First Lady Ana Carrasco

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I recently saw this post on Facebook from a gentleman by the name of Stuart Baker. He prefaced this post with the following text:

Since no magazine or website wants to publish this feature I've decided to forego my usual fee and publish it on here myself because I believe this woman deserves recognition for what she's achieving. Please share this post freely and perhaps, between us, we can reach a wider audience than a closed-minded magazine would anyway. -Stuart Barker

Since I totally agreed with him, I asked him if I could reproduce this article on my lowly website which makes absolutely no money but hopefully reaches a wide, female audience. I hope you enjoy his article as much as I did. GO ANA.

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August 8, 2018

First Lady Ana Carrasco

Words By: Stuart Barker, Photos By: Mdan Katana

She's 21-years-old, stands five-foot-one, and weighs eight stone, wringing wet. But don't let that fool you. Ana Carrasco is one tough little Spaniard. She's the first woman in the 100-years-plus history of the sport to lead a motorcycle road racing world championship. She was also the first woman to set pole position and the first to win a race and, with just two rounds remaining of the World Supersport 300 Championship, she has a healthy 16-point lead – against an entire field of men.

Oh, and she's also half way through a four-year law degree and trains six hours every day. Are you starting to feel a bit inadequate? You should be. Meet Ana Carrasco – the fastest female motorcycle racer of all time.

Women have not always been welcomed in the sport of motorcycle road racing. Original regulations laid down by the FIM (Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme) in the early days of racing dictated that competitors must be ‘male persons between 18 and 55 years of age.’ This ruling didn’t apply to Sidecar racing so in 1954 the intrepid German, Inge Stoll-Laforge, caused a sensation by entering the Isle of Man TT – the biggest motorcycle race in the world at the time. She finished in a highly credible 5th position but was tragically killed four years later in a crash at the Czech Grand Prix. 

By 1962 the FIM had changed its rules and allowed women to race so Beryl Swain became the first female solo rider at the TT, finishing 22nd in the 50cc race before the FIM did an about-turn and banned women again in 1963. 

Despite this historical backdrop of rampant sexism, a handful of brave, determined women have persisted in blazing a trail for female riders in one of the world’s most dangerous sports. Riders like Maria Costello have scored podiums at the Manx Grand Prix (the ‘amateur’ TT) and Carolynn Sells became the first woman to win a Manx in 2009 while Jenny Tinmouth (the fastest woman ever at the TT with an average lap speed of 119.94mph) recently became the first female rider to compete in the prestigious British Superbike Championship. Germany’s Katja Poensgen won the Supermono Championship in 1998 and women have even scored points in the Grand Prix world championships, the first being Taru Rinne with a seventh-place finish at Hockenheim in 1989. But while convalescing from a crash shortly afterwards, the Finn received a letter from Bernie Ecclestone (who, at the time had a heavy, but thankfully short-lived, involvement in motorcycle racing) informing her that she was ‘not qualified’ to compete the following season. 

Clearly, nothing had changed. Despite occasional outstanding performances by women in the male-dominated sport of motorcycle racing, by the start of the 2017 season no female had won a world championship race - perhaps unsurprisingly given the additional barriers they faced. 
But that all changed at Portimao in Portugal on Sunday, September 17, 2017 when a 20-year-old Spanish rider called Ana Carrasco came out on top in an epic drag race to the finish line in the World Supersport 300 Championship race. In doing so, she became the first woman in history to win a motorcycle road racing world championship race. And while the significance of the moment wasn’t exactly lost on Carrasco, she thinks like a racer first, and a woman second. ‘At the time I was not thinking about the significance of this’ she says.

‘I always just try to ride as hard as I can and try to achieve results – I don't think about being a woman. So, in that moment I was just happy because I'd won the race but after some days I start to realise what I had achieved. It's important that a woman can be fighting for the victory in the world championship because it's good for other girls to see that this is possible.’

After finishing the 2017 season in eighth place overall, Carrasco came out of the traps ready for a proper fight in 2018, setting pole position at Imola, winning the race, and taking the lead in the world championship. After another win at Donington Park in England, Carrasco now has a 16-point lead with just two rounds of the championship remaining. This makes her the first woman ever to lead a motorcycle racing world championship. 

