Getting Started in Women's Racing- Debbie Matthews

What is it like to be a woman in the sport of motorcycling ?  Do the same desires, drive , determination and skill as their male counterparts ?  How do you get started in the sport if you are female ? Are there any obstacles to overcome ? Where do you go to get started ?  What kind of bike is best for you ? What kind of gear will fit ? What is your price range? Where do you ride?  Are there any female riders in your area ?  Is your boyfriend, husband or other riding partners supportive of your decision to ride?  Are there any schools specifically designed for women?  Is there a womens off road organization that can help you get started and provide information on womens events, ride areas, connect you with other riders?  What kind of support is offered through organizations such as the AMA, clubs, OEMs, and aftermarket companies?  In short, HOW DO I GET STARTED ? 

Getting started can be somewhat overwhelming and intimidating, but it doesnt have to be that way.  There is a growing market of female riders eager to help you get started into the exciting world of off road riding.

BREAKING OUT 

You are not weird, masculine, or trying to prove something to the male gender, because you love riding.  In fact the opposite is true.  Riding is a sport that is best enjoyed by riding with others.  Riding is one of the few sports in the world that almost anyone can do regardless of their age or gender. Riding is about families, friends, adrenaline, speed, trails, racing, laughter, and most of all fun !  The bottom line is if you have the desire, GO FOR IT !

GETTING STARTED 

Your first order of business should be learning to ride.  Odds are good that you know someone who rides, who can teach you the basics of riding.  Be sure to borrow safety equipment from them and wear it, before attempting riding.  Your riding partner and teacher should be someone experienced and patient.  Women riders learn on a different learning curve then men.  You may need to gently remind them that they were once a first time rider.  Be sure to start in an un-congested open area with easy terrain.  It may not be the most exciting area for your tutor, but is the best place for you.!  Start with the basics.  One of the first things I like to do is lay the bike on its side.  I know it sounds silly, but if you cant pick it up without assistance, its too big !  Next, go over the controls on the machine.   Set the bars and levers for you in the proper positions.  Check the suspension, and set the sag.  As a general rule 95-105mm of sag or 3.5 to 4.0 " puts you in the ballpark.   This is done, by measuring the distance between two points with the suspension unloaded.  Translated this means, put your bike up on a stand and measure from say the fender edge to the center of the rear axle.  Next sit on the bike off the stand in your riding gear.  Bounce up and down on it a few times to settle the suspension.  With your weight evenly distributed (full weight on the machine) have someone take the measurements again.  The difference in the measurement is your sag discussed previously.  It is critical that you get this right!   Start the bike.  Again, if you cant start it, its probably too big .  Once you have the bike started, work on feeling the release of the clutch, smooth and easy.  Next work on starting and stopping using the both brakes smoothly and controlled and shifting.  Remember to look ahead and be aware of your surroundings.  As you get comfortable on the bike, pay attention to how the suspension feels.  Is it too stiff and hard?  Is it too soft and wallowing?  Does it try to kick you over the bars?  In short does it inspire confidence, or terror?  Work on mastering these basics before attempting more advanced riding.  Always ride with a buddy and don't be afraid to ask questions!  You have now opened the door to the freedom and excitement riding offers.
VISIT YOUR DEALER

With the basics mastered and a desire to ride, your next stop is a visit to your local dealer.  They are your best source for information, set up and equipment needed to make your riding experience enjoyable.  Take someone with you to your dealer who is an experienced rider and has your best interests at heart.   Find out what bikes are available, that fit your height, ability. Be sure you can handle the weight of the machine, and that the controls are easy to reach and operate.  Once you have some idea, what bike cc is best for you, go out riding with some friends and try out the bike types and sizes you are interested in.  This will give you hands on experience about what your needs as a rider are, which will allow you to make a educated decision on what bike is best for you, before you buy. 

