Royal Enfield first established their BUILD TRAIN RACE program in late 2019, selecting four women to modify a Mark III INT 650 Twin, master proper racing technique and compete against each other during an American Flat Track exhibition race in 2020. Quickly adapting their program to the changing landscape of the pandemic this year, Royal Enfield is prepared for round two on the road racing circuit in 2021.
This year, legendary racer and inaugural BTR competitor, Melissa Paris, will be mentoring the women during each step of their journey.
Paris set the stage for women in the motorcycle racing industry, from being the first female to qualify for a world SuperSport race in 2009 to winning first in 24 Hours of Barcelona in 2015 to founding and being a member of the first all-female team to qualify in LeMans 24 Hour in 2017.
With a career in the record books, Paris became a good friend with Royal Enfield, bringing her into the BTR competition in 2020 and 2021.
“During the Royal Enfield Twins demo tour, the very first time I rode the INT, I said I wanted to make a flat tracker out of this,” Paris said. “I think they were reading my mind when they asked me to be a participant in the flat track version of Built Train Race. And now, I have the opportunity to help empower a group of girls to understand that if there’s a will, there’s a way. If they don’t know how to do something, they don’t have to be a damsel in distress; we’ll figure it out together.”
Meeting Paris early in her career, Breeann Poland, Royal Enfield’s global brand manager – Continental GT platform, established a relationship with the racer, “The BUILD TRAIN RACE programs are focused on women and I don’t think Melissa gives herself enough credit. Melissa is regarded as one of the fastest women in terms of road racing. I think the fact that she’s been around longer than a lot of women in the industry, she’s got quite a resume under her belt racing and she’s been a great friend of the brand.”
Poland continued, “I think Melissa understands what it takes to be able to have a road racing program, from the actual build perspective to training, because she’s had to go through all the ropes and she’s had many people who helped her along the way. Melissa can offer so much insight, a lot more than just being ‘a fast chick on a motorcycle.’”
Paris and Poland, with the help of accomplished racer and journalist Anne Roberts, will be selecting the racers for the second edition of BTR, who applied via video interviews at the conclusion of 2020.
“From my perspective, I really want to see girls who have always wanted to learn how to do their own thing or have wondered what it would be like to get up and race,” Paris said. “I imagine most of these girls are going to have a little to zero experience on a road race circuit. So, the big thing is having an open mind and having some confidence in themselves. I’m looking for women who don’t just want to watch someone else fix their bike for them. They are motivated to learn how to do it themselves. And here’s a great excuse to throw them into it and force them to learn how to do it.
“I remember there being a time when I first started riding at track days and I knew in my heart I wanted to go racing, but I was afraid to say it out loud because I thought people would laugh at me. So, I’m like looking for girls who share that same experience.”
Poland added, “We’re looking for a positive personality; someone who can showcase that women can do all of those things that we are asking of them and do it well.”
The participants will be customizing a Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 café-style motorcycle.
“The simplicity of the Royal Enfield motorcycle itself makes it easy to turn it into whatever platform we decide to go with. The ease of customization, also the cost outputs of a Royal Enfield stock is what makes it pretty accessible to everybody,” Poland said. “We’re trying to show that racing can be fun. It can be affordable. And not only that, anyone, male or female, can do it. Since racing has primarily been focused on men, Royal Enfield understands that women are a growing segment and we want to be able to showcase and highlight them, because they are extremely important, and we need to build a community around that.”
Using her experience in the first edition of BTR, Paris will be able to guide participants through the process of turning the Continental GT into a racing bike.
“I want to make sure that the girls have a little bit more support and understand the non-negotiable things that are going to need to be done to make the bike road race worthy,” Paris said. “The main things are going to be figuring out how we’re going to get 17-in. wheels on, because they come with 18-in. wheels. Just in my research, there are several options, so there’s going to be several avenues to take. Overall, the bike really doesn’t need a lot, because it’s already got that ‘vintage road racer thing’ going on. It’ll be basic stuff like upgrading suspension and brakes, so these girls can lean them over and go fast.
“Royal Enfield has a lot of partners who have been helping along the way and seem eager to jump in, and that’s going to make a big difference. Not only do they supply parts, but their technological advice makes the process pretty seamless. The process is going to take some work, but the build is a very doable task.”
Participants will be selected to begin their builds in early 2021, with training taking place mid-year and racing expected in late summer. Royal Enfield noted that the program schedule will be flexible, based on the pandemic situation.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Paris added. “I’ve enjoyed watching the interview videos and all these women are super passionate about riding motorcycles. I’m excited to pick the women and get to know them better, and in the grand scheme of things, I can’t wait to see what other opportunities their participation in BUILD TRAIN RACE creates for all of them!”
For more information about Royal Enfield’s BUILD TRAIN RACE program, visit royalenfieldna.com/build-train-race/road-race.