 Ana, Kicking Ass and Taking Names

Ana, Kicking Ass and Taking Names

It seems an incredibly young age for anyone – male of female – to be leading a world championship but Carrasco was practically born into the saddle.

‘I started riding when I was three years old because my family was always involved in the motorcycle world’ she says. ‘My father was a race mechanic since before I was born so when I was three I started riding my big sister's minimoto because she wasn't interested in it. So that was a good thing for me!’

Standing at just 5”1 and weighing eight stone-three (52kg) wringing wet, Carrasco cuts a diminutive figure in the racing paddock. Her slight frame would normally give her an advantage under acceleration but constantly-changing rules in the fledgling WSS300 championship (which is only in its second year) mean that even this advantage has been removed: because she is so light, Carrasco is forced to carry a weight penalty on her Kawasaki Ninja 400 race bike.

‘I now have to carry a 13kg weight penalty so I think it's actually worse to be small’ she says. ‘I have to move more kilos than the other riders through the corners and yet the overall weight of rider and bike is the same (because of the combined bike-and-rider minimum weight rule) so I don't have any advantage on acceleration.
‘The rules change every race so sometimes we have a good bike and sometimes no. It’s difficult for us to work like this because every Thursday of a race weekend they say “Okay, now you have to change this” or “Now you have to change that.” It’s difficult for the team and it’s also difficult for me to ride fast like this because every race I have a different bike. I hope for next year the rules will be more stable because I like to win, always, and with all these changes it’s not always possible to win. At the moment, Kawasaki is not always on the top because the rules are helping the Yamahas to be at the same level. But we just have to work within the rules Dorna gives us and finish the championship the best we can.’

Carrasco at least has a competitive bike and team for the 2018 season, which is something of a novelty after battling for years with uncompetitive and poorly-funded rides in various Spanish championships and even, for a few years, in the Moto3 World Championship that runs alongside MotoGP – the Formula 1 of motorcycle racing.

‘Yes, for me it's really good because in the past years I was struggling a lot because I wanted to be at the top but it was impossible with the bikes that I had. Now it is really good and I'm really happy with my team and with my bike and Kawasaki is helping me a lot so now I don't want to change my team because I feel so comfortable. I want to win, so I will stay in the place where I can fight for the victory.’

The World Supersport 300 Championship which Ana currently leads is a support series to the World Superbike Championship, meaning the young Spaniard has operated out of the two biggest paddocks in world motorcycle racing. So how do they compare in their attitudes towards women?

‘The people in the WSB paddock are more friendly and more relaxed’ Carrasco says. ‘You can speak with everybody. In the MotoGP paddock there's a lot more pressure so the riders have to always be thinking only about riding and they cannot do anything else. So, yes, the paddocks are different but I like both. I didn't notice any difference between the paddocks in their attitudes towards female riders. My job is the same and the people are good with me, always. But in the World Supersport 300 Championship it was more easy for me to find a good team and a good bike so that I can be fighting at the top. In the past it has been really difficult for me because I never had the equipment I needed to be fighting for the victory.’

Like every motorcycle racer, Ana Carrasco needs to have the mental capacity to accept the inherent dangers of her chosen sport and the ability to endure the pain caused by regular injuries. Although safety measures have improved radically over the last 30-odd years, people still die in this sport. Yet it’s clearly not a fact that Carrasco loses much sleep over.

'I broke my elbow in 2007 and I broke my collarbone in 2015 and also my shoulder. I’m okay with pain – I can handle it. I can ride with pain and don’t feel it so much. I’ve had some difficult injuries but I don’t worry too much about it. I know it’s a dangerous sport but many things are dangerous so we have to try and take part in all sports with as many safety measures as we can. We have to respect the dangers and just try to remain safe and do our job. For my mother it’s more difficult! I think this sport is difficult for all the mothers to watch!’

And before you think these are the words of a crazy and irresponsible young kid, consider this: when she’s not traveling the globe fighting for a world championship, Ana Carrasco is studying for a law degree. Half way through a four-year course, the girl from Cehegin in the Murcia region of south-east Spain must balance adrenalin with diligence and solitude in equal measure.

