Stereotypes. They are hard to avoid. Especially against blondes. And step-throughs. So when we headed out on a ride with the HNF-NICOLAI UD3 (a step-through) and Paulina (a blonde), we smashed stereotype bingo. For this issue of Downtown, here is a story about being born with petrol coursing through your veins, unconventional ebikes, craftsmanship, picking kids over a career and why the idea of choice in our lives might be false.
21-year-old, blonde-haired Paulina Sauter is not your typical motorbike racer. She competes on an Aprilia RS 250 from 1998 – manufactured the same year she was born. You can tell from her Instagram that she’s nifty at it too. And she should be. She grew up hooked on the sport, a childhood spent looking up to her dad, who used to race Moto GP, and following her brother Patrick around the European race circuit while he made a name for himself. She has now done the same, racing iconic events like the Classic Trophy with her two-stroke. She knows how to work on the machines as well and you’ll find her doing exactly that either in her hometown of Leonberg or at her brother’s place in Frankfurt. As the author of this story has no motorbike licence, we meet Paulina at the HG Speedshop in Bad Homburg, where she is tinkering on her motorcycle. From here, we later cruise into Frankfurt on ebikes.
Leave it out, you can’t do that!
Paulina recognises that as a woman, she is in a minority in the world of motorsports. Despite having earned a reputation for her skills, she is acutely aware of the prejudices against her, which are visibly apparent in the way that people ‘mansplain’. When it comes to driving, parking, or repairing her vehicle, her grin says it all… She probably doesn’t need your help–but even if she did, she has the confidence to ask for it when needed. “It’s really demotivating and degrading when help is offered with a masked veil of I-can-do-this-better-than-you because you’re a woman. It hurts more when you hear it repeatedly about something that you really enjoy doing, or that you’re actually good at.” Paulina has grown tired of the same old spiel. “Women don’t get the respect that we deserve in motorsports. You see talent go to waste, time and time again because there is an absence of support when it comes to developing the women’s side of the sport.”
Does that mean there’s someone to blame? No, answers Paulina resolutely. She just wishes more would be done to encourage and support female riders. She’s familiar with how stereotypes are formed, especially when you can be pigeonholed as a certain type. “Blondes can’t do that,” is something she’s encountered repeatedly in her 21 years. But prejudices and stereotypes put up a wall in your head stopping people seeing past their preconceptions. But if you don’t make the effort to strip back that superficial layer, you’ll never truly understand another individual. Whoever you are stereotyping gets a bad deal, but it’s even worse for the one exercising the prejudice. A shame, really, to miss out on getting to know someone properly.
Paulina agrees. Over time, she’s learned not to get upset when she’s told she can’t do something. There’s a vast spectrum between can and cannot, she says, “Talent isn’t worth much on its own, you really have to train and practice.” She adds, “People that say such things can be split into two categories: either they’re out of their depth themselves, or they just have zero patience when it comes to helping other people to improve.”
Why do people always think that they are better than each other?
“I think that there’s nothing more important than having an awareness of your capabilities – not just in sport but also in life.” Today, Paulina is not short of such self-awareness. “It’s about trusting yourself. You can’t expect a freshly sown seed to turn into a plant after just one ray of sunshine. It takes time. Some things take longer than you’d like, but it works out.”
The art of not giving a fuck
*aka. the art of not entrusting your self-worth to others
Why do people always think they know you better than you know yourself? Why shouldn’t you be capable of something just because someone says that they can do it better? Take a moment to self-assess before accepting and living with someone else’s preconceived ideas. Paulina’s brother and dad have been her best teachers when it comes to self-awareness. At all the races they took her to – up, down and across Europe – they made sure they supported her, helping when and where it was necessary. One thing they didn’t do is heap excessive praise on her: the Sauter house does not go in for flattery. When Paulina wins a race, the reaction is distinctly muted, even though the Sauter hearts are probably swelling with pride. Paulina laughs, “All I get is, ‘Good one, but it could have been better.’” Perhaps it’s partly to do with the Sauter’s rural upbringing, where no complaint is praise in of itself. It can be frustrating, but it’s also a motivation – a bit like riding into a constant headwind.
Real life doesn’t give you a choice: kids over career
Her parents wanted her to work for Porsche and, at first, Paulina obliged – until she realised that a stable income and the prestige of employment in big business wasn’t going to make her happy. Instead, she decided to study early years education. For her, it’s just another example of how we don’t have choices in our lives. “If you want to live an autonomous life, you really have no choice. Your heart knows almost immediately if something isn’t right for you,” she says. “I learned that sitting in front of a computer in an office wasn’t for me. But working with kids? I love it. You can’t put a price on the satisfaction you get from it. My decision disappointed some people around me, but I couldn’t carry on. No amount of money would convince me to do a job that I didn’t enjoy. It’s such a big part of your life.”
