Last weekend I went out to the Pemberton Speedway, where there are motocross and dirt-track race courses to cheer on my friend Emily Beach as she returned to the flat-track racing scene. I had intended to blast up there on my 1985 XR600, and was hoping that after a carb clean and valve adjustment it would be more cooperative, but discovered that I had kickstarting issues, and would have to do the valve adjustment all over again. This is the same bike that died on me last summer due to a fried CDI box. It was getting to the point that I would be late, so I took the truck and blasted up the Sea-to-Sky highway, making it right on time.
For a few years now a group of friends have developed the Vancouver Flat Track Club, and are now hosting official races and clinics, and just doing a great job to have fun. I had meant to go previous years but either the rain washed out the event or it landed on my Saturday to work. I think the idea started out pretty low-key with folks racing dirt bikes, vintage bikes and mini-bikes, but now most of the riders are donning proper protective gear and more appropriate flat track racing bikes. There’s still heats for beginners and heats for a variety of bikes, but it seems like once you get a taste for going fast people just want to take things further and challenge themselves.
I can imagine if I had tested it out earlier on the adrenaline rush might have hooked me, but my time off in the summer is more focused on getaways with Scott, such as our upcoming roadtrip to Haida Gwaii! In the meantime, it was really fun to have a little reunion with people in the scene and to cheer for Emily. She absolutely rips!
The first ladies heat there were three competitors, and Emily took that easily. It was followed by the co-ed Novice heat, which she also won. The finals got a little messy since the third placed girl had a bail, Emily responded to the yellow flag and suffered the consequences of being passed by the 2nd placed woman who didn’t see the flag and had upgraded to a 450cc bike with a bit more power to reach the checkered flag. No hard feelings, but a bit disappointing. Instead, Emily had an amazing final in the Novice division coming 3rd overall, taking out some very serious contenders. It was super impressive.
The winners were celebrated, receiving trophies and mini bottles of champagne, followed by some massive campfires and partying. Fortunately there were two campsites to choose from, the party-zone and the quiet-zone. Guess where I retreated to? Ha!
The next morning at approximately 8:30am we were woken by a hideous wailing buzzing noise. Motocross race sessions were in effect, just paces away from the campsite with the course nestled in the trees! They start early to keep the dust down and avoid the searing afternoon heat.
Emily doubles me up the gravel road to the course and we enjoy watching the juvenile divisions (the kids were so small and so good!), and ladies divisions, as well as the more senior competitors. Closer to the entrance it was evident that these events were truly family affairs.
Kids of all ages were hanging out, parents were hosting barbeques, and there was a lot of socializing. I imagined that everyone knew each other, and that they probably did this all summer just going from race to race, hoping for sponsorship and trophies.
The dirt track race scene wasn’t quite as family-oriented, but I wondered if the thrill of hitting huge jumps and step-ups was a bit more appealing to kids? Kids love jumps! I got a better sense of the community when Scott stumbled upon this hilarious Disney movie, a kind of motocross version of Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night. It’s called Motocrossed (2001) and was a TV movie that has become a cult classic.
The premise is essentially that there are twins named Andrew and Andrea. The dad is training up Andrew to compete and go pro for motocross, while Andrea (who is equally as talented) is told that because she is a girl she must be content with winning cheerleading contests. The twins are messing around on the family motocross course, when Andrew is injured. Andrea feels guilty at ruining her brother’s season, so she cuts her hair and pretends to be him at the race. There is romance, confusion, heartbreak and resolution. And, the best part is that Andrea ends up dominating and being allowed to do what she is best at and admitting her identity to the boy she is crushed out on without compromising her love of motocross! I absolutely loved it. Cheesy Disney moments, but that’s all good times.
I imagine that the story-line is not that far-fetched since there are plenty of amazing female motocross racers who probably started out racing with the boys, and eventually had to determine what “class” they would join. At this point in time I’m pretty sure there are enough ripping female racers to make a pro division competitive, but depending on where they came from I suspect most of them had to do their time racing the guys.
My personal favourite is Ashley Fiolek, as she had to overcome a lot of adversity being a deaf racer, and inspired many girls and women during her career. She was a four-time WMX champion, and the first woman to earn a “full factory” ride, which surprised me that there were not more. I had never thought of how hearing your bike and hearing the position of your fellow racers plays such a big part.
After all this motorcycle action I was a bit more motivated to admit that it was time to move on from my current bike. I ended up buying the exact same bike as Scott (1994 Honda XR650l), but with a lowering link. I figure that sharing the same spare parts (ie. extra cables, CDI box, whatever) and only one manual, will make a lighter more efficient load on our roadtrips. It may not be a new bike, but it’s something I can work with and will have fun learning about with Scott.
As much as I would love to be part of the racing action, I feel like I can do my part by celebrating rad friends like Emily and heroes like Ashley. The only thing that I wonder about is how films like Motocrossed perpetuate an idea that to be accepted as a female athlete, you have to be “the best” and on par with the guys. The storyline is really fun, and there are other films and TV movies out there whether it is BMX or skateboarding, etc. And yet, it irritates me that there are still hundreds or thousands of guys who were not that talented, but their right to try a sport is never questioned, but for a mediocre girl who simply gets joy out of participating, there’s still such a battle!
In the case of skateboarding we are seeing a shift from the days of Elissa Steamer – the token pro female skateboarder in the 1990s to a slightly more inclusive environment, but the pressure remains that a girl has to “prove herself” to be worthy of occupying sporting space. I’m hopeful that things will evolve because I know girls and women are notorious for persevering! Ride on.