‘It’s difficult to do both things because I spend so much time away from home but now I’m in a sports university where many Olympic athletes study so they give me the possibility to change the dates of my exams if I am racing. So I try to work out my study and exams calendar according to the racing calendar. It’s a four-year course and I am in my second year now. I don’t know for sure if I will be a lawyer after racing but this is my Plan B! I want to be a racer and be riding for many years but, if not, then at least I have another plan to be a normal person and to have a job and a family and everything.’


Perhaps even more impressive – and certainly testimony to her determination and will to win – Carrasco also maintains a brutal training regime that would qualify as a full-time job in itself.

‘I train around six hours every day’ she says. ‘I go to the gym for about three or four hours and then ride dirt bikes for another few hours.’

It’s this kind of commitment that sees Carrasco regularly beating an entire field full of men and her reward is the sheer satisfaction that generates.

‘Yes, for me it’s good!’ she laughs. ‘This is a motivation to show the people that women can do the same. This is what I want – I want to win in a world championship so I can show that I can beat the best riders in the world in that class. So, I want to be always better and better and better and to arrive at the top.’
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It’s perhaps not easy for every male psyche to handle being beaten by a woman (in the past, they’ve also had to accept Carrasco’s own take on the brolly dolly – she had her own umbrella fella on the grid!) especially in a sport that has for so long been male-dominated. So how do her rivals treat her? Does she get the respect she deserves or does she get shunned by bitter, defeated rivals? ‘For sure they respect me because if you are fast, everybody respects you! I’ve shown them that I can win races and fight for the championship so I think everybody respects me now.’

Testosterone is not always a man’s best friend. Often it can lead to rash decisions out on track and crazy do-or-die lunges that have little chance of working and every chance of ending in crashes and broken bones. In the sport, this kind of aggression is known as ‘red mist’ and it’s the one area where Carrasco thinks female riders may actually have a slight advantage over the men.

‘Sometimes it helps to be a woman, yes. Women think more when they are on the bike! The men are more brave but they sometimes make dangerous moves without thinking and sometimes this is not so good! I think in my case I have a slight advantage here because I always stay calm and think a lot about what I have to do out on the race track.’

Female motorcycle racers are no longer a complete novelty but they’re still very much in the minority (there are none at all, for example, in the world’s two biggest motorcycle championships – MotoGP and World Superbikes) although Carrasco believes it’s getting easier for women to be involved.

‘Every year it gets a bit more easy. It's difficult for a young female rider to see how they can arrive in a world championship if they never see any other girls doing it. So if you are the first girl to do it then it's more difficult but once you can see that other girls are doing it then you can think “Why not? Why can't I do the same?” So, for the girls, it's important that I'm doing a good job in the world championship.
‘I think women can do the same as men in this sport. We are all just riders and we can all do the same thing. But it’s more difficult for women to find a good opportunity – a good team and a good bike. It’s more difficult for people to believe that we can win so we have many problems in getting access to competitive equipment to be fighting at the top. In this sport, if you do not have a good bike then you cannot fight to win.’

As to the future, Carrasco already has some options on the table due to her incredible performances this year. But for now, she’s concentrating on the job in hand.

‘I want to continue with Kawasaki because I am very happy with them and they are supporting me to be at the top. I would also like to continue with my team. But it will depend on what we achieve this year. I have some offers from the Moto3 World Championship and also from World Supersport 600 and World Supersport 300 teams. At the moment, I don’t know. I think around September time we will start to look more closely at next year but at the moment I just want to think about the championship.’

There are two rounds remaining of the World Supersport 300 Championship – at Portimao, Portugal, on September 16, and at Magny-Cours, France, on September 30. Carrasco has a healthy 16-point lead over Germany’s Luca Grunwald but with 25 points available for each race win, it’s still all to play for. One crash or mechanical breakdown could change everything, but Carrasco is confident.

‘We have a good opportunity, we are in a good position in the championship, so I want to try to win at Portimao because I like this place. The circuit is good for me, so I would like to finish on the podium and win the championship there. But if not, then we will wait and try again in Magny-Cours. For sure we have a good opportunity and we are in the best position to win the championship.’

The sport of motorcycle road racing has been around for well over 100 years but no woman has ever come this close to lifting a world title.

So what would it mean to the petite, highly intelligent, and multi-lingual Spaniard if she could put an end to all that and finally prove beyond all doubt that women have a genuine place in motorcycle racing?

