Dirtymoto – a ladies’ motorcycle garage

To pass the rainy season a group of us girls started to meet up every month in 2011 to encourage and challenge each other as we acquired motorbike maintenance know-how. These gatherings would include tests to name parts, such as an exploded view of a carb, discussion on motorcycle Youtube videos, and consumption of festive beverages. We all rode street bikes, from vintage Hondas to a customized Sportster, and a few of us were part of the Majestic Unicorn MC. But, we really wanted to get dirty… whether it was grease or mud, we were digging it.

Buying Blue BallsWelcome Blue Balls

It worked out that a relative of Amanda’s was selling off a dirtbike (1978 DS 175) for $100, so five of us threw down $20 each and bought “Blue Balls.” He was a temperamental beast, but worth a twenty. We got him running and had lots of fun ripping around the Richmond dunes and some logging roads like the Britannia Mines… but pretty much trashed him in the end. To document our adventures, Amanda began a tumblr account with many of these photos: http://dirtymoto.tumblr.com/

When Sage discovered a really great deal on a garage in East Van, there was a lot of enthusiasm. Erin had utilized the old Motomethod community garage in Vancouver by getting her original Honda up and running, but the cost of membership with that collective was still a fair chunk so this set-up was ideal. Erin was featured in a Tinkernation video that is pretty cool and she definitely provides the best tutorials and workshops at Dirtymoto.

garage bikesClare and carbsSummer with Dirtymoto

The location of the garage is over at Nanaimo and 8th, and the family that owns the garage was super stoked to learn how we planned to use the space (considering that they have two girls)! Emily was delegated as treasurer, since she’s got the maths skills and the spreadsheets, and between the mob of us, our dues are reasonable. We began calling ourselves Dirtymoto MC, and members have included myself, Amanda, Sage, Clare, Erin, Emily, Tara, several temporary guests and hopefully a few new recruits. Our communal dirtbikes, besides Blue Balls have included TS Elliot (aka Tres Sexy), Trail Boss, Little Strokey, and some parts bikes.

Team Dirtymoto at High Noon 2012I remember in 2012 we had quite the adventure on old Blue Balls at the annual “High Noon at the Dunes” event, hosted by the Filth Mode MC at the Richmond dunes. The Filth Mode are pretty fun guys who typically rip around on XT’s and dual sports, have epic fun getaways in the forests, and find their inner manliness in the wild, as seen on their blog. The event took place on Sunday Oct. 28th, pretty much the day after everybody got silly for Halloween. I received a text message at 4:30am from Emily stating that she was game to go. And she followed through with approximately 2 hours sleep! We picked up Sage, and the two of them were shuddering with queasiness, but determined to represent. Our only “running” dirtbike that day was Blue Balls… I say “running” because the timing was all wacky, which made for a spastic, unpredictable ride.

The skies miraculously cleared, but the course was heavy! Natalie racing at High NoonThe course was laden with thick, deep, wet sand , tight corners and a ridiculous hill climb. I’m glad I didn’t test out the course, because it was exhausting! I took the start line being the only sober member and gave it a go. Everybody was in costume looking ridiculous, with one guy having decked out his bike to look like a giant cardboard horse, and another had severed limbs dangling from his ride. I think I was a Russian babushka?

Most of the dudes blasted ahead, but since the first corner funnelled them into each other, there were lots of bails. I trundled past a bunch of riders going slow and steady but had to dump the bike at least three times in the course. Poor Blue Balls was just getting swamped with sand, so when I passed him off to Emily he didn’t have much left, maybe a half lap. And yet, it didn’t matter, it was so fun! The following year we made another attempt, riding Emily’s “David Suzuki” dirtbike, but again experienced troubles due to a fouled plug. The competition is never really the point but rather being part of a fun community and giving it a go. I was just pleased that my bumble bee outfit co-ordinated with Emily’s yellow and black motorbike.highnoon bumblebee 2013

Some other highlights of the Dirtymoto have been our various parties, such as a “season opener,” “season ender,” and many birthday gatherings. We got into the habit of including a pinyata at our social events (there’s been a unicorn, parrot, and a monkey) and pellet gun for taking out empty beer cans, and “shot-gunning” shot-gunned beers in the alley. This shouldn’t imply that we are always party fun times. It’s hard work creating a respectful space when we all have different motives, needs, schedules, and personalities. Fortunately, there really are lots of opportunities, time and space to either work away solo on a bike project, or offer up a learning workshop for others.pinyatagarage party

There has even been some media attention with an article about Dirtymoto / MUMC in the Motorcycho zine and Dice magazine, which launched at “The One” show in Portland a few years back. The tricky part is maintaining a cohesive group, as we all have lives to live and go through changes and interruptions in our routine, from travelling to marriage. Even though my main motorbike partner is now my husband, I give credit to these ladies who initiated me into the world of motorcycle maintenance. It truly is a learning process, often based on mistakes or issues that arise from troublesome vehicles, and it’s way more fun to tackle these challenges with friends.

Right now, one of our key members (with sky high energy!) named Sage is away, studying in Mexico City. She’ll be back in no time, but her unstoppable enthusiasm is missed. I’ll never forget the day the two of us trucked up to Squamish for a day of ripping around the logging roads at the Britannia Mine. I was on Blue Balls and ended up losing the sole of my boot at one point, but we just had a great time blasting through creeks and dodging stumps. We topped off the day with an ocean swim at Porteau Cove.

Sage at BritanniaNatalie at BritanniaSage on dirt

Sage was also the reason why the Dirtymoto crew got to experience the joys of Savary Island, since her family has a cottage there. Most of us rode our bikes up the Sunshine Coast (with the exception of the working ladies who arrived in luxury via a float plane!) and just destroyed the windy roads. Sage and Emily demonstrated some figure-skating poses on their motorcycles along the straight stretches, to the amusement (or bafflement) of the Sechelt locals.

After taking a few ferries and making it up to Lund, we abandoned the bikes since Savary Island is pretty small. We were greeted with fresh oysters and the most epic beach scene. I suspect the sunshine overdose and special beverages, combined with various toxins, contributed to my night in the outhouse, but no regrets. It really felt like a proper summer being in a cottage with friends on the beach, riding motorcycles and relaxing.Savary and Sunshine Coast Savary trip

In a very dissimilar roadtrip, the Dirtymoto crew went together to Portland in February 2014 to check out the One show again and stay in a nice airbnb house. This time five of us jammed into a rental car (which was possessed!) and had the sketchiest ride south. A freak winter snow storm hit, locking down Portland and most of Oregon. All of us were sick with colds and we weren’t exactly prepared for a real winter. This situation resulted in some bizarre wardrobe malfunctions, such as plastic bags used to wrap feet and jam them into shoes (that would be Sage again). The whole ordeal made the One show even more festive, and our buddies from the Vicious Cycles were there to entertain the Vancouver mob… and others, but mainly us. Ha! Obviously the motorcycles were impressive, too. Portland The One show 2014Sage and baggy feetAmanda and Emily at The One

These past few months I’ve been working away in the Dirtymoto garage any free day I can get, and the results were positive – both bikes are running. I know I can whine about having to use the pee jar and the 20 minute bike ride to get there, but it really is a privilege to have this space. I’m thinking either a send off party for Emily (before she embarks on a six-month leave and various getaways) or a welcome back party for Sage will be our next “rager.” I’ll have to start hunting for my next pinyata.

dirtymoto carbsdicemagazine


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