This is a motorcycle story.
No… wait. It’s an airplane story.
Well… it’s not that, either.
Honestly, it’s a “get-out-of-your-head-and-follow-your-dreams” story. But there are some cool motorcycle moments and impressive airplane events along the way.
The easy part is where to begin: A 100-acre farm in eastern Ohio.
That is where Kandi Spangler was the fifth of five kids, 10 years younger than her closest sibling. Out there in the middle of nowhere, Kandi says she was raised to “work hard and play hard.” She also had some trailblazing sisters who were the first in their family to go to college. Kandi monitored her sisters’ career paths with awe and admiration, knowing that they were doing something unexpected.
“My parents were very traditional,” she says. “My mom was a homemaker, and my dad was the breadwinner. They were proud of my sisters, but we weren’t necessarily raised to plan for college. It was understood that if we wanted to go to college, we would have to pay for it ourselves.”
Meanwhile, 5-year-old Kandi ripped around the family farm on a dirt bike, helmet several sizes too large like a 5-year-old Bobblehead doll. By the time she turned 15, Kandi knew that she also wanted to leave the family farm and go to college, but she didn’t know what her career path might be.
Then she took a flying lesson at nearby Columbiana County Airport and took her first solo flight at the age of 16. Suddenly, the path was clear.
“I knew this was what I wanted to do for a living!”
She enrolled in Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona, FL with dreams of becoming an airline pilot, but very quickly realized that she “didn’t want to be a bus driver in the sky.” She switched her degree to management but kept flying.
Today, Kandi is Managing Director at jetAVIVA, a pioneer in aircraft sales and services for business jet owners. She also earned her private pilot license, her instrument rating, and her commercial rating. She’s currently working on her multi-engine rating.
“I hope to be right seat in a jet next year,” she says. “I love flying!”
Kandi Spangler at Columbiana County Airport in Lisbon OH where she learned to fly in the early 1990s.
But What About the Motorcycles?
Oh, don’t you fret. We’re getting there.
Back in 2011, Kandi’s husband said that he wanted to get back into riding motorcycles. He, too, had grown up around motorcycles. Well, Kandi being Kandi, she said, “OK, then I want one, too. I’m not riding on the back of yours.”
The couple got their bikes and hit the road. Kandi was shocked at how much she had forgotten about riding motorcycles. (Read her story about “perishable riding skills” here.) Within a couple of years, Kandi was hankering to go off-road again.
But here’s the thing: Kandi is… altitude challenged. She’s 5’ 2” and it is hard to find an adventure bike that she can sit on and reach the ground with both feet. For a long time, she thought this challenge would prohibit her from riding some of the taller bikes and tackling more challenging dirt roads.
Then she discovered BMW GS motorcycles, which are built for off-road/on-road use. She was hooked. Kandi found a great coach, took a ton of riding classes, earned her Motorcycle Safety Foundation certification, and even became a certified MSF RiderCoach. She was riding some big bikes on some tough roads. Not the biggest bikes. Not the toughest roads. But she was enjoying herself.
About this time, someone asked if she had considered competing in the GS Trophy, an international off-road competition that spans 7 days, 1,000 kilometers, and every type of weather and terrain you can imagine.
“I watched some videos and I thought, ‘I can’t even touch on both sides of my bike! This is ridiculous!” recalls Kandi. Then, she watched as Jocelin Snow, who is only 5’ 1”, win a spot on the U.S. Women’s Team.
It was like a veil had been lifted from Kandi’s eyes.
“All of a sudden, I didn’t have any excuses. I had to figure out a way to do this. Once I see a challenge that is possible, game on!”
In 2019, Kandi “started training like crazy,” and she did it the way a pilot trains. She put herself on a rigorous schedule with checklists for every skill and challenge that she needed to master. That same year, she found herself competing for the GS Trophy International Female Qualifier in Spain with women from around the world. And she was a finalist! Then she earned a spot on the U.S. Women’s Team again in 2021. (The GS Trophy is held every other year.)
“None of that would have been possible if I hadn’t seen Jocelin and gotten out of my own head,” admits Kandi, who says the lesson was a turning point in her life. “When someone can change your entire mindset just by seeing them or talking to them, that’s an incredible experience. I’d like to do that for other people.”
Since winning those competitions and defying her own expectations, Kandi has become an advocate for helping others tear down self-imposed (mainly mental) obstacles. It’s not really about riding and flying. The motorcycles and airplanes are just the tools she uses to help others consider the barriers they may be placing in their own lives.
“I’ve worked with business coaches who asked me to think about what makes me tick and what’s most important to me. ‘What is your Why.’ I spent a lot of time trying to figure out ‘My Why’ several years ago. As it turns out, the thing that makes me tick is to inspire others to break out of their own mold. Get out of their comfort zone, do things they only wished they could do but maybe never took the steps to go do it. I’ve been in those shoes. Lucky for me, I had mentors in my life to show me you can do this if you set your mind to it.”
Now, Kandi speaks at motorcycle rallies and events all over the country, posts inspiring videos on YouTube (@motoikandi), and promotes adventure riding on Instagram (motoikandi). She also has a website where she shares inspiring stories about rides and offers training tips and classes (motoikandi.com).
“What’s amazing to me, what bakes my noodle, is that I came from such a traditional household and yet all three girls went out and chose nontraditional paths,” says Kandi. “My sisters were the first to break out of the mold and I guess I never want to stop doing that.”