‘For me it would be a dream come true because, for my whole life, my dream is to be world champion and this year I have the opportunity so I want to give my best to try to win.’

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I hope you enjoyed her interview as much as I did. Please take a minute and visit her social feeds to support her and share this story with everyone you know!

https://www.facebook.com/anacarrasco22/

https://www.instagram.com/anacarrasco_22/?hl=en

www.motogp.com/en/riders/ana+carrasc

Short Riding Tips Series

 Me, on my toes at the 2018 Women's Sportbike Rally West

Me, on my toes at the 2018 Women's Sportbike Rally West

After a few weeks of traveling, I'm finally back in Philly. First I went to the Women's Sportbike Rally in Camarillo (July 13-15). That's where I got to ride Goldie's Twin again (above). Isn't she beautiful?

Take a look at the Event Recap Photos to see what you might have missed.  

I've created a new playlist on my Youtube channel which will include my best tips for short riders. Most recently I uploaded a video on how I park my bike. And why most of the time, I choose to jump off my bike to park it and how I do it quickly and safely. I hope you'll subscribe. 

Riding with CLASS Motorcycle School

In April of 2018, I had the pleasure of doing a track day with CLASS Motorcycle School founded by retired roadracer Reg Pridmore and his wife Gigi. They run an excellent motorcycle school program based in Southern California. I had read about this school a few years ago and purely based on the description of their courses I knew I wanted to ride with them someday. I appreciate a school that focuses on fun, skill development and riding techniques.

What you might be wondering is what kind of motorcycle school? Track? Street? Advanced? Racing? Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes.

 “Still the friendliest and safest place to learn the riding skills we all need” -CLASS Motorcycle School
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So I jumped at the chance when I read that Gigi was putting together an (click here for photos) ALL LADIES track day program. They were going to host it at the Streets of Willow Raceway (“SWR”) right next to the famous Willow Springs Int’l Motorcycle Motorsports Park. The SWR is a smaller, bumpier, more street like track that emulates riding through your favorite canyon/mountain roads; imperfectly paved, bumps, hops, no clear white lines. It gives you more of a real world experience so when you get back onto the streets you’ll have a stronger strategy when you get to your favorite twisty one lane road.

I haven’t done an All Ladies track day in over 5 years so I decided to fly in and met up with my amazing friend. I booked a room at the Holiday Inn Express nearby in Lancaster and stayed there for the couple of nights I was in town with my friend Brittany.

It’s always fun to ride on the track with your friends, but even if you don’t know anyone a track day is the place where everyone loves riding as much as you do (sometimes more).

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I knew I wouldn’t be able to take Goldie with me (my Street Triple) so I rented one of their beautiful Honda CB500R’s.It was a fully stock bike, and the preload was probably set at the lowest point. I didn’t even think that it might be a possibility to raise the preload on this and wish I had thought of it. The bike is pretty low for a sporty and I ended up scraping the footpegs a few times :) But I had a great time on it overall.

Because this was a special All Ladies Day, we only had 2 riding groups: A (advanced) and B (novice). There wasn’t a need for a middle level group. Normally at an open track day you get a third group as an intermediate level.

I rode in the A group and I thought the group of women I rode with were awesome. Everyone was there to have fun, ride better and just have fun. There’s a different vibe when you ride with all women, it’s just different. I can’t say it’s better or worse because it’s a different experience. If you aren’t familiar with track days then riding your first one in a Ladies only group can feel much easier, less intimidating and more comfortable. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of options for women’s only track days, and but they do come up every now and then.  

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After you check in to let them know you’re there and ready to attend class, it’s time for bike inspection. Since I was riding their bike, I didn’t have to do anything. But you typically need to let their mechanic take a look at your bike and make sure it’s safe and ready to ride on the track.

Depending on the school, they will have different requirements. With CLASS, they really just required basic safety requirements like proper tire pressure and everything in working order. My bike wasn’t even taped up and I rode on the track with all the turn signals and headlights untaped.

Nothing advanced was required like coolant changes or safety wire, and we had several bikes that weren’t even sportbikes!

