Jody Perewitz has been around motorcycles all her life and is one of the most recognized women in the motorcycle industry and community today. Jody paved her own way into history (and the record books) by becoming the first woman ever to ride an American V-Twin powered motorcycle at over 200 MPH. She currently holds 17 Land Speed records, one of which is a World Record, and has earned four AMA number one plates.
When not blasting down the Bonneville Salt Flats, or melting asphalt at airstrips across America, Jody handles the marketing and day-to-day activities at Perewitz Cycle Fab in Halifax, Massachusetts, where she works side-by-side with her father, award-winning custom bike building legend Dave Perewitz. Not only is Dave teaching her about the business but also how to paint. The Perewitz name is world renown in the custom paint world for producing some of the most sought-after customs to hit the streets across the globe.
We decided to catch up with Jody following the completion of the 2018 Motorcycle Cannonball, a world-famous transcontinental 3,875-mile endurance run for vintage motorcycles. Perewitz piloted “Marjorie,” her beautiful 1926 Harley-Davidson JD model she custom-painted herself, all the way to the finish and is now one of only three females to complete all the miles in the Cannonball.
Tucker Powersports: Jody, tell us about how the idea came about to compete in the Motorcycle Cannonball. Was it something you’ve thought about for some time?
Jody Perewitz: My friend Cris Simmons had told me about this amazing journey she’s been on. She put a bug in my ear and got my wheels turning. I thought, ‘someday I will compete in the Cannonball!’ I added it to my bucket list many years ago and was fortunate enough to make it all happen in the last year.
TP: We were lucky enough to follow your journey in the Cannonball on social media and see your daily updates. From what we saw it looked like an epic journey with a great group of fellow motorcyclists. Tell us about some of the highlights of the event.
JP: The ride and people were epic! We went from the hot (95 degrees) cornfields of Iowa and South Dakota to the cold (38 degrees) rainy/snowy mountains of Montana. Glacier National Park was my favorite part of the ride. It was as if I was in a painting. The scenery was just breathtaking. It made all those boring cornfields worth it. I didn’t even notice that was the coldest day!
Another highlight is all the new friends I made. The first day I was riding by myself, and I realized I wasn’t going the right way. I saw another Cannonballer ahead of me, so I caught up to him and pulled beside him at a stop light. I said I think I’m lost do you know where you’re going? He said no but follow me. So, I did. Sure enough, we made it! I introduced myself, and we instantly became friends.
TP: Few people ever ride a motorcycle at over 100 MPH, let alone at over 200 MPH, yet you have. That’s one amazing feat! What did it feel like to ride a motorcycle at that speed? And what motivated you to seek out the goal of breaking the 200 MPH barrier?
JP: What did it feel like to ride over 200 mph is the million-dollar question. People ask me this all the time. It feels like ‘hold on with everything you got, stay tucked, and still twist the throttle.’ It’s almost as if you’re in a bubble, the world kind of gets quiet, and it’s you and your machine.
The amazing thing about land speed racing at Bonneville Salt Flats is that you must maintain your speed. It’s not just a hit the one fast speed, and you’re done. You have to maintain your speed for a mile, and then it’s averaged with your entering and exiting speed. Then after you do it once you reverse direction and do it again!
My motivation was that no female had gone over 200 mph on an American motorcycle. Once I learned of this, I wanted to be the first. No matter what, you can’t replace the first. I’m fortunate to have great people beside me to help me achieve my goals.
TP: It seems a bit ironic that with 17 land speed records you decided to take on a challenge quite the opposite, the Motorcycle Cannonball, where consistency, endurance, and mechanical aptitude play a significant role in finishing. Did you have a completely different mindset going into Cannonball?
JP: I have the same mindset in the sense of I will push myself and do whatever I need to do to accomplish my goal. I have always had a mindset with anything I do, I’ll do it, it’s just a matter of time. I’m a firm believer that you must believe in yourself first, and then your goals will happen.
But the Cannonball was very different! I went from 315+ horsepower to nine horsepower. I have a love of two wheels and to do this just broadened my horizon in the motorcycle world. I almost had to be more prepared for Cannonball because it was just myself and my motorcycle all day long. Whereas land speed racing is me and my motorcycle but only for minutes at a time. I truly enjoyed learning about the Harley JD that I rode on the Cannonball as well as old bikes in general. I feel as though the more knowledge I have with anything, the better and I’m fortunate enough to have some great teachers!
