Picture if you will, the average person you might meet with a masters in mathematics. Quickly you envision Archimedes, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei or even Albert Einstein, but none of you would instantly draw a mental image of Jen Hill (Jen Tekawitha if you seek her Instagram or website), a vibrant young woman who at present has logged more than 20,000 miles on a Kawasaki Ninja 250 – her first bike!

Jen grew up in a house filled with love – and a Honda CB750 that her father owned. A life-long firefighter, he took all of his vacation at once each summer as a young man and set out to cover all 48 of the continental United States. He achieved his goal in two years, and a cover went over the bike and in the garage it stayed. Armed with riding inspiration and a penchant for a CB of her own, Jen finished grad school, signed up for an MSF class and jumped in with both feet.

Sure you could take a Kawasaki Concours on tour, but a Ninja 250 seems to work just as well.

Sure you could take a Kawasaki Concours on tour, but a Ninja 250 seems to work just as well. Photo by Bree Radloff.

Jen did some serious research and discovered a Ninja 250 was a great starter bike. She bought it and soon after started dropping it all over the place. Nothing serious, just minor tip-overs, but it happened enough to make her graduate-school-trained brain realize there was plenty more to learn about riding and wrenching. Isn’t it great when smart people ride motorcycles? They make the rest of us look better.

Jen committed to her education doing things like being a range assistant in MSF programs for two years, taking a Lee Parks Total Control ARC class, the MSF DirtBike School and most recently, the Cornerspin class. Education was second nature to Jen, but she also knew that getting out and riding would be the true transformation in her skill. So she rode, everywhere.

Lee Parks’ Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic Review

As a Chicago resident the riding season is limited, but that didn’t stop her from knocking out 7000 miles her first year on the Ninja, going as she put it, “nowhere.” As the riding season was drawing to a close, on impulse she bought her second bike. The nostalgic connection from her childhood led her to a CB175 that needed some TLC. With the help of a friend who is a master mechanic, Jen spent the winter giving the CB the attention it needed, learning more and more each step of the way. Additionally, filled with new rider spirit and the influence of a moto-mentor, Big Bob, Jen threw a leg over a bike prepped for ice-riding on the frozen lakes of Wisconsin and was totally hooked on it. A note on moto-mentors: do it. If you have the opportunity to guide a new rider into good choices instead of bad, education over dumb luck, invest the time – it’s rewarding.

Jen Hill and two-thirds of her collection. Apparently it is ok to ride a small bike. Photo by Juan Hernandez.

Jen Hill and two-thirds of her collection. Apparently it is ok to ride a small bike. Photo by Juan Hernandez.

Leading into year two of her riding career, Jen started out at a track day where she quickly learned how little of the Ninja’s potential she was tapping into, helping her settle her mind on keeping the Ninja for at least another year. A five-day tour of Germany on a Ninja 300 (keeping it in the family), a solo ride around Lake Michigan, and a blast from Milwaukee to Minneapolis in one day that was part of a 1700 mile, five-day trip were all part of putting another 7000 or so miles on the Ninja(s). While in tune-up mode on the Ninja, some parts delays led Jen to embark on a Chicago to Milwaukee run on the CB175. The trip saw Jen falling in love with the CB, and it started becoming her go-to ride, until a 300 mile day racing backroads with guys on much bigger bikes put a small hole in one of the ever-so-small pistons in the heart of the 175. It is still in the process of being rebuilt, but while the spring and summer riding seasons are on, mechanic stuff has to take a backseat.

That winter, Jen did what any enthused rider in the Midwest would do – she found a bike to convert for ice riding. Her ride of choice, a Suzuki DR200, equipped with studded tires and a whole lot of left turning. Bundled up with motocross gear under winter parka, Jen and friends slip and slide from sun up to sundown on the glorious lakes of Wisconsin.

Ice racing on a Suzuki DR200. Photo by Bree Radloff.

Ice racing on a Suzuki DR200. Photo by Bree Radloff.

