MPG / DAILY BREAD / JANUARY 10, 2017
Words / Image / Lake Kilpatrick
Nikki Voorhees, the self proclaimed ‘motobarbie’, wears makeup and earrings every single time she lines up to race, so that she can look her best if she gets up on the podium. The New York Native is an accomplished amateur rider that has qualified for Loretta Lynn’s the past four years in succession, improving her results each and every year. It’s not just her talents as a rider that take her to many different locations across the United States and Canada, but her capabilities as a mechanic have also provided her with opportunity. You may have seen her on TV at this year’s past Monster Energy Cup. She got the chance to fly to Vegas for the first time ever in order to spin wrenches for Jordan Jarvis in what has become one of the biggest amateur races of the year. Unfortunately, she had to put her riding and mechanic duties on hold in order to rehab an injury that she suffered toward the end of 2016, but she’ll be back in action just in time to put in work for the 2017 Loretta Lynn’s qualifiers. We caught up with Nikki to chat about rehabbing her injury, what it was like working within the industry at the MEC, and what she’s got going on for the upcoming racing season.
Firstly, how did you get into the sport?
Growing up my family and I had four wheelers and I kinda just wanted to try and ride a dirtbike to see what it was like. I rode one and liked it, so we bought this old 80; I rode that around for a while. Then I was like “Let’s go and try and ride at a track,” went and rode at a track and I loved it. So, then I told my parents that I just wanted to do one race. I won my very first race, so that turned into what it is now - an every weekend thing.
How old were you when you first got on a bike?
Ummm, I was thirteen when I first got on a dirtbike. I rode for the first time in my aunt’s backyard.
So, now that you’ve started riding bikes, you haven’t gotten back on a four wheeler?
No, not at all. I honestly don’t think I’ve ridden a four wheeler since I’ve started riding bikes, haha.
How did the ‘motobarbie’ nickname come about?
I don’t like the stereotype that all moto girls look like guys or are lesbians, so I wear makeup and earrings and stuff when I ride to show people that we’re not all like that. Most races I do it so when I’m on the podium I don’t look disgusting when I take my helmet off, and I always keep a hair tie on me so I can put my hair up right away! People call me motobarbie now, though. I’ll show up to a race and my friends will be like “Hey, motobarbie.” It’s just kind of how it is. I have a butt patch that says ‘motobarbie’ as well.
You qualified for Loretta’s this year and put in your best results at the Ranch to date in the Women’s class. Could you talk a little bit about your week down there?
This was my fourth year at Loretta’s; I went twice in the Girls Sr. class and this year I made it in the Women’s All Star. I finished twelfth overall which is my best finish so far at the Ranch. It was hot this year which coming from New York I’m not really to used to. Of all the years I’ve been there, I had the best fitness this year, so that helped a lot. Two of my motos I was top ten and I just kind of dropped back towards the end of the moto. So, I know I could have been top ten which kind of helps with my confidence a little bit going into next year, but every year I’ve been at the Ranch I’ve done better, so I can’t be disappointed with that.
Training up in NY, you don’t get a lot of the extreme heat that riders out west or in the south get. Do you think growing up and riding in in the northeast prepared you well for the mud at the beginning of the week?
Yeah, for sure. I mean...up here in New York you’re almost guaranteed to get at least two or three mud races a month, so I definitely felt like I had an advantage there. Umm...when I was in the Girls class one year at Loretta’s, I ended up ninth in one of my motos and it was a complete mudfest then. I don’t like the mud, but I do pretty good in it, so I don’t mind it.
And then after that you went up to Walton for the Trans Can and rode really well...
Honestly, I like going up to Walton better than I like going down to Loretta’s, it’s not nearly as stressful. Umm, and everyone’s just kind of more laid back up in Canada, I think. That race was fun, I did good; I got third in both motos. Yeah, I dunno… there was almost a totally new track this year which that took a little bit of getting used to, but it’s just a fun event. It’s just a little bit more family oriented, I think, and there’s a lot of girls that I race up there in Canada that I only get to see a couple times a year, so that’s nice.
You were in a unique situation at Walton, because you actually had mechanic duties as well as riding duties.
Yeah, my parents only came up for two of my motos. So, my old boyfriend and I drove up there in the motorhome and he worked on his bikes and I worked on my bikes. It was different not having either one of our parents there, but it was kind of nice, I guess, at the same time; that made it less stressful. I love working on my bike, at home I do the majority of my bike work, so it was kind of just like another race for me, I guess.
Did you notice any differences balancing your mechanic work and your riding in the same weekend?
Yeah, I’ll come back from my motos and sometimes my Dad will just grab the bike and start washing it and get it ready for next moto. Up there - being by myself - I had to make sure everything was ready, check everything over. There was one moto where my electric start actually broke on the bike, so we had it like taped together just so it would hold together for that moto. But, we came back and I got that fixed; I just kind of cut the wires and tied them together, so it would start. It wasn’t as relaxing, I guess you could say, but it kinda made the days go by faster, because I was always busy doing something to make sure all my stuff was ready. I’d get done working on the bike, then I’d have to get my goggles and my gear ready.
There’s a lot of riders that never had to work on their bikes or don’t really know much other than how to change a filter and where to put the gas…do you think your mechanical knowledge kind of helps you to be more in tune with the bike when you’re riding?
Yeah, I think it helps a lot actually. I mean, I’ll be at the races with my Dad and I’ll pull off during practice and I’ll say “Go one more click on the rebound” or I’ll be like “Take two pounds of air out of the tires.” Just like the little stuff really helps me understand the bike more. I can tell when something’s not right with it and I know what needs to be fixed. Instead of bringing it back and trying to explain to my Dad and him trying to figure it out, I know when I’m out there riding if something’s not right and I can go back and fix it.