Then it’s onto the first meeting of the morning. Generally what happens thru the day is you have 20 minutes of riding then ~20-30 minutes of classroom timing to cover concepts that you can then practice on your next session. It ran this way until lunchtime ~1pm with a 1 hour break. Then we resumed until the last session around 430pm.

 Me and Brittany listening to the great Reg Pridmore

Me and Brittany listening to the great Reg Pridmore

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Reg was injured recently riding down the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca so he was unable to ride with us that day. He provided almost all the classroom instruction instead. Reg’s message was consistent, respectful and thoughtful:

Focus on riding better on the track so that you will ride better on the street. Skills, technique, focus. Not speed, not riding faster or better than anyone else except yourself.

I have found that I am my worst critic when it comes to life in general, but more so with riding.

 

Sometimes, a corner is just a corner whether it’s on your favorite mountain or backroad. What’s vastly different are the risks you carry on the street (i.e. MUCH higher). On this little track, I just had to worry about how I was riding. No worries about cars, oncoming motorcycles, animals, accidents, traffic or any random obstacles.  

We had ~6 sessions that day back to back with a break for lunch in between. After each session, sometimes before the end of the session even, a coach would give you some polite feedback. Because we had a smaller group that day, we had a lot of coaches available to us that day; about a 2:1 ratio. Normally you have more than a 6:1 ratio of coaches to riders on open track days, but they had brought in a few extra coaches to help out.

 PSA: Never try to break in a new suit on the track. It kept me from wanting to lean forward most of the time, it was just so uncomfortable to do anything but sit up straight. :*( 

PSA: Never try to break in a new suit on the track. It kept me from wanting to lean forward most of the time, it was just so uncomfortable to do anything but sit up straight. :*( 

In between sessions we covered additional topics such as body position, where to focus, how to choose your lines, etc. I would say the structure of the class was more relaxed and you were able to practice whatever skills you needed to from session to session. If you needed a coach there was always one available to either follow you or be followed for tips/skills/feedback.

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Initially, I had a couple of coaches who thought I needed a little more assistance than I really needed but I was able to talk to them and let them know exactly what I was trying to accomplish.

At one point, my contacts were drying out (because of alll the fabulous ventilation from my bell race star) and it looked like I was riding like a crazy person. After the session was over I had to explain to him that I was fine, and I was just having trouble seeing!

But after a couple of sessions I was able to ride with Gigi Pridmore, and she gave me the best feedback and helped me with my lines and body positioning which I’m always trying to improve.

One thing I do NOT recommend is buying a new track suit 4 days earlier and then breaking it in on the track :0 This hindered my body positioning greatly. Just getting into the position below was really uncomfortable to where I couldn’t stay over the tank for more than a few minutes without sitting up straight. I was trying to work on body positioning (moving my ass off the seat more) but the suit just wouldn’t let me. (Remember to let customer know this is the worst part of wearing a new suit on the track).

 Photo:  eTechPhoto

Photo: eTechPhoto

When bikes are too low, they’re harder to lean further than you want to. But there’s no knee dragging here, just focusing on my lines, speed and consistency.

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Depending on how you learn, what feels good for you one or the other might be better.

As you research various riding schools (basic or advanced), take the time to read about each one and decide for yourself. I’m open to all track classes, no matter what the format.

No matter what track day you choose, remember that it’s not for racing, not just for sportbikes, no just for fast riders but for YOU.

For more information about CLASS including costs, schedules and more: www.classrides.com 

Check out the list of riding schools on my website here including options for OFF Road Training as well.

Bike Night Sponsored by Icon Motosports, Friday the 13th

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Bike Night (Open to the PUBLIC) hosted by Icon Motosports and Motorcycle Service Centers LLC

I'll be in SoCal that weekend for the 13th Annual Women's Sportbike Rally. The rally is going to be kicked off with a bike night that's open to the public. 

Where: 330 Wood Rd Suite I, Camarillo, CA 93010; 6:30pm - 9:00pm

Cost: FREE Bring as many guests to our bike night as you like (on two, three or four wheels or no wheels)

Every motorcycle rider is welcome, regardless of what they ride. Food available for purchase (for the public; FREE for Registered Attendees), Music and more.

A great opportunity for women to meet other women who ride. Every woman rider who registers for our event will receive an incredible goodie bag with discounts and free gifts from our generous sponsors. And you can also register at the bike night! 