TP: What was your favorite moment during the Cannonball?
JP: Not to sound cliché but crossing the finish line! That last day was like, ‘holy cow, I just rode across the United States by myself on a 1926 Harley-Davidson!’ I still don’t think it’s set in. WE DID IT!
TP: The most surprising thing you learned or experienced during the Cannonball?
JP: Riding in the rain isn’t so bad… as long as you have the right gear!
One of the cool experiences that I never thought about was the gas stops. There would be no less than 25-30 of us at a gas station at one time. We would share pumps, talk about sightings, share tools, advice, and snacks! It was a very neat camaraderie. Because we were all pressed for time that would most likely be the only time we would stop.
I never expected this experience to be as epic as it was! I knew it would be really cool but to see the country from two old wheels with people you just met and instantly became friends with all in a two-week time frame. Yes, it was tiring getting up on the 10th day at 6:00 am to be able to leave by 7:30 am and then not getting back until 5:00 pm was a lot, but it seemed everyone kept each other going. I didn’t even notice I was tired until my head hit the pillow!
TP: Speed seems to be something that’s innate in you, would you say your need for speed is something you inherited from your father and growing up around motorcycles?
JP: No, I wouldn’t say speed was something I inherited. I think I inherited something better than speed: passion. I got that passion for two wheels from my dad. I wouldn’t say he is fast. (Not that he is slow either!) I think speed is just something I’m good at and I’ve been lucky enough to pursue it!
TP: Speaking of your father, he is a legend in his own right, a master painter and fabricator and he’s been teaching you how to paint motorcycles. Tell us about that and what it was like to paint your own motorcycle “Marjorie” for the Cannonball.
JP: I wanted Marjorie to be bright. When people asked which bike I was riding, I wanted them to be able to say, ‘oh yes, I know that bike.’ I didn’t want to blend in. With that in mind, I thought ‘how better to stick out than with some metal flake!’ Tons of people on the ride said, ‘Oh did your dad paint your bike?’ ‘No, I did.’ I wanted to keep the paint scheme classic but give it a Perewitz flare.
I have a great teacher and resources. Learning to paint has seemed to be second nature. I guess watching my dad paint my whole life I picked up a few things. I enjoy being able to get creative with colors and techniques.
TP: You hold multiple land speed records, you just finished the Motorcycle Cannonball, and you’ve learned how to custom paint motorcycles. What’s next for Jody Perewitz? Do you have some new goals you’ve set your sights on in the future?
JP: New goals… hmmm, well I constantly like to challenge myself. I’m also racing vintage circle track. I sure would love to WIN one of those races! Also, I’m hoping to be able to do the 2020 Cannonball and have a chance to win (I’ll have to ride an older bike! Maybe a single cylinder.).
TP: What is your favorite motorcycle you’ve ever owned or ridden?
JP: Marjorie for sure! I’ve never spent so much consistent seat time on a motorcycle, never mind a 92-year-young motorcycle. She moved along like a champ! We created a bond over the last couple of months that no bike can replace. I actually hugged her when we got to the finish line.
I also have a neat bond with 264 (my land bike) because she’s given me the fastest ride so far! That bike goes on my “favorite” list too.
TP: Favorite place on earth?
JP: This is a tough one… I’ve traveled all over the world. Though, my favorite place is home!
TP: The top three on your bucket list are?
JP: Travel to all 50 states (I only have four left!). Ride the Wall of Death. Become the fastest female EVER!
TP: Thanks for doing this interview with us, Jody! Any last words of inspiration or people you would like to thank?
JP: I would absolutely like to thank everyone who has helped me, supported me, sponsored me, even cheered me on with all the cool things I’m lucky enough to do! I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by some wicked-cool people.
Jody Perewitz used Twin Power and BikeMaster products on her way to her finish at the 2018 Motorcycle Cannonball. She finished 32nd Overall out of the 107 starters and 85 finishers. She is one of only three females to ever complete all the miles in the Motorcycle Cannonball.
Jody Perewitz 2018 Motorcycle Cannonball Gallery
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