Leah Tokelove: The Hooligan

Photos courtesy of Leah Tokelove archives

Leah Tokelove, a Brit who calls herself the Hooligan with pigtails, started riding when she was just a kid. She grew up in rural Lincolnshire, and at five years old her dad – who used to ride a bit of motocross and on the road – bought her a bike. 

That Yamaha PW50 started her love for motorcycles – and speed. “We used to ride around on the farm behind my house,” Leah said. “By the time I was 13 I’d been hooning around on a little Kawasaki KLX110 for a few years, getting faster and faster, until it got to the point that I was quicker than my Dad. So with that he bought me my first proper motocross bike – a Suzuki RM85 – a waspy little thing that took me forever to nail the clutch on. And well, the rest is history. “ 

Once she had a proper bike and plenty of speed, Leah started heading down to race her motorcycle on the beach. “I was 13 years old and woke up every other Sunday morning at the crack of dawn through the winter to go race my motorcycle on the beach,” she said. “Come rain or shine I was there. I did six consecutive seasons racing on the beach, working my way out of the junior classes and through the adult ranks. Hell, I won races and was even the first woman to win a full championship on the beach.”

It wasn’t long until she got the flat track bug. “Midway through my second season,” she continued, “we noticed that a load of the real fast lads were doing this thing called flat track, and the Dirt Track Riders Association (DTRA) was going to be running the UK Championship. I signed up not really knowing what I was getting into and just wanting to become a better beach racer. Little did I know I would become obsessed, and I’m about to embark on my eighth season. Now I’m a Pro and a Hooligan racer – crazy shit!” 

Over the past few years Leah’s had some sweet moments as a flat tracker. She won the UK minibike championship in 2015, got 3rd in the Restricted Class in 2016 and went pro in 2017 as she finally got some recognition for “putting up a fight against the boys.” 

In 2018, she got the opportunity of a lifetime – riding for Indian Motorcycle in the new Hooligan series. “I was skeptical about racing a quarter-ton V-Twin monster,” she said. “But I had my arm twisted into it. I finished fourth in my first Hooligan year. Then, an all-time high for 2018 was winning ‘El Rollo,’ the ever-popular flat track race held at Wheels & Waves. Man, that was something. In front of a mega-packed crowd of literally thousands in the countryside of San Sebastian, France. It was my first-ever major win, and a big turning point.” 

2019 found her taking the show on the road, and with the support of Indian Motorcycle she got the chance to race in California, which she calls “the mecca for all things Hooligan racing.” She returned to the U.S. again in 2020, racing the first two opening rounds of the Super Hooligans Championship, again with the support of Indian. “The first race was at The One Moto Show, and I went on to win my heat race and make the final. I became the first woman to win a Super Hooligans heat and made the main event on a very less than ideal track. It was a sweet moment.” 

Beyond racing, she’s working to increase the participation of women in motorcycling. “I set up Days on the Dirt,” she told us, “a women’s-only flat track school. I also teach and promote motorcycling at Camp VC and Dirtcamp, which is a DTRA-based initiative aiming to increase the number of female riders within the club. I think the important thing is just increasing opportunities for participation and lowering the barriers in a safe environment with like-minded individuals – we rise by lifting others.” 

When we asked her what she had to say to women thinking about learning to ride or race, she said this: “Fucking do it! I promise you will not regret it and you’ll unleash a part of yourself that you didn’t even know existed. You’ll also open yourself up to a whole new community of people who I promise are the nicest, most supportive humans you can ever meet – men and women.” 

You can follow Leah Tokelove at @leahtokelove37 on Instagram, Leah Tokelove – The Hooligan with Pigtails on Facebook or visit her website www.leahtokelove.com— Joy Burgess

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