For more info about the Rally and how to register visit www.womenssportbikerally.com

Workshops at The Women's Motorcycle Summit, June 9-10, 2018

I'm going to be giving a series of workshops next week at the Women's Motorcycle Summit in Durango, Colorado the week of June 8th. The workshops will be hosted at the local Harley Davidson Durango Dealership. 

My workshops will be taking place Sunday the 9th and Monday the 10th. 

Visit the website for a full schedule including various registration options for just the 2-day workshops or the full week of activities.  

www.womensmotorcyclesummit.com

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Dainese Custom Suit Experience

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018 — Dainese presents Custom Works, a service for fully-customized and made-to-measure Dainese motorcycle racing suits and jackets for race and street enthusiasts.

The multi-channel experience begins online with the new 3D Configurator and continues at the store where the personalized garment is delivered to the customer. Custom Works is an engaging process that combines the practicality of digital configuration with the craftsmanship of a unique, handmade product.

With Custom Works, Dainese offers all bikers the quality and know-how it has acquired with more than 45 years of experience in the production of personalized leather suits. For nearly half a century, Dainese has grown, collaborated and shared its goals with the greatest riders of all time, from Giacomo Agostini to Valentino Rossi. Over this same period, Dainese has always pushed the boundaries of innovation.

With Custom Works, anyone can have a tailor-made garment and create his or her own unique design, choosing from a vast array of leather colors and accessories, with the option of adding words and images.

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The new Custom Works is a fully updated multi-channel experience. Accessible via the Dainese website, the brand-new 3D configurator allows each motorcyclist to personalize his/her leather suit, jacket or pants in real time, with a simple, engaging and interactive digital experience. The customer can see a preview of the garment, change the colors of the various parts, select accessories (plates, sliders), and upload words and images that are immediately visible on the 3D garment.

Once the design is complete, the biker saves the model and books an appointment during which sizes are taken. The purchase is then completed at a Certified Custom Works Center - a network of stores authorized and certified by Dainese to offer the Custom Works service. 

The 25 anatomical measurements needed for the personalized garment are taken with the support of a specialized consultant. Special consideration is also given to the customer's specific needs and the expected use of the product. At the Store, customers can actually touch the technology, materials, finishes and accessories that give life to the most advanced Grand Prix leather suits and that are also used to create the customized garment. 

With Custom Works, every customer can wear an absolutely unique Dainese garment.

When I clicked on the configurator to see what options were available for women, I found two track suits: 

  1. Laguna Seca 4 $1299 - more aggressive race fit, more stretch panels and tighter overall
  2. Avro - $999, relaxed fit, not a full race cut

If I chose a custom design/color, it was an additional $629. After that, I could pick a custom shoulder slider which is available in fun colors ($47.95) or the flag of your choice for an additional $94.95. These are all costs in addition to the MSRP of $1299.

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Lastly, there's the additional cost for a fully custom size. Just an additional $795. Generally you'll spend anywhere from $1500-$2000 for a great custom suit anyhow. 

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Currently there aren't any separates option for women. But there aren't many for men either, just one jacket (Racing D1) and no pants. 

If you're interested in setting up an appointment, Click Here to visit the configurator and submit a request.  The closest location to Philadelphia is the Dainese New York store. 

Happy Track Day'ng! 

Replacement Knee Armor Revised

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Awhile back, I had a post about replacement knee armor options. And at the time, Forcefield still made an option that is now discontinued. 

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So here are some new recommendations, no matter what brand of pants you wear. A lot of knee replacement armor options also double as elbows, it just depends on the size/length/shape you're looking for. 

Above is the Seeflex family from REV'IT ($39-$44/pair). I like the RV14 and RV12 options on the far right for pants with really long armor pockets. A good example of this is Dainese. 

Their stock knee protector pockets are long, for their older knee guards. I find them to be too stiff, and lacking in shock absorption. The awesome thing about Seeflex is the entire piece of a shock absorber. This is far more comfortable to crash on and they're more ventilated as well. Additionally, they're CE Level 2, not Level 1 like the Dainese knee guards.  More flexibility, protection, ventilation and comfort. Well worth the upgrade.

Keep in mind the shape of Seeflex is deeper, so the space in your pant needs to accommodate a deeper knee space. They also wrap around your knees more which is great for me because I have skinny knees. 

