27 July 2016

Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves

With Camille at the top of Pikes Peak. I had tried to make it to the summit before, but was turned away just above treeline due to extremely high winds. This day, there was hail, but that wasn't stopping me or any of the other riders I was with!

For anyone who thinks that "adventure" motorcycles marked the beginning of adventure motorcycling, think again! Men and women have been "adventure motorcycling" for more than a century. In fact, 100 years ago, two sisters--Augusta and Adeline Van Buren--crossed the continental United States, each on her own motorcycle. In case that wasn't enough, they were also the first women to ride to the summit of Pikes Peak on motorcycles.

There is much to the historical account of this adventure, including controversy over the fact they were "society girls" from a wealthy family and the fact they dress in men's attire. (For which they were arrested more than once on the trip) However, nothing can detract from the fact that in 1916, two women completed an amazing journey that riders today often count themselves lucky for completing.

I'm with Alisa Clickenger--an amazing motorcyclist and the organizer of the event. I was very excited to meet and talk to her!

In honor of that journey, The Sisters Centennial Motorcycle Ride set off from New York this past 4th of July weekend, and continued across the country, following as best as it could 100 years later the route taken by the Van Buren sisters. I was not able to join the whole trip--which I would have LOVED to have been a part of--but the trip was to include a ride up to the summit of Pikes Peak, and you can bet I was there to join.

I met up with the group at the staging area, right before entering the Pikes Peak Tollway. Three groups would go in on motorcycles--fast, medium, and slow riders--and we would be met at the top by the group of riders who chose to take the cog railway to the summit.

In all truth, though the road is now fully paved, it is not for the faint of heart. Once you get above treeline, there are many hairpin turns on an exposed mountain side, and few guard rails. This is not unusual in mountainous areas, and though we local Coloradans were used to it, many of the women riders were from flatter areas, and found themselves intimidated by the road. One other factor riders used to determine whether they would actually ride up or not, was the fact that altitude sickness is real, and the only way to deal with it was to get down off the summit.

See the white stuff--hail! And loads of it. But the sun and warming temps had melted much of it, so it was the consistency of a muddy slurpy. Yum!

Most riders with the group looked past their fears, mounted up, and headed for the summit. The organizers had a plan in place should anyone be overcome by altitude sickness and need to get down immediately. An affected rider was to find someone who would ride them 2-up back to the base of the mountain and leave their keys with their bike. Ride marshals would sweep the mountain at the end of the event and bring down any bike left behind. I don't think anyone needed that service, but it was a very good plan to have in place, and extra ride marshals were on duty that day, including my local friend, Chris Ann Flohr who was along for the entire ride.

Three of the Colorado crew are the first to make it to the spot where we stopped for plowing. Pat Jacques on her KTM 1190, Cindy Robbins on her F700GS, and me on Camille. About twenty more riders would join us in this spot before the decision was made to turn around and re-group. None of the out-of-state riders were excited by that ice on the road. We just said Welcome to Colorado in July! Photo by Christina Shook

If you think exposed, unguarded hairpins above treeline wasn't bad enough for non-Coloradan riders, throw in the fact that a massive hail storm had moved through the area the night before. It may have been 90 degrees in Colorado Springs, but at more than 14,000 feet, the summit of Pikes Peak had not warmed up. As we got to within a mile or so of the summit, we were stopped and told it would likely be two hours of wait time while they plowed. PLOWED!

We had some nervous women with us, as they eye-balled the ice in the roads. The decision was made to get everyone turned around and re-group at a large spot right above treeline, before we all pressed on for the summit again. Thankfully, there were three of us Colorado women up with the big group stopped on the icy, off-camber hairpin. We all pitched in to get riders turned around and back down safely.

We re-grouped and had some time to talk to other riders, use the facilities--big rocks to "go" behind were the extent of the facilities, but they worked--and snap pics. It wasn't long before we got the word that the plows were clear and the parking lot at the summit was a slushy mess. Some of the riders looked doubtful. I can see how they would have been intimidated about taking 700 lb. Harleys up to a rocky, slushy, icy parking lot. To these women's credit, each of them did it!

There was cheering at the top! Some women cheered because they had pushed through their fears and reservations, challenged themselves, and made it to the top. We all cheered because we had come together as a riding community and celebrated the courage those two women had 100 years ago, and the courage all the men and women had on our ride.

A large number of the group at the top of Pikes Peak--due to the plowing delay, those who had taken the train up had to re-board for the trip down. The rest of us got to enjoy the views all we wanted! Photo by Christina Shook

Most people enjoyed the views, made use of the facilities--actual facilities this time!--and some even bought some keepsakes in the gift shop or had one of the famous Pikes Peak donuts. They're greasy and crispy at the same time, with a hint of cinnamon, and perfect with a cup of coffee!

