Most of Sydney Sheppard’s Victory friends probably never met her face-to-face. Yet they feel like they’ve known her for years because they’ve followed her high-mileage exploits online on various Victory forums.
They celebrated when she reached 100,000 miles on her Kingpin. They celebrated when she was selected as one of the Victory True American Road Trip winners. They laughed at
her (she had a fantastic self-deprecating sense of humor) and laughed with
her because she was hilarious. They pulled for her when work was scarce and celebrated when she landed more work (to which she would commute on her Victory, no matter the weather).
Lucky friends on all brands of bikes rode with her, especially all over California. Victory-riding friends also rode with her on V2V Relays, on which she was a Leg Captain.
Now, all of us cherish her memory and lift a prayer. Sydney “FishWitch” Sheppard passed away on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, at her home in Folsom, California. She was 58.
Former Fishing Enthusiast
Before she became consumed with motorcycling, Syd loved to fish. As she explained in her absolutely must-see True American Road Trip audition video
, the nickname “FishWitch” “came from the fact I used to fish a lot until I started riding. And now I’ve just found lots of neat fishing holes and I just ride right by ‘em because I hate to stop.”
She also loved to name her bikes. Her beloved 2005 50th Anniversary Victory Kingpin was (is) “FSHUZ,” and the Cross Country with the skull paint scheme she rode during the True American Road Trip was “Skully.”
What she really loved was riding. Man, did she love to ride. She got into motorcycling later in life than most avid riders, but rolled up high mileage in a hurry.
“I started in 2005 when I turned 50,” she said. “I was an avid skier but got burned out. So I wanted an activity that I could do by myself, but also with friends sometimes.
“I bought my first bike [a 2005 Yamaha V-Star 650] in June of ’05,” Syd told the Victory Buzz staff around 2008. “My very first ride ever out of a parking lot was about 300 miles alone! After 18,000 miles I decided I was ready to move up to a ‘real’ bike, which was my original plan. I was either going to like riding and upgrade within a year – or move on.”
Needless to say, she stuck with riding and upgraded to a Victory.
“I didn't know what I was going to buy until I saw my 2005 Anniversary Edition Kingpin at the Arlen Ness showroom right as I walked in the door. I knew immediately I wanted that bike. When the salesman offered a test ride [on a Victory] I looked around and said, ‘Are you talking to me?’
“So out the door I went, test riding a Vegas Jackpot, scared to death, but I did it. I didn't know much about the Victorys at that point but did some fast research and decided the Kingpin was the bike for me. I bought my bike in December of 2005.”
Her 50th Anniversary Kingpin featured a special paint scheme and badges commemorating the 50th anniversary of Polaris, Victory’s parent company. Syd modified the bike’s ergonomics to suit her and enhanced its cargo capacity for her travels. She rode endlessly and loved meeting new people through riding. One ride with Syd and you were fast friends.
“I ride with all sorts of people, from other Victory riders to sport bikers and dual sport riders as well as alone,” she said in the 2008 Buzz interview. “To me, it’s about the ride, but my Victory makes it even better! I love the respect and admiration I get for being on a great bike like a Vic. I like the fact that my Kingpin is going to serve me well and be dependable while out on the road. I absolutely love my Kingpin.”
She loved all types of people and roads – including the mystery roads she ended up on when she got lost despite having GPS.
“I love all types of riding from the twisties to the open road,” she said. “I have done a lot of touring around California. I have been up, down and around the state and up to Oregon. I've also made a couple of trips to Laughlin, Death Valley and across Nevada.”
When she was selected as a True American Road Trip rider, she was profiled in the Folsom Telegraph
, and her passion for riding resonated.
“I love to ride,” she told the newspaper. “I have a ton of fun going out and I’ve found a lot of neat places in California by doing it. If I get lost, I get lost… I take my time. It’s a peace of mind. I’ve always been a wild spirit and a free spirit. It’s all an adventure.”