 Rukka D3O Air Knee

Rukka D3O Air Knee

What's challenging about Seeflex is the width, if you're a woman and you're looking for replacement knee armor your pants may need a narrower piece of armor. RV10 may be too wide, depending on the brand. Keep in mind that RV12 is for exceptionally long knee armor pockets and won't work in most pants. 

Another option for Dainese pants that I also recommend is the Rukka D3O Air Knee Protectors ($39/pair). Thee are also CE Level 2, but it's a flatter piece so if you need a wider piece over your knee vs a more cupped/fitted piece (for smaller knees/pants) then you'll love this option from Rukka. 

Also great to match the length of Dainese knee pockets, super soft, flexible and ventilated. 

Here are a couple other options to consider; I like these because they're softer to begin with. They don't need time to warm up to your body. And, they're great options if you have smaller pockets: 

Armor should always fit so comfortably that you don't know it's there. If it's bugging you, it's usually because the gear isn't fitting you right (incorrect size/fitment/etc.) or it's cheap/fake armor that isn't molecular in nature (soft like these that harden on impact). 

If you need help figuring thiings out for your body/gear, please send me a message. 

 

 

Learning to Ride Can Be Really F*cking Hard. But It Doesn't Have To Be.

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Learning to ride is something that takes more than a few days/weeks/months. It's 15 years later and I'm *still* learning.

Imagine learning to drive a car for the first time and your mom/dad offers you:

  • Honda Civic 2 Door
  • Chevy Suburban 

Yes, you could theoretically learn on both but which one is going to give you more confidence, self esteem and increase your driving skills? Most of the time when I've thrown a leg over a new bike (either mine or borrowed) I've gone in with some self confidence and some actual riding ability. But riding ability alone isn't enough for me to ride something I've never ridden before. I need the confidence too. I need to feel like I can do it because if I don't, I won't even try. 

I've been getting a lot of questions lately from new riders or potential new ones and I wanted to repeat what I've been telling them here. I know not everyone's experience is the same, but I can guarantee you that learning to crawl before you walk makes a HUGE difference. But ask anyone who started on a small displacement motorcycle or scooter before moving up to a 600cc-1000cc-1500cc option how much they learned. Too much? Not enough? Why or why not? 

Think of learning how to ride this way: 

  • 200-500cc: man, this is a lot easier than I thought. I kick ass. I'm getting the hang of this. 
  • 600-1000cc: shit, this is a lot harder than I thought. I suck at this. I never should've bought a motorcycle.

When my husband took this photo of me back in 2004, we just took our new Ninja 250 for a spin (because that was the *only* small sportbike/naked sporty you could buy in the US) and he basically taught me how to shift up to 2nd and 3rd. I rode around the parking lot a bit to see what it was like. My MSF class was the following month. I never took it on the street, I just did a few laps, nothing special.   

 Me in the Presidio Parking Lot, San Francisco. We didn't have iPhones back then, but we did have Motorola flip phones :0

Me in the Presidio Parking Lot, San Francisco. We didn't have iPhones back then, but we did have Motorola flip phones :0

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But before all this motorcycle business, I rode my awesome 50cc 2Stroke Aprilia Scarabeo Scooter. 

I rode her A LOT in my first year of riding (Sept 2003 - Sept 2004). 3,599 miles all in San Francisco to be exact. 

I loved her for the short time I had her. But as soon as I threw a leg over the Ninja (it was his but I needed something to ride so....) I knew it was meant to be. And I figured out how to ride her to work (across San Francisco) in a couple days. 

If you see my pic above on the Ninja, I'm on my toes. Did I care? Nope. Because I was already riding my scooter on my toes. 

 2006 Kawasaki Z750S

2006 Kawasaki Z750S

Contrary to popular belief, scooters can be a lot taller than most motorcycles. The Scarabeo had a 30" seat height. But my learning curve was far far less steep than if I forced myself to throw a leg over something like my next bike, the Kawasaki Z750S for the first time (instead of the Ninja). It was taller, heavier, taller and heavier. Did I mention how much heavier it was? Almost 500lbs wet. Ugh.