While you are in the dealership take time to try on all the equipment you will need.   Make note of the brands and sizes that fit you best.  Price the items you will need.  Ask the dealer to assist you with their knowledge of the products for value, durability and warranties.   This will help you make the best choice for you.  Dont just go by the lowest price.  While these items can save you money getting started, they also have a tendency to wear out quickly.   Try to purchase the best quality equipment at a fair price.  Remember, the dealer wants your business.  Establish an open and honest association with them.  If they arent willing to answer your questions or educate you on the best value for your purchases, take your business to someone who will.
SO YOU WANT TO RACE

Where do you start?  Be sure that you have mastered the basics of riding before you attempt to race.  The best way to start is by attending open practice days at a track.   Call the track and find out what days and times they practice.  What is their track like?  Does it fit your skill level ?  Do they have a track area available for beginning riders?  Do you need to practice more before going to the track?  The last thing you want to do is go out and have a poor experience because you were not ready or you picked a Supercross track to start on instead of a wide, flatter style course with rolling jumps.

Some of the tracks that Beginning riders prefer for their rolling, flatter design are LACR, Perris, Glen Helen (some hills).  These tracks offer obstacles easier for the beginner rider while still offering a challenge for the advanced rider, when negotiating at speed.  Tracks such as Carlsbad, Lemon Grove, Glen Helen, Starwest, Castaic offer more hilly terrain, Supercross or advanced obstacles.  All are loaded for fun and waiting for you.  Most tracks require you to join a club, or pay a few dollars more to race with them if you are not a member.  Fees to join average about $ 35.00.  Average race fee is between $ 20-35.00, and gate fees vary between $10-15.00.   Your dealer, Cycle News and other publications can be a great source of information on tracks, legal riding areas, and equipment. 
SCHOOLS

WSMX ( Women's School of Motocross) is the only School to offer Motocross, Desert, Off Road and Cross Country training for women, men and children on a weekly basis across the country. WSMX offers private or group instruction, from learn to ride to advanced.  WSMX utilizes a staff of Championship Pro Women trainers in 6 states and will travel anywhere in the country to teach. Prior to opening the WSMX schools, Debbie Matthews organized Women only Motocross Schools offered once a year hosted by a factory rider. Previous schools have been taught by Doug Dubach, Mike Kiedrowski, and Greg Albertyn. The WML hosts a boot camp once a year. Other schools are readily available with mixed classes, such as the Gary Bailey school, Marty Smith schools and Gary Semics school, as well as others. Do your research and determine which one best fits your needs.

SUPPORT 

In recent years support for women riders is on the increase. Through the efforts of Debbie Matthews and 
Elaine Ruff (co founders of the WML in 1995) and DM Sports-WSMX founded by Matthews in 1999, information on womens programs is being networked across the country. Dealers are becoming increasingly aware of the female market. Women riders are recognized by factory efforts including the Team Green program. Contingency programs 
for women riders are also on the upswing, as well as support for deserving female riders. Women's clothing 
companies are starting to crop up everywhere. There is even a chest protector designed especially for 
women! AMA and Factory support is growing along with a strong surge from the aftermarket from 
companies such as Bridgestone, Scott USA, Dunlop, FMF, Pro Action, Competition Direct, Boyesen, Thor, Pro Circuit,
Ceet, Mothers, Answer, Fox, White Brothers, Motion Pro, IMS, Cyclelogic and RK, have also thrown their support 
behind the growth of the womens market.

WHO IS THE WML ?

The WML is the U.S. Womens Motorcycle League.  Debbie Matthews co founded the WML and created as Race Director for the WML, (1994-1999) the first Womens Stadium-cross Championship, AMA Womens Outdoor National Motocross Championship Series and promoted several AMA Ladies World Cup MX Championships, Motocross Schools, and contributed articles and photos for the newsletter, before retiring as an officer to Found DM Sports-WSMX, Inc.  

WHO DO I CONTACT?

For more information on riding areas, clubs, or support contact Debbie Matthews at DM Sports-WSMX, 
Inc. at 949-837-2206.