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At little more than 5ft 1,18-year-old Cleo is at least six inches smaller than the rest of the group in the motorcycle workshop at City College, but apart from her height and perfectly applied eye make-up, there is very little difference between Cleo and her male colleagues.
Despite growing up around them, Cleo’s interest in motorcycles only really started to flourish when she was taken to see the British Superbikes Championships by her dad. It was at that moment she decided what it was she wanted to do with her life.
“I first got a motorcycle when I was 16,” Cleo said. “But – and I know this sounds strange – I never really enjoyed riding it on the roads. However, after seeing the professionals racing around the track, I knew that’s what I wanted to do, and I soon joined a club and began taking part in track days. I was hooked.”
Having already completed a qualification in health and social care, Cleo decided her next move would be to get some formal training in motorbike maintenance to assist with her pursuit of becoming a professional racer.
Cleo said: “I was able to carry out basic maintenance before I started the Level 1 Diploma in Light Vehicle Maintenance, but it’s a lot of work keeping a racing bike in top condition, and I wanted to be able to do these jobs for myself.
“I’ve learnt a lot about the electronics on motorbikes – I’ve really enjoyed being able to take a look right inside the engine and find out for myself how it all works. Darren is really helpful and a great lecturer. He encourages us to get stuck in and there is no pressure if we make a mistake or get something wrong – it’s just part of our learning.
“I was a little bit nervous before I started the course. I knew I might potentially be the only girl, and whilst that was the case, it turns out I had nothing to worry about. I’m treated no different to the rest of the group – we all share an interest in motorbikes and we enjoy learning from one another.”
With COVID-19 restrictions now beginning to ease, Cleo is hoping to get back to racing very soon and to continue her training. Cleo said she would also like to further her knowledge by studying a level 2 qualification in motorcycle maintenance.
Cleo added: “It’s a fairly male-dominated environment, but that will change if more women and girls consider it as a career. Both racing and motorcycle maintenance are becoming more popular with women, and if it’s something you might be interested in, I recommend you come and meet the lecturers, check out the facilities and don’t just brush it off thinking you won’t fit in. I feel really at home in the workshop and we have a lot of fun.”