 2003 Suzuki SV650S

2003 Suzuki SV650S

The higher center of gravity on this thing would've been ridiculous. If I had to learn on this or even my SV, I doubt I would've had the skill to move up. 

When I chose that Z750S, it set me back 3 years in my riding development. Everything was suddenly harder: parking, cornering (imagine driving a tall, heavy truck on a twisty road instead of a convertible), uturns. The only thing that was easier was accelerating on the freeway merging into traffic.  

For perspective, this is how much that bike choice affected my riding. This list is in order of when I owned each one and how much I rode them::

  1. Aprilia 50cc Scooter: 3,599 miles in 1 YEAR. woooo hooo! I'm ready to move up. 
  2. Kawasaki Ninja 250: 12,000 miles in 3 years. I learned so much and did a mix of city and highway riding/touring for the first time.
  3. Kawasaki Z750S: a little under 8,000 miles in 3 years. Some city riding, and a couple of long distance rides to LA from San Francisco. But riding the twisties? Forget it. It was annoying, hard, not fun and I was miserable. 
  4. Suzuki SV650S: 6,000 miles in the first 8 MONTHS. YESSSSSS. Where were you all my life? Why didn't I buy you sooner? Ahhh, this is how you corner. That's what it feels like to actually lean. You were so much easier to park and maneuver in San Francisco. And you were WAY MORE FUN to ride. 

Remember, riding is supposed to be FUN! Not stressful, not frustrating and not miserable. When you get off that bike you might be in a little pain from the seat time but you should be HAPPPPPPPY. Ask yourself these questions:

How do you feel when you look at your bike, or think about riding it? How do you feel after? Confident? Excited? 

As soon as I bought the SV, my learning curve flattened and it was so much easier to ride. So much so that I rode it everywhere/everyday/constantly. I learned so much in that first year and felt like it should've been my second motorcycle. This is a photo of the first "curve" I ever took on the SV when my seller delivered it to my house (from 300 miles away, there are still GOOD people left in this world!). It doesn't look like much but just taking this little bend, I felt a huge difference in what I had been missing for the last 3 years. I felt confident, happy, excited, and most of all HAPPY

All I learned on my Z750S was how to manage a taller, heavier bike. But it didn't teach me anything about advanced cornering techniques. Improper cornering is an extremely common factor in solo motorcycle accidents aside from DUI. I firmly believe that It doesn't matter how long you've been riding, it matters how well you can ride. 

Your bike choice will greatly impact how well, how much, how confidently you ride for the next 6-12 months. So make the EASY choice that benefits you in the long run. 

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Because are you planning to ride the same bike for 50 years? Not me..... I'm 3 years in and will probably get itchy in a couple :D

A quick caveat to this post. Learning to ride isn't easy like taking a bite out of a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. But you can lighten the load a bit and bring down the level of difficulty down from a 10 to a 5. Struggling is definitely part of the experience and you will learn through your mistakes because you have to in order to learn. But when it's so hard that it starts to make you question your ability to ride or the decision to ride in the first place, then it's time to rethink some things. I hope this post does just that, helping you rethink some things. Please post a comment or two below.... 

How to Be a Better Motorcycle Rider

If you ride a sportyish / performance motorcycle and you're looking to improve your riding skills, consider joining me and my friend Brittany Morrow at an All Women's Track Day with Reg Pridmore's CLASS Motorcycle School. 

You've seen my post about Reg's class before, but this one is even more special. Gigi, his awesome other half is a coach and truly wants to help you become a better rider, no matter what you ride. But especially if you ride a sportbike. 

Our bikes tend to be a bit faster, harder to control sometimes and just challenging to figure out when you've never ridden a sportbike. Or if you're transitioning from a classic/standard riding position to a more aggressive one. It's a completely different style of riding that needs more than just your basic riding course. 

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If you register by March 11th, you can save $50 using code WSR18, courtesy of the Women's Sportbike Rally happening July 13-15, 2018 in Camarillo or September 7-9, 2018 in Deals Gap. 

If you have any questions, post a comment or send an email to info@classrides.com. Or if you have questions about track related gear for women, or anything regarding track days please post a comment! 

If you aren't on a sporty bike, then be sure to check out my advanced course list

I hope to see you there! (I won't be on Goldie, but I'll be renting a Honda from CLASS) :D