Women & Motorcycling
I can't help but wonder how I came to this point. My only experience with motorcycles had been as a passenger, and the idea of actually learning to ride myself had never really occurred to me. I grew up with 10 brothers, so motorcycles had always been a "guy thing"; girls were just expected to ride on the back. So, you can imagine that I felt a little confusion—and yet real excitement—when I was asked if I wanted to go to Femmoto (www.femmoto.com) and learn to ride a dirt bike; Kawasaki had brought its Dirt Bike Experience for the multifaceted weekend to teach any lady—from beginner onwards—who wanted to improve her skills.
Up to the actual day, I was filled with disbelief that I was really going to be able to do this. It may be strange in this day and age for a 43-year-old mom of three to think this way, but, although I was being encouraged, it was still quite intimidating.
My first impression when we arrived at the track was how unusual Femmoto is; it is completely set up just for women. Seeing men watching on the sidelines while ladies of all skill levels, ages, sizes, and body types circled the track was very striking! There was no set-type of female motorcyclist, and that encouraged me to feel that maybe this was something I could do. (Click image to enlarge)
At the class, I was introduced to Mercedes Gonzales-Natvig (9-time women's national MX champion) and Charity Okerson, both teachers at the Honda Off-Road School in Colton, but drafted in by Kawasaki especially for this Femmoto event. After a brief hello all the pupils introduced themselves and their experience. I was the only one with a big fat zero!
But, despite my nerves, over the next two hours the ladies patiently taught me the fundamentals of clutch, throttle, brakes and gears. In the first few minutes, I felt overwhelmed, but with my only other option being to crash and burn, I gathered my courage and decided to learn. We spent some time on each discipline. First kickstarting, then riding in a straight line, then turning, then standing, then shifting gears and finally, using the brakes properly.
The first couple of hours flew by like it was only a few minutes, but I was actually riding and beginning to feel more comfortable. I found myself riding up and down hills in first gear, until I realized that by changing up a gear the bike would run much better. And then it clicked; suddenly I felt like I was on a Jet Ski, standing up, cruising along, and having a blast. I could really do this! The sense of accomplishment was amazing.
I anxiously returned to the main track to tell everyone how I had done, and what I had overcome. As I walked back to the pits, I saw a dad—smiling broadly—pushing a stroller with his kids while his wife was out on the track or road-testing a motorcycle. I was struck by how much fun, how unusual and how empowering Femmoto is for women. I thank the organizers and supporters, and I also applaud the dads, husbands and, boyfriends and significant others who seem to have as much fun supporting the women in their lives in what must be a real change in the usual family dynamic. I can't wait to go back next year.