The 100,000-Mile Mark
In late 2008, Syd made history when she became the first woman to reach the 100,000-mile mark on a Victory. At the time, we were aware of only three or four other Victory riders who had logged 100,000 miles on a Victory, and she likely accomplished it faster than anyone before or since.
“On November 14, 2008, just shy of owning my bike three years, the odometer turned over to 100,000 sMiles
!” Syd said in an article posted on the Victory Buzz pages. “I can't say enough good things about my KP. I LOVE this bike. I have never had any issues with it whatsoever. Racking up over 100k is a testament of how well these bikes are built and how roadworthy they are. I have had nothing but fun over the past three years.”
The article noted the significance of the road on which she reached the 100,000-mile mark.
“I am very active with the annual V2V [Relay] ride and have led legs from Utah to Oakland,” she said. “I thought it was cool that I hit the 100k mark on Old Hwy. 40, the Victory Lincoln Highway that I have passed through on the V2V relays.”
The article noted she had ridden more miles than any other woman Victory rider we were aware of. She had logged 133,000 miles on her Kingpin before she submitted her True American Road Trip video entry, in which she joked: “Please pick me. My poor little Kingpin would like a rest – even though it’s just getting broken in.”
In late 2012, in what would be her final months of riding, she was approaching 155,000 miles on the Kingpin, a number that would have been even higher if not for the summer of 2010, which she spent riding the True American Road Trip Cross Country.
Outpouring of Memories & Tributes
The current Victory forum discussions about Syd’s death feature posts from two types of riders:
One who says, “I never met her but felt like I knew her from following her online.” And one who says, “I was lucky enough to ride with her and she was a fantastic and unforgettable person.”
Donna Dovel, who is now a Southwest Region Rep for the VMC, met Syd six or seven years ago at the VMC Southwest Meet. “Syd was running the raffle that raises money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure [breast cancer awareness and research], and she asked me to help. Well, it’s hard to say no to Syd,” Donna laughed.
Donna and Syd became instant friends and Donna enjoyed every chance she got to see Syd, work with her on projects and just enjoy her lively company. Donna said the outpouring of online condolences for Syd has been moving.
“People from all over the world are posting,” Donna said. “There are so many stories people have posted in the VMC forum and on her Facebook page.
“You felt her presence. She was always laughing, always smiling. I don’t think I ever saw her sad, and no one ever saw her mad. Even if she was mad about something, she would find a way to turn it into a funny story… She always went out of her way to help people. There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t have done for anybody. And she never met a stranger. Nobody was ever a stranger after they met her.”
Donna said the upcoming VMC Southwest Meet in Laughlin, Nevada, Feb. 7-10, won’t be the same without Syd. It’s likely Donna will help honor Syd by continuing to run the raffle that raises funds for the Komen organization.
A soft, squeezable symbol of Syd’s fun-loving and nomadic spirit is the Traveling Tigger doll. California Victory rider Kevin Shaw, another friend of Syd’s, recounted the story behind the long-riding tiger Syd helped turn into a great source of camaraderie and fun.
“The Traveling Tigger doll was a stuffed animal that members of the Victory Motorcycle Club have been passing around the world since November 2006,” Kevin said. “Sydney had it and then passed it on to me at So. California Victory in Brea. My wife and I showed him around Los Angeles and then passed him off in Laughlin in February 2007. He has been all over the world. It was Syd’s mission to keep us all aware of where Tigger was.”
A Tigger forum thread
was created on the VMC website so riders who carried Tigger on their travels could post photos and reports of his whereabouts.
Wherever Tigger goes, so goes Syd’s spirit and passion for riding.
They’d better have a large supply of Kingpin tires in heaven.
Godspeed, unforgettable Sydney Sheppard.
– Michael Dapper
Left to right: Tigger at the Golden gate; Syd with her friend Jill Curtis; Syd celebrates a birthday.
Left: Syd, happy to be on the road again; Right: A wet day on the job.
Syd on the day she reached 100,000 miles on her beloved Kingpin.