Moving into year three – still on the Ninja 250 –is where Jen impressed me enough to contact MO about this story. A run from Chicago to the Cornerspin riding academy in Charlotte, North Carolina led to a few days running the Tail of the Dragon, US421 (The Snake), the Blue Ridge Parkway and a return trip to Chicago. On a 250, with riders on much bigger bikes. A ride like this probably would have been enough excitement for most people for a season of riding, but Jen, as we are starting to sense, isn’t like most of us that have ridden for a long time. So, as the little Ninja that could was crowding 19,000 miles on the clock, Jen decided to get it over 20K like any normal overly enthused rider would do, she signed on to ride an Iron Butt 1000-mile day with her uncle – on a much bigger Harley-Davidson Road King. The pair set out before daylight to circle Lakes Erie and Ontario, and before the time period was over, they knocked out the mileage required for Iron Butt Bragging rights. 1000 miles in 24 hours on a Ninja 250 – think about that next time you think your 600c bike is too small.

Jen and her boyfriend Bree, a happy riding couple, then decided to take on a loop of Lake Superior, 10 days taking in breath-taking scenery, adding mileage in the United States and Canada as part of the trip and setting up the end of summer ride to Lake Huron. Four days of riding around that scenic body of water gave Jen the likely unique distinction of being the only person any of us know to complete loops around all five Great Lakes – on a Ninja 250 in less than two years!

As the Midwest riding season was closing, Jen did a refresher class at the MSF Experienced Rider course, because, well, she really likes riding schools. Winter was looming, and while most of the riders in the area were getting stressed and unhappy, Jen was tucked away in the workshop prepping theDR200 for ice riding – the bonus to living close to hundreds of small lakes that freeze over in winter.

Jen buried her social media with action shots of ice riding/racing and rode right up until the thaw, all the while planning to get herself a bigger bike in the spring.

Heading into year four, Jen bought a Triumph Street Triple in Omaha, Neb., as soon as the roads between Chicago and Omaha were clear. Wearing all her riding gear on the airplane, she flew in from Chicago early in the day and set out to do the 500 miles back home in a day, on a bike she had never ridden before. Jen does nothing but exemplify commitment to her passion.

Once Jen bought her new bike, she was back in the shop converting her faithful Ninja 250 into a track bike. She went to the very first track day she could get to – and it rained the whole day. She says it was terrifying and enlightening, but the highlight was completing the day without tasting tarmac.

So, you are probably wondering how Jen and the new Speed Triple are getting on, the Ninja having left some awfully big shoes to fill. Well, this is a true story, not fantasy, and the ending is not that happy. Ever the student, Jen signed up for an Experienced Rider Course on the Triple and about halfway through the day used a bit too much brake and tumbled over on her foot, fracturing it in numerous places. Adding to the unhappy ending, it was two weeks before she and boyfriend Bree were to head to Italy for a two week tour – all via motorcycle. The doctor said she’s not well enough to make the trip, so it’s postponed and the fate of the Triple is undecided. Pending her full recovery, Jen is weighing out keeping the Triple or replacing it with a Ninja 300.

The ending isn’t all bad; Jen can’t wait to get back to riding as opposed to giving it up on her first crash. Jen is a role model for newer riders, proving that it is not the size of the bike but the size of the desire to ride. Many of us motorcycle industry dinosaurs remember spending years on 350cc-400cc bikes, anticipating our jump to the 550cc class. With the current crop of smaller, more affordable bikes hitting the market, perhaps a return to enjoying the ride, not the horsepower numbers, will bring a new level of excitement back to motorcycling – with Jen probably leading the way.

The little Ninja may very well be relegated to track duty next year. Jen plans to get much faster because of it.

The little Ninja may very well be relegated to track duty next year. Jen plans to get much faster because of it.


  • Michael Conchscooter

    Great story. Brings tons of memories and is inspiring me to head in new directions. Speaking as one who started on a 350 in 1975.

  • Craig Hoffman

    Neat story – Jen sounds like an amazing woman. Heal well, keep riding.

    Get off road girl. Dirt bikes are awesome and teach you more in a day than pavement can in a year.

  • SteveSweetz

    She’ll be riding again in no time, and huge props for not putting this story out there as a means to ask for donations for her medical bills like that enormous cell phone lecture douche making the rounds a couple weeks back

    • http://www.jentekawitha.com Jen Tekawitha

      Though it is not ideal, I am happy to have a job and health insurance …

      • Piglet2010

        No issues with vibration on the Ninjette? I get this weird tingling pain in some of may hand joints after a couple of hours.

