rivas said. "He said, 'I found a bike for you, and we can pick it up tomorrow', and I said, 'Okay, sure.'"
Chris first mentioned racing to Rivas when he realized that, at 12 years old, she was now eligible to compete at an AMA event. He found a motorcycle class in which there was not yet a record and signed her up.
"I knew that there had never been another 12-year-old who had ever set a record at Bonneville," Chris said, "So, I thought why not give it a shot? She would be the first and only, and I could help her do it."
She practiced with her dad right outside of his motorcycle shop, Chris Rivas V-Twin, located in Fresno on the corners of Van Ness and Los Angeles Street.
Rivas remembers having difficulty with her racing gear when she first started riding with it. To legally compete, she was required to wear a full-face helmet, riding boots and full-body leathers.
"I knew how to ride the bike," Rivas said, "But the first time my dad made me wear the outfit, it was really hard to ride. I got so frustrated that I broke down and told him, 'I can't do this, I quit.'"
"I was pretty nervous and a little scared of the unknown. But after the race, I realized that this is easy and really fun. I had the bike at full throttle, but it was going as fast as it could. It felt really good to set the world record, but I wanted to go faster. My dad told me to go 40 miles per hour or whatever felt comfortable, but I went 55. He said, 'What happened to 40?', so I said, 'You told me whatever felt comfortable.'" --Cayla Rivas, '17
Rivas realized that she would need to learn to ride with the gear, so about a week later she got back on it. This time, she and Chris started with one part of the outfit and added one piece of gear at a time; this system seemed to work better. Over time she learned to ride more comfortably with the gear, and she was able to focus on racing again.
Before the BUB Speed Trials, Rivas remembers being a little anxious and worried about her performance and results. As soon as she got out there, though, she settled down and was able to race and really enjoy the experience.
"I was pretty nervous and a little scared of the unknown," Rivas said. "But after the race, I realized that this is easy and really fun. I had the bike at full throttle, but it was going as fast as it could. It felt really good to set the world record, but I wanted to go faster."
Rivas was excited to become the first and only 12-year old to ever set a world record at the BUB Speed Trials. But even setting the world record was not enough to satisfy her need for speed.
Seventh grader Jenna Bynum was excited to hear of Rivas' achievement in such a new and unique sport, but she was not really suprised to something like that happen.
"It's really cool that she was able to start the record," Bynum said. "I would expect that from her, because she's really tough and she's always talking about that kind of stuff."
From the beginning of her riding, Rivas has always desired to go as fast as possible. The first time she ever rode, she surprised Chris with how quickly and easily she picked up the sport.
"My dad told me to go 40 miles per hour or whatever felt comfortable, but I went 55. He said, "What happened to 40?', so I said, 'You told me whatever felt comfortable.'"
Her motorcycle class, 250 MPS-PF, is not based on age or gender but solely on the type of engine the bike uses. That means Rivas has set the record for any person who will ever use a 250 cc engine, including all men and people much older than her.
Rivas' dad Chris, who also set a record at the event, gives her last bits of advice before the race. Rivas had only practiced for three months prior to the event.
At Bonneville, Chris broke a speed record of his own, blowing Jay Allen's record of 186.465 mph out of the water by over 15 mph. In his class, 3000 APS-PG, he set the new record of 201.7 mph and joined the BUB Speed Trials 201 mph club. He has become the first and only cyclist to ride a bagger, a motorcycle with saddlebags and/or storage compartments, over 200 mph.
"It was a pretty amazing experience," Chris said. "I've raced professionally for a while and in a lot of forms, but it is always a thrill to set a new record."
Even more than setting his records, Chris enjoyed sharing the experience with his daughter. He is excited that they were able to pull it off, even in the few short months they had to practice and prepare for the race.
"It was a whole new experience and level of excitement," Chris said. "I can't even describe the way it made me feel. I was so proud of her for setting a record the first time she ever did it, and it was a thrill to do it with her."
Rivas just got her first sponsor, Worldwide Bearings, a motorcycle parts company in New Jersey. Owner Dave Conforti respects and admires Rivas for her achievements and abilities. Conforti has also sponsored Chris in his racing over the years and greatly appreciates what he and Rivas are doing together.
"I'm sponsoring her because she's young," Conforti said, "What she's doing is pretty amazing. She's a part of a sport that is dominated by people four times her age, and most of them are men."
In addition to her new hobby of racing, Rivas also tap dances competitively. This art has led to another venue of support from a major business in the racing world.
Rivas was recently asked to be on an advertisement for S&S Cycle. George Smith, Jr., CEO and Chairman, plans to tie the performing arts culture to their company and to the racing community in a unique way by acquainting his customers with her story. He also hopes to engage the hundreds of people who attend the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, a musical group out of La Crosse, WI whose performing arts program S&S supports.
"We're hoping she continues racing," Smith said. "I think a lot of her and her family, and this is a way we can help her a little bit. The advertisement may not sell more parts, but it's a neat way to combine her arts with S&S Cycle."
Chris does not have any plans for his daughter in the area of motorcycle racing. His greatest hope is simply that she will have fun, and he does not intend to pressure her either way.
"If she wants to do it, I'll support her," Chris said, "But if she doesn't, I'm okay with that too. It's not about what I want her to do. I just want her to enjoy it as long as she does it."
Rivas plans on continuing to practice her riding in preparation for future races and looks forward to an increase of velocity and performance. She also hopes to work on her motorcycle with her dad to improve its speed capability while retaining the requirements for certification.
"I definitely want to keep racing," Rivas said. "We're going to have to work on the bike so it can go faster, but I want to practice more so I can become a better rider."
For more pictures of Rivas at Bonneville, visit Chris Rivas V-Twin's photo gallery. For more features, read the Sept. 21 article, Outdoor education provides hands-on learning.