The Pianist on Two Wheels – Exclusive Interview with Rui Jia

As a celebration of the Chinese New Year, we bring you a special series featuring three Chinese female riders. Today, on the New Year’s Eve of the Year of the Oxen (or bulls, or cows), we give you the story of #911 Rui JIA (贾睿), 600cc rider with Shizhao Racing Team.

© All photos, including featured cover, provided by Rui Jia

Rui Jia was born in Tianjin, China in 1989. In her childhood, motorcycling or motorsport didn’t really have a presence. It was music that occupied most of her time and attention. She lived in South Africa for six years while her father was an expat. When she came back to China, she became a piano teacher.

Having been to the opposite side of the world, Rui has always been interested in traveling and exploring new places for culture and food. Coincidently, this became her gateway into leisure riding, and eventually led to motorcycle racing. “I read other people’s stories about traveling on their motorcycles, to places like Tibet. It was so fascinating, and their pictures of the scenery were breath-taking. It was eye-opening for me to know that you could travel to beautiful places and see the amazing landscape on a motorcycle. I became interested in motorcycles as a vehicle for transportation. I thought it would be interesting to ride it, go to beautiful places, and have fun.”

Traveling opened the door for Rui, but she only went on one or two long trips after getting her bike. The roadracing bud was soon brought into fruition, and the leisure rider Rui transformed into racer Rui. “After I got my bike, I realized it would actually be quite dangerous on the road for traveling. A lot of unexpected things could happen. My bike also wasn’t very suitable for long-distance journeys (a street bike and a sportbike). So I actually rode more in the city. I became friends with other riders, and some of them suggested I could try riding on racing circuits since I was fast already. So I went to a track day event, and racing started from there.”

Ever since she was on the bike for the first time, riding has always come easy to Rui. Through her first track day, and then first race, Rui realized she does have talent in riding and racing, and her confidence grew. “Riding comes quite naturally for me since the first time I was on a bike. Then when they suggested I go to the circuit, I came in second in my first race simulation. It was a training event for female riders, with a race simulation attached to the program. As the runner-up of the event, the team which organized it recruited me as a development rider. My third time at the circuit was a CSBK race in Erdos. My lap time was good enough to qualify me for the pro final. It was a real confidence booster for me.”

Talent alone was not enough for success in racing. So Rui decided to leave Tianjin and move to Zhuhai to seek better coaching and training. She joined the racing team led by Shizhao Huang, the first and only Chinese rider to have raced in Grand Prix motorcycle racing, and became the team’s coordinator as well as a rider coached by Shizhao. “After being with my first team for a year, I went on my own for a while. Two years ago, I met Shizhao through my car racing coach and asked to join his team. I knew I’m passionate about motorcycle racing, and I knew if I want to be a better rider, I need to train with the best. So I wanted to train with Shizhao. At first, he didn’t want to take me, but I was persistent, and here I am. Now looking back, I still have the tapes of that race in Erdos, I was really messing around on track, going for the impossible passes. Now I know more, I know what I was doing wrong back then, and I understand more about how to really be fast.”

Rui races in sprints as well as endurance races. Now being more mature as a rider, she understands what is important for each race format, and what she has to work on to be a better rider. “Sprint races are about perfection in each corner of each lap. You need to be able to perform what you’ve practiced and trained, maintain your speed, and fight wheel-to-wheel for your positions. Your physical condition, your skills, and a calm mind all lead to your results. Endurance races are about more than just yourself. You need to take care of your bike, you need to cooperate with your teammate, and you need a good strategy. You have to be fast and smart. How long do you stay out there? When do you come back? The key thing is to preserve your own energy and keep your bike in a good condition. For myself, I still have a lot to improve on sprints, for example, my right turns are better than left turns because I train at ZIC more which has more right turns. I’ll need to work on these things. For endurance racing, I need to have a cooler mind. Don’t dwell on one corner, look more at the big picture – finishing the race.”

With the best rider in China as her coach, Rui also looks at the world’s best for references to improve her own riding. “I go to the gym to train for cardio 3-4 times a week. When I’m there, I would put on a MotoGP or WSBK race. WorldSSP is the most helpful of course, since I also ride Yamaha R6 in the 600cc category, but WorldSSP300 also works. Liter bikes are completely different though. I know my riding style and riding position, so I would find the riders with a similar style and focus on how they ride. In terms of racing idols, my favorites are Joan Mir and Maverick Vinales from MotoGP. Maverick is interesting. His races can be really good or really bad, it makes him more like a real person in my opinion. I’m also a bit like him. I can be really emotional in my races too. Shizhao always tells me to be calm in the race, just do what I do when I train. The weather, things you eat, a lot of other things can affect your races. So you really need to take control of your emotions and your mindset so you can perform, show people your real capabilities.”

Besides being a rider herself and working on her own riding, Rui as the coordinator for the team, also works with other riders whether they just come in for a track day experience or racing with the team. “I work on all things that are not on the technical side. Our team is a club, a lot of riders would come in to train or just ride for fun. Communications with them, booking their bikes or repair jobs, working with the circuit, those are all my jobs. When we go to other cities for races, it’s my job to organize all the logistics, including registration and booking our pits. On track day, if the riders need someone to lead them and show them the lines, I’ll also be their coach. If I’m not busy on track day with the other riders, I’ll also ride and train myself.”    

Having been racing for two years, Rui has been to a lot of circuits within China. Looking around the world, Rui also jokes about wanting to try all the circuits. “I’d love to try all those circuits around the world if I have the opportunity. Of course, the closest to us would be Sepang in Malaysia and Buriram in Thailand. But I’d like to race on all of them.”

When the pandemic is over, and travel restrictions are loosened, we hope Rui can travel more around the world, find interesting food everywhere, and ride on all the circuits she can get on.

Before we wrap up the story, let’s go onboard with Rui for one lap at Zhuhai International Circuit.

This article has also been translated into Italian by MissBiker.com. You can read the Italian version here.

Next week, on the 7th of the first month on the lunar calendar, let’s hear the story from Ling “Kim” CHEN, one of the most experienced Chinese female riders.

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