Yamaha provided you with an awesome opportunity at the Monster Energy Cup where you got to be Jordan Jarvis’ mechanic, how did that whole thing come together?
It actually kinda started out with Jordan’s Dad. He messaged me and said “If you can somehow make it out here, I’d like you to mechanic for Jordan for the day.” Once I got that message, I just did everything possible to get out there. But umm, all the guys at Yamaha were awesome; they gave me a bunch of pit shirts and hats and stuff, ‘cause I ride KTM so I didn’t have anything to wear. Yeah, those guys were great. We got to hang out under the rig for the day and eat with all the riders, it was a great experience. I’ve only been to one other supercross race, so to go to Monster Cup and actually be a part of it, it was a really cool opportunity. I’ve never been out west, that was my first time out there. I would go back in a heartbeat.
How’d you come to meet Jordan and her family?
I actually met them my very first year down at Loretta’s in 2013. I kinda talked to Jordan’s Mom a little bit on Facebook before we got to Loretta’s, just kind of asking her what it was like. I mean, we had never been there and I was kinda just getting her perspective on it. They ended up saving us a spot next to them which was really cool. We got to spend the week with them and we learned a lot from them that week. I’d only been riding a dirt bike for two years prior to that, so we still didn’t know much about the national scene and stuff. Since that week at Loretta’s we’ve kept in contact. I’ve ridden with Jordan a few times down south and we’ve parked with each other at Loretta’s every year.
So, your Dad was a race car driver when he was younger which means you grew up around motors and that type of thing. Is that where you began to hone your mechanic skills?
Uhhh, the mechanic skills kind of came from like when I first started riding. My Dad would be out in the garage working on my bike and I always kinda felt bad if he was out there by himself, so I would go out and kind of sit there with him. At first, I never really paid attention to what he was doing, but then he started showing me how to change the air filters, and then he showed me how to change the oil, and just like little stuff. I mean, he’s not gettin’ any younger and I’m not gettin’ any younger, so I started paying attention more once I started getting older and I realized it was fun. For me, putting a set of graphics on or changing sprockets, I dunno, it’s just fun to me. I just started paying attention to him more and I kinda picked up on it pretty easy, I guess.
You’re in the process of recovering from a torn acl. How did that happen, did you crash or…?
Ummm, I guess you could call it a crash. I was racing nightcross at a local race by my house and I came off the start into the first corner...someone bumped into me and I started falling over, so I put my leg down to like keep myself from falling, and my knee just twisted the wrong way. I tore my acl then; I went to the doctors and they were like “Yeah, don’t ride anymore until you have surgery.” Well, in the meantime my Dad got me a new bike and I kinda found the itch to ride, so three weeks later we went back to a local race and I rode the new bike. I never crashed or anything, I just landed a jump and I tore my meniscus then. So, after that I stopped riding.
It seems like you’ve been doing lots of physical therapy, how’s the recovery going?
It’s going pretty good, I do therapy about two times a week. I just got off crutches about five days ago (Jan 1st) and I still have the leg brace on, but I should be getting that off next week. I mean, it doesn’t hurt at all anymore to walk on, it’s just very weak still; I lost so much muscle in my leg. One leg is way bigger than the other. At this point, it’s just a matter of building my strength back up. At therapy they’ve just got me doing a lot of leg press, squats, and I ride an exercise bike for ten minutes. They gave me a lot of stuff to do at home just using my body weight, but umm...it’s kind of just gonna come back. It’s not something that I can go to the gym and work out for three hours, it’s just gonna take time to come back on it’s own.
So, what’s the recovery timetable looking like?
I should be able to get back on the bike towards the end of March or early April, just kind of depending how much therapy I do between now and then and what the doctor thinks. As of right now, they think it looks good and say I’m making really good progress, so hopefully within the next month or two they’ll say I can ride at the beginning of March. That’s the goal, I would like to get down south for a few weeks before the season starts up here just to kind of get back into the swing of things.
What’re your plans for 2017 when you’re able to get back on the bike?
I probably won’t do any spring nationals, because I’ll just be getting back on the bike. I don’t wanna hurt it anymore by doing a lot of racing right off the bat, but I’ll be doing the Southeast and the Mideast qualifiers for Loretta’s. In July, I do the Ladies Pro Series up in Canada through CMRC - that runs from the first weekend in July all the way up to Loretta’s, and then there’s one race after Loretta’s. So, I’ll do them and hopefully Loretta’s, go back up to Walton and do that race. Then we come home for two weeks and go back up to Canada for the MMRS National at Madoc which is a really fun race. Normally after that we just do local stuff until the end of the year, but I’m planning on going to Mini-O’s this year, so that’ll probably be the last big race for the season.
Do you have any plans for any mechanicing duties in 2017? Have you talked to Jordan about doing anything else?
Yeah, I’ve been talking to Jordan and her Dad quite a bit lately. I was supposed to help her out with arenacross this year, but with my injury we didn’t wanna risk hurting it more or anything like that. Maybe for the finals in Vegas, I might go with her out there if she qualifies and then I’ll probably start up with her in the spring nationals.
Thanks for your time. Any sponsors you’d like to shout out?
Mb60 Action Sports, FMF, Fly Racing, 6D, Eks Brand, Hotshot MX, Dunlop, Nihilo Concepts, Amsoil, Beef and Peg, 7s Cycle, DP Brakes, Kirchmeyer Family, Mom and Dad