Rider Spotlight: Melissa Paris
NEWS December 1, 2011
Photo by Brian J. Nelson
AMAPro: Where are you from?
MP: I’m originally from Northern California, but I’ve been living in Southern California for quite a while now. I’d consider Oceanside my home. When Josh Hayes and I first met, I was going to San Diego State, and I moved with him to Mississippi for a couple years, but we came right back and have been here ever since.
AMAPro: What was your first motorcycle?
MP: My very first bike was a (laughs) Kawasaki EX250. I had it for two whole months before I got bored with it and moved up to a Yamaha FZR 600. I was 20 years old when I learned how to ride.
AMAPro: How'd you get into motorcycle riding?
MP: I had a boyfriend in college who rode a sport bike, and I always thought it was cool. Naturally, I always wanted to learn. I used to ride on the back of his bike all the time. He even had a spare set of leathers that I would wear when he took me motorcycle riding in the canyons. Then one day I saw a girl riding a motorcycle, and it clicked. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I doing on the back?!’ He taught me how to ride, and I went from there. I immediately fell in love with motorcycles, and within one year of getting my motorcycle license, I was racing.
AMAPro: Do you ride on the street?
MP: Josh and I haven’t for a long time, just because we’re so busy. But we did just get a Yamaha WR-250F street version to tool around town. I learned to ride at Palomar Mountain, which is pretty epic. It’s seven miles of decreasing radius corners. You could drag knee on the public road, which is kind of scary to think of now. To me, it was so cool, but going from the canyon to the track was a good change!
AMAPro: What’s the top motorcycle you’ve ridden?
MP: I would definitely have to say the Yamaha M1 MotoGP bike.
AMAPro: How would you compare the two?
MP: You know, they’re so different. It’s hard to explain. They’re so different from our production bikes. There are things on the R6 that you can tell have trickled down from the M1, but they’re such different motorcycles. On the bike, you can definitely tell it’s a different ball of wax. The best way to describe it is, I was heading down pit lane onto the track, and had this moment of fear because the bike felt so weird, but then I found that the harder you ride it, the better it feels. You can buy an R6 and ride around town on it, but on the M1 you have to actually ride it. It reminds me of how my RS-250 was , if you didn’t ride it the way it was meant to be ridden, it didn’t feel right.
AMAPro: What’s your favorite track?
MP: (sighs) Man, if you’d asked me before, I’d say Miller Motorsports Park for sure, but now it’s a tossup between Miller and Donington. After getting to ride Donnington, I liked it a lot!
AMAPro: What draws you to the sport? The thrill, competition or the speed? ?
MP: I don’t think it’s any of those for me. I enjoy setting goals, pushing myself and achieving them. For me, racing motorcycles is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve had to work harder at it than anything I’ve ever done, and I enjoy the challenge.
AMAPro: What’s typical day like for you?
MP: This morning, Josh and I got up and went for a ride at 7:00AM, but it was really cold out! But a typical day? It’s hard to say because we’ve been having so much crazy travel and such. When we are home though, our priorities are putting out fires of things that have been going on while we’re away. I love riding my bicycle so much; even when I don’t want to, I have to stick with it. Being a motorcycle racer isn’t a job that you show up to on select weekends throughout the year, every day you’re doing something to make yourself better. For me, that’s eating right, going to the gym, and training on my supermoto bike. I try to ride supermoto once or twice a week when I’m home.
AMAPro: What are your expectations going into next year?
MP: I think I put more pressure on myself than anyone else.I know myself and what I’m capable of better than anyone else. I’ve been disappointed in my results over the past few seasons because I know I can do better. The transition from 250s to 600s hasn’t been as smooth as I would’ve liked it to have been. There are a couple things that are holding me back, but over this off-season, I want to eliminate excuses. To get rid of some of the things that would’ve put me at a disadvantage. I’m working with a very talented woman right now, and we’re working to get next season put together the right way. Being a team owner/rider is very challenging and distracting. It’s really hard to get the best out of yourself as a rider when you’re worried about so many other things that are going on. I’m really lucky to have this woman willing to help me, and if we find the right financial partners for next season, I feel that I could move forward.
AMAPro: Who's your racing hero?
MP: I think if we’re talking racing, other than the obvious reason that he’s my husband, it’s Josh because I’ve seen him overcome so much over the years. Some people wouldn’t give him the chance, but he forced his way through the doors and made an opportunity out of it. He’s such a hard worker and has taught me the same. My brothers are big heroes to me also. They taught me at a young age what it means to go out and put in the time and effort to pursue things that mean something to you. I really credit them with bringing me up. When you want something, you have to go after it!
What's your take?
What rider’s hauler had the best paint scheme in 2011 - Chris Fillmore, Blake Young, or Josh Herrin?
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