'You're pushing your limits all the time': the motorbiking Montessori teacher making history

Dubliner Nicole Lynch is part of an exclusive club as she takes to the track in Spain this weekend.

Image: Ryan Fegan

LAST SUMMER, CLONDALKIN’s Nicole Lynch set herself a target. She had impressed on the motorbike circuit in Ireland and wanted to test herself against the best in Europe.

It sounded fanciful. She had, after all, only been competing for twelve months.

But on Sunday, the 23-year-old will take to the track in Aragon, northeast Spain, and make history.

Lynch will become the first ever female competitor from Ireland to race in the WIL Sport Honda European Junior Cup – an affiliate of the Superbike World Championship.

The competition runs from April through October with eight rounds in total, stopping in various exotic locations across the continent.

Lynch arrived a number of days ago and has been busy getting to grips with her new bike (each rider uses the same Honda machinery) and a new track. The step-up has been very, very noticeable.

Nicole Lynch - Motorbike Racer

“It’s the most technical circuit I’ve ever seen”, she tells The42 from her Spanish base.

“Even in the last few days of training here, I think I’ve had to ride much harder than at home. The way everything is organised here…everything is so smooth. There’s no tolerance for being late to anything. The level the riders are at is just a step above what’s at home too.”

The EJC is open to male and female riders but Lynch is one of an exclusive group. From 32 competitors, only six are women.

“There’s not really a ‘them and us’ type of thing with the guys and the girls. But it’s nothing new for me anyway to be up against the guys. I’ve only ever had one or two races against another girl. And I prefer it as well. Because, girl or boy, you want to be competing against the fastest person.”

It’s all in Lynch’s blood. Her Dad, Paddy, raced in the early eighties while her older brother Dylan is an eight-time national Sidecar Racing champion.

She’s been around bikes since birth.

“There are pictures of me being on a bike when I was a baby but the first memory I have is probably when my Dad tied me to the back of him”, she says.

He had to go to Laois and he was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to hang on because it was the longest trip he’d ever been so he tied me to him. I was only four. It probably wasn’t very health and safety conscious but it was a lot of fun.”

Lynch got properly reacquainted with bikes in her late-teens, as she watched her brothers compete. Gradually, she fell in love again. And the need for speed grew stronger and stronger.

“I decided to get a road bike because I still loved motorbikes and hadn’t been on one in so long. So I got one and loved spinning around on it. And then I said I’d go racing, just to try it. I was going faster and faster on the road, to the point where I came in one day and said to my Dad ‘You need to sell the bike’ because I was taking too many risks.”

Lynch is drawn to the risks. The extreme nature of the sport appeals to her and she’s never found anything that comes close to the adrenaline of pushing a bike up to 130 mph.

“I just love it”, she says.

I don’t know how to really explain it. Anything like it, I love. I’ve done skydiving and I didn’t think it was as much fun as racing motorbikes. I didn’t get the same rush from it. That would obviously be considered an extreme thing but to me it wasn’t. On the bike you’re going as fast as you possibly can on a machine and you’re pushing your limits all the time. Every time you’re trying to push further and further. There’s always a point when you’re going to crash because you’re going to reach the limit at some stage. But just the buzz you get from being around people who are doing the same thing as you and you’re trying to go faster, faster, faster than they are.

Lynch remains philosophical about the threat of crashing at high speed. She came off the bike on a number of occasions last year but she refuses to dwell on it, instead preferring to learn from her errors.

“Sometimes it’s scary but you don’t think about it. You just keep pushing. There’s a famous saying that if you’re not crashing then you’re not trying hard enough. You only know how fast you can go into a corner if you go beyond what’s possible. If I go into a corner too fast and crash, I know next time that I need to bring it back a little bit. As long as you know why you crashed, then it’s okay.

I wasn’t afraid of crashing but I remember the first time I did and I went to my sponsor and said ‘Look, I’m really sorry but I crashed the bike’. He said two things to me. The first thing was ‘Do you know why you crashed?’ and I said ‘Yes’. And then he asked, ‘Are you okay?’ and I said ‘Yes’. And he said ‘Well then it’s no problem.’”

Crashing is always going to be part of it. Hopefully you don’t do it but once you know how you crashed and you can learn from it, then it’s not such a bad thing.”

The aim is to motorbike professionally, to dedicate her life to her sport. But, right now, she needs a day job too.

So, dovetailing naturally with her high-octane life at the track, Lynch is a Montessori assistant in Blanchardstown on Dublin’s northside.

“It is such a contrast. But I like that”, she says.

“The lifestyle at the weekend is so busy and everything is moving so fast. But when you’re minding children you can have so much fun. On the bikes, I want to have fun and if I wasn’t having fun I wouldn’t do it. And it’s the same with minding kids. You can go to the playground and play chasing and you have all these funny bits and pieces going on. You come back to being a child at heart.”

The42 is on Snapchat! Tap the button below on your phone to add!

As the Major League Baseball season begins, Ireland’s own field of dreams continues to inspire

Know Your Sport? Take our weekly quiz

About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

Read next: