Babes In The Dirt 8: Riding Dirt and Making Friends

For three days, from October 20-22, women from all backgrounds and locales came together to celebrate our common love for dirt riding. For many, it’s also a safe environment to learn and make mistakes without the dread of being judged. Building a supportive place for female riders of all skill levels is one of the goals here. Not knowing where to start can be scary, but we all have to start somewhere and BITD is a great place to figure all that out.

As a female rider, I’ve found that I mostly go riding with guys that are at or above my skill level, especially when it comes to ADV and off-road riding. That can sometimes be intimidating as it feels like all eyes are on me, not only for being a woman that knows how to handle some tough terrain, but also for my height. It's difficult to find a community of women that ride off-road. I’ve been very lucky to make some good friends that genuinely care for me and enjoy watching me ride, and though I have no problem riding or training with them, being able to ride with other women that love the off-road sport just as I do hits differently. What if I told you that, for eight years, Quail Canyon, CA has been witness to a gathering exclusive to those kinds of women? The 8th Annual Babes in the Dirt (BITD) event was, simply put, lively. Driven by the mission to encourage women riders of ALL skill levels to get out there and push the boundaries of their own mind. This event is just as much about the individual and their development as riders, as it is about building a fun community that every day grows stronger.

Me and my good friend, Danielle, (left) at the rider's meeting. Photo by Maja Blackwood

They have set meetings for solo and beginner riders to become acquainted, even if you’ve never been on a motorcycle before. For those with no gear, Bell Helmets and Fox Racing had demos all weekend long. They teach you to properly fit a helmet and riding boots, and allow you to try out different things while you find what works best for you. Not all heads and feet are created equal after all! Once you get the gear part figured out, it’s time to jump on a motorcycle. Don’t have one? No sweat! The wonderful people at Husqvarna offer free new-to-moto classes on their small but fun 85cc two-strokes. They’re first come, first serve, but they have multiple sessions throughout the whole weekend.

Literally digging TacoMoto's dirt bike. Photo by Danielle Segre

If you need a bit more training, Garrahan Off-road Training was also there all weekend offering novice, intermediate and advanced classes with the option to rent gear and a motorcycle from them if you didn’t have one. For those more confident in their skills, Dirtastic and Motoventures were also there. My friend, Dani, and I couldn’t resist the Party Tricks class and signed up so we could learn how to get those front wheels up with the help of the Dirtastic gals. Needless to say, they were all amazing riders and were happy to share any tips with us if it made us better riders. It was quite the workout, but popping wheelies from a stop was really fun and something I’d never done before on a four-stroke - at least not on purpose.

Ashley and I before ripping the track. Photo by Danielle Segre

One of the most fun things at the event is, obviously, riding! With about 19,000 acres available to motorcycles, SXS and 4x4s, Hungry Valley has more than 130 miles of scenic trails to offer, and we were right at the heart of it. Exclusively open for this event, we also had access to the MX and GP Tracks. While my dirt bike was grounded due to some carb issues, the guys at TacoMoto were kind enough to lend me their very own TTR125L after diagnosing my bike. I didn't bring it on the trails but it allowed me to have quite a lot of fun at the tracks. Thank you,TacoMoto! Lucky for me, Husqvarna was also doing demos all weekend. With a nice selection of brand new bikes, I couldn’t wait to jump on one of their TBI two-strokes. Their TE250, my favorite, was already taken, so I went with a smaller engine, the TE150. It ended up being perfect for the pace we were being led at, and being on a faster bike would have meant not seeing my friend crash in front of me a couple of times. I have ridden these on the Vet Track at Fox Raceway, but never on the trails. As someone who is only 60” tall, a 37” seat height can be challenging for me, but I proved to myself I have what it takes to ride these taller bikes in moderate terrain. The only thing I had to get better at was scanning for where I could put my foot down, so I wouldn’t tip over. Overall, I felt safe because I knew I was riding with other gals that understood me, and I knew they’d have my back if anything happened. Luckily, I didn’t need much of their help and was able to focus on enjoying their company more.

Me with the TE150 posing for scale. Photo by Danielle Segre

While riding with these badass women is one of the main features of the event, it’s not all about getting dirty out on the trails. Community on and off the bike is a huge focus, and the ladies that planned the event made sure we had plenty of time to have fun off our motorcycles. I have always been a pretty shy person and though I love singing, stage fright usually gets the best of me so I avoid doing so in public. Friday night featured karaoke and 805 provided the beer all weekend. With a bit of encouragement from a drink and my new friends, I went up on the stage. I was anxious, but honestly, I’ve never felt so good singing in public in my life. After the first song, I felt addicted to the mic and couldn’t wait for the DJ to call my name again.

Free beer, courtesy of Bell Helmet & 805. Photos by Contessa

The atmosphere was vitalizing and I felt like I belonged. Saturday evening also offered plenty of fun: dancing, raffles and more free beer. However, the highlight was the mini-bike races! I was so looking forward to these, but since I couldn’t race my bike and I didn’t want to use TacoMoto’s bike, I settled for being a spectator. That is, until someone backed out of the two-up race and my friend Ashley was looking for a pillion. She didn’t even need to ask and after a whole 10 minutes of practicing riding two-up on a CRF150R, without passenger pegs of course, we hoped we were ready to race. Dirtastic, who organized the mini-bike races, made sure to have plenty of fun with us and also made fun of us! With our safety gear underneath our onesies, dressed as a chicken and a zebra, Ashley and I were ready to give it our best. After a muddy battle, we came in second and managed to grab ourselves a couple of medals. We can’t wait to put our warrior suits on next year and snatch those first place medals.

Something I really love about the motorcycle community in general, is that we often support each other, no matter what segment you ride. Out on the road, though we’ve never seen each other and could be riding entirely different machines, there’s always a rider ready to wave back at you. Here at Babes in the Dirt, the amount of support not only encouraging you to ride but also to learn more about your motorcycle was huge. There were so many vendors there to lend a hand. If you needed help adjusting your sag or getting suspension advice, AEO Powersports was the place to go, and they kindly adjusted the rear shock on my 20-year-old DRZ. Dunlop was teaching riders how to change their tires; Pro X was showing how to clean and adjust bike chains, check and change engine oil, air filter and more; Rekluse Clutch was doing maintenance clinics; and TacoMoto, my favorite of all vendors, was hosting a Trailside Fixes Clinic in addition to taking all our bikes apart and helping us fix them… for free! How cool is that?

Dani and me loading my TTR into her van. Photo by Christina

Overall, Babes in the Dirt was a motivating experience, and even though I didn’t get to ride as much as I hoped, I didn’t miss not having a bike because I still got to ride and I had so much fun. These girls are amazing, encouraging, and so many of them, inspiring. I hope to be as good a rider and racer as some of them someday. Honestly though, don’t take my word for it. Come join us at Babes in the Dirt 9 next year and experience the fierce women that make up this community. Push your limits and learn something new about riding, your bike, and about yourself.

"You don't stop riding when you get old, you get old when you stop riding."
― Anonymous

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