6th Annual Femmoto Track Event

Text: Armanda Squadrilli • Photography: Christa Neuhauser

Created in 2002 by Bonnie Straswer, co-owner and organizer of Sportbike Track Time, Femmoto is a women's track day weekend that was born from the need for a safe environment where women could push their limits and test their skills in a focused way. The event has paralleled the growing number of women embracing the sport of motorcycling as riders. The first track day in 2002 had 53 attendees. Last October, the 6th Annual Celebration of Female Riders, held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, welcomed 563 women for three days of track time, manufacturer demo rides, an MSF session, and a dirt-bike class. A number of men also came to the open-day ride on Friday and stayed to support friends and loved ones throughout the event.

Christa Neuhauser and I arrived bright and early on Friday morning, along with many of the attendees. Recognizing the impact of this growing market segment, all of the major motorcycle brands were present, offering a great variety of models for demo rides in all sizes and styles. The opportunity to try different bikes was very exciting, as for years I had only been doing track days with my MZ 660 single. Walking around in the early morning haze to check out the choices, Christa took a shine to the Honda CBR and I chose a Kawasaki Ninja 500, which I had seen tearing around the track at Loudon, NH, a month earlier.

There was a tremendous wind, continuing all day and into the next. But even with the canopies flapping and dust blowing all around, it didn't diminish our high spirits. At 8:30 in the morning, the group had gathered for a rider meeting explaining how the day would evolve, what the track rules were, and how the groups would be divided. A number of riders were of high caliber, many of them having participated in track racing.

At Femmoto events there is a high instructor-to-rider ratio, evidenced by the numerous pink jerseys worn by both female and male instructors. Instructors are also available for one-on-one sessions to practice particular skills. I wanted to work on my cornering techniques, and was lucky to be assigned to Vicki Schouten. Vicki, who started racing in 2005, is now a full-time road racer, signed by Kahuna Kawasaki.

I am always fascinated by the track-day instructors, who ride mostly with their bodies hanging off to the right and looking back over their left shoulders at their charges, even while going around a turn in the opposite direction. I followed Vicki around the track, tracing her exact line so as to refine my own. But I did not hang off, nor look backwards - just forwards, and around the bends, to where I wanted to go. The exercise was very productive as I was able to gain speed and still be in correct position.

In addition to its work promoting women's motorcycling, Femmoto also supports fundraising on behalf of the Susan B. Komen Foundation for Breast Cancer Foundation. This year, at the Saturday night banquet, Femmoto presented a check to the Foundation in the amount of $ 13,188.

On Saturday, we signed up for a dirt-bike class. I got on a KLX110 and followed the instructions to sit up close, keep my elbows up, counter-balance to the extreme, and keep my finger over the clutch and brake. What a strange feeling to be in motion in that position. We did a few practice drills to get accustomed to the bikes, and then started figure-eights, circles that got tighter and tighter…I was amazed at how feasible it was to do those exercises. Then we did them standing up, our feet centered on the pegs. I was certain I would fall, but in fact, it was very comfortable. At the end of the class, we rode around the whole course, including the hills, ruts, gravel, dirt, and ridged sections. Again, it surprised me how comfortable it was to ride standing up and how that lower center of gravity caused the bikes to be so agile and responsive. When I dismounted, I thought, "this is my new career," I had had such a good time. While that has not panned out to date, that session was one of the most useful of my motorcycling career, and it proved invaluable in the subsequent week, when Christa and I went on a round-trip around the Grand Canyon and into the Nevada and Arizona deserts. We came across several rough roads, and I confidently stood up on the Kawasaki Ninja 650R, able to maintain speed and have that inward grin we get sometimes, for many, many miles.

For more information and enrollment details about Femmoto 2008 (scheduled to run October 3-5), please visit www.femmoto.com.