        • http://www.jentekawitha.com Jen Tekawitha

          It’s never bothered me !

          • Piglet2010

            20 minutes on the track at a time is no problem, so I have not messed with vibration absorbing elastomer inserts, and what not.

      • SteveSweetz

        BTW If you do decide to let go of the Triple for something smaller, give the Honda CBR500R a look before committing to the Ninja 300 for a daily rider. That’s my bike and I can only say good things about it.

  • Piglet2010

    If I had a broken foot, I would be riding my Honda Elite – no foot controls, space on the floorboard for a walking cast, and at under 260 pounds wet, easy to hold up with one foot.

    • http://www.jentekawitha.com Jen Tekawitha

      I am non-weight bearing still

      • Piglet2010

        Horse rifle scabbards for the crutches?

        OK, I tend to do silly things even though I know better, so don’t do what I would. 😉

  • azi

    Ahh, the Ninja / GPX250. That was my first bike as well. Good memories, good times. I’m tempted to get my hands on a scrappy one now, after reading this!

    May I suggest an SV650 for your shortlist? That’s another cheap and capable bike for both street and track, with limitless tuning options.

    Get well soon Jen.

  • SRMark

    Coulda broke your foot stepping off the front porch. At least you have a good story for it. And you should also have a healthy understanding of the possibilities of a 60mph get-off. Do the therapy and enjoy the miles. I tip my hat in your general direction.

  • krishan adhikari

    the first two wheeler i ever rode was a 100 cc 2 stoke scooter with 4 gears and it was good enough to hook me onto riding. I still ride a 377 cc bike and i think it is exciting enough to enjoy the rides in the hills :)

  • Carlos Fernandez

    Great article. It aligns with my beliefs as well. My first and current bike is the wonderful 2013 Honda CB500F ABS. I’ve put 27K miles on it, unfortunately, most of it commuting to/from work. So my mileage has not been as interesting as Jen’s. However, it has been worthwhile towards getting me comfortable to move up a level.

    I recently got a lightly used 2014 Street Triple R (STR) for my move to SoCal and looking forward to that (mostly for regular riding and maybe even a spirited canyon run once in a while). However, I really, really wanted the Yamaha FZ-07. However, ABS is a must for me, which is why I went with the STR. The other bike I would love to ride around in is the Ducati Scrambler (the Urban Enduro version). However, for the price it was asking, I figured I’d give the STR a try since absolutely everybody loves it.

    In the future, I can’t wait for the KTM 390 Adventure and the Husqvarna Svartpilen. I may end up getting both of these bikes. :)

    In the meantime, like Jen, I’ll be looking for a 250 (or even 300) to use as my track bike. One of the reasons I’m moving to SoCal is so I can take more classes to improve my riding (especially with cornering). I did a track day with my CB500F but I was too afraid to push it since it was my daily commuter.

    I only wish I had a place like Moto Shop (in San Fran) to work on my bike (when I move to LA).

    Lastly, I believe the article meant the Street Triple and not the Speed Triple (it got it right the first time but not the second time).

  • Michael

    What a great article!

  • Jose Ferrer

    My 2013 CBR250 is about to cross over 20k, 7k of which I got driving from DC to LA and back. Boring as far as the roads went, except for fighting the wind in KS. You haven’t lived until you use a triple trailer’s wind shadow to go from 67 to 90 with the throttle pinned!

  • Jason Holland

    Great story! Thanks for sharing. Sorry for the injury. I’m thinking about a Ninja 300 as a second bike for something smaller to have even more fun on. Currently ride a Kawasaki Vaquero so the difference would be interesting.

  • rudedog4


  • norskmann

    Good story and hope you heal quickly. Ditto on riding dirt for experience. Riding small dirt bikes with street tires around a dirt track some 40 years ago improved my street and racing skills greatly… fun as heck also…

  • umm…hello??

    Hey Jen! Long time no see! I have 12,000 miles on my 2008 Ninja 250. My wife has the swing dancing bug again so maybe when you’ve healed we’ll see you out? (Andy)

  • gogiburn


  • SkinnyAls

    I’d love to try ice riding… but I guess there isn’t enough ice in VA.