My dear friends, Pat Jacques and Cindy Robbins! We all had donuts and a great time!

People slowly left the summit in smaller groups, trickling back down the mountain. Later that evening, we would gather at the Harley Dealership, where we were all invited to enjoy the small but beautiful motorcycling museum upstairs. The dealership had Indian t-shirts as gifts for each of the registered riders, and the same year and model of bike the sisters rode on their journey sat in the museum so we could all see what they rode. All I have to say about that bike is that if I ever complain about my seat or suspension again, feel free to smack me!








Keywords: BMW, KTM, Harley, Indian, KLiM, Olympia, AltRider, Wolfman, ADVWoman


07 July 2016

Just Ask My Vagina!

I know. That sounds awfully crude.

I guess I'll start this post by laying out some facts. I am a woman. (you probably have gotten that figured out, and if you've come upon this blog by accident, now you know) I ride a motorcycle. (Three actually, though not all at the same time. I work in the theatre, people. Not the circus) I'm not the best rider in the world, and I'm not the worst. I don't ride the most miles of any rider, and I don't ride the fewest. I'm a pretty "middle of the road" adventure rider.

But, I love riding, and I really love helping, encouraging, and empowering other people to ride--especially women. I think it the best feeling, knowing i helped someone learn a skill or overcome a fear, and watching that person get to enjoy riding even more than they already did.

Through Mountain Moto and the Colorado GS Girls, I get to do this regularly, and I get to see more and more women riding. And riding well! Being a part of groups like the GS Girls, Women Adventure Riders, SheADV, and Women In Motorcycling, I get to see a lot of women out riding and enjoying themselves. I also get to see them wrenching on their bikes, designing gear, going to rallies, participating in the GS Trophy, and winning the opportunity to ride through Madagascar or around the world with a small group of riders. It's truly inspiring to see what women are doing.

Motorcycling has always been seen as a man's sport. It isn't that women haven't been riding for just as long as men, but for decades, very few women rode. And for most of them, when they did they would get a pat on the head and a "Hey! Look what you can do. Nice job. Now run inside and make me a sammich, hon."

Uh huh. You know what I said is true.

But these days, the number of women motorcyclists around the world gets larger everyday. I look around and see them everywhere. I think it's awesome seeing women giving themselves the chance to do something so many of us already know is fun.

And women excel at it! Some of them ride as hard and as well as any man I've met. Then again, some women ride to have a nice time, and don't push their boundaries. The exact same can be said of men. Some of them ride as hard and as well as any women I've met, and some ride to have a good time without pushing their boundaries.

The other day as I was perusing trip pics and the like on the GS Giants page, I came across a question a man had posted asking, "Reasons to buy a R1200GS over a Ducati Multistrada: GO" I started reading through the comments--from both men and women--because I've been curious to see what people were thinking of Ducati's new Multistrada. This was a pretty loaded post, as it was posted to a GS specific website.

Some people gave their honest opinions about things such as dealership quality, ride community, accessibility to parts. Some people gave opinions based on the fact they had once been a Multistrada owner (though most of what was reported was not relevant in this case because it was bike specific and the new Multistrada Enduro is really a completely different bike), and someone mentioned he should because Starbucks has special parking for GSs. Hey, even I laughed at that one.

Then, I read one response which brought me to a screeching halt.

"Because you don't have a vagina."

Uh.... Wait, what?

My first thought was that at no time did I ever consult my vagina when purchasing a bike.

Crap! I've been doing it wrong all this time!

Somehow, it never occurred to me that my vagina might prefer a different bike. I guess when I've looked at bikes--new or used, dealership or friend's house--I haven't thought they were gender specific. Dammit! Why don't they paint them pink and blue so we can all tell much more easily??

I know, I'm being funny and silly about it. But honestly, I'm just so damn tired of shit like that. Stop referring to someone doing something badly as doing it "like a girl" or something you think is less capable as being for girls.

A woman I know--who I should mention is a badass rider-- responded with, "Is that due to a seat design issue that would make the Duc less comfortable for a man's balls?"

The guy's response to my friend was, "Don't know. Won't ride one."

Oooohhhh...he's so manly. Oh wait, nope. Just closed minded. Way to make a good showing for your gender. I'm so glad the men I know and ride with are more enlightened than that. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm sure some of my male friends may have had the same thought or laughed at his response. But, if they did, they were smart enough to keep their mouths shut about it.

That's all I'm going to say on the matter. But if, in the future, you see me bent over in deep conversation with my vagina about whether the bike I'm going to ride is a good one or not, you'll know why. Feel free to take a pic and post it to all social media outlets.