Living your best life involves making your own decisions when you feel like you have no choice but to follow what your heart suggests. It isn’t easy and requires you to take responsibility for your behaviour. But recognising that you’re putting yourself in a position to decide gives you the awareness that no one can determine your future. It means challenging preconceived ideas, not accepting the status quo and facing prejudices and stereotypes head-on. Why are bankers and business people championed instead of preschool teachers? Are those who are raising the next generation of any less value? Are supply chains, email chains and economic efficiency really that much more important?
“While the situation is terrible, the Covid-19 crisis appears to be waking people up and showing them what matters in life; where the bullshit is and what we can live with and without,” Paulina sighs. She’s had first-hand experience of how the lives of wealthy parents are thrown into hysteria when their child’s education, even just daycare, isn’t guaranteed. There’s no cynicism or pent-up frustration in Paulina’s observations or how she perceives the situation and as we ride through the city, she talks matter-of-factly – this is how life is. Narrow-minded people who get stuck in their preconceptions can’t see things as they are. They’ll miss out on great moments, chance encounters and valuable experiences because they don’t engage actively with the moment, instead immediately compartmentalising it in a labelled box. Her un-stereotypical choice of bike is probably not what you’d expect from a 21-year-old in a hip city, but as we ride through Frankfurt’s Hafenpark, she sings the praises of her bike with its practical low-slung top tube.
Step-throughs enjoy widespread popularity amongst an older generation of rider. For all their practicality – like the low standover height and ease of getting on the saddle – many people brush them off as grandma-bikes. Prejudiced, much? Such closed-minded thoughts (occasionally expressed aloud) aren’t enough to stop Paulina from proudly riding her fiery red HNF-NICOLAI UD3 around the city. But it’s easy for her. The UD3 is far from old-fashioned. Super slick-looking and brimming with its unique style, this German-made bike deserves a second glance. For Paulina, the decision to get the UD3 was made when she gave it exactly that – a ‘proper’ second look. That, she explains, is when she was able to admire the engineering-savvy craftsmanship and technology in its welds, angular tube profiles and premium craftsmanship. In short, it reminds her of her competition motorbike. The UD3 is her vehicle of choice when she’s not covering distances in the city on her city motorbike, an old Honda. She could have had a fixie, but doesn’t everyone have one of those for city errands? Paulina wanted to stand out, so why not enjoy the benefits of a super comfortable, quick-moving step-through with a powerful Bosch motor?
This is how Paulina is usually seen in Frankfurt, riding the UD3 to meet friends and make friends. Taking the step-through to the skatepark? Why not? Let’s break those stereotypes. Donning a skater-look at the skatepark doesn’t exactly scream creativity, right?
Happiness in your own hands
Motorbike races at the weekend, the step-through e-bike for the city – are they mutually exclusive? Life would be pretty boring if you spent it trying to please other people. It’s hard work trying to fit a mould, shaping yourself to meet other people’s expectations. To have a happy life, confidence in your decisions and in yourself is key to Paulina. When it comes to picking a career path, bike choice, or race calendar, why should your own happiness be determined by other people’s expectations, stereotypes and judgements? Knowing what works for you, what makes you happy and what torments you is a very personal thing – keep it that way.
So, no more stereotypes, no more prejudices. Recognise and celebrate the wonder and diversity of every individual. Remember that breaking the status quo is usually worth it. Take cues from Paulina – the gender-defying motorbike-racing 21-year-old that turned down a power-dressing career and rides her step-through with steeze through Frankfurt. What was it that she said? “If you want to live an autonomous life, you really have no choice.”
For more info head to: hnf-nicolai.com
The HNF UD3 in detail
HNF-NICOLAI UD3 All-Terrain
Motor Bosch Performance CX
Battery Bosch PowerTube Akku 625 Wh
Display Bosch Intuvia
Fork SR Suntour Mobie 75 mm
Seatpost Humpert Atar 31
Brakes Magura MT4 180/180 mm
Drivetrain Enviolo Trekking
Stem Satori Compact
Tires Schwalbe Super Moto-X
Size S M L XL
Weight 25,5 kg
Perm. total weight 130 kg
Max. payload (rider/equipment) 95 kg
Customizable Spec with great options
Words & Photos: Robin Schmitt