by Neale Bayly
Bonnie Strauser was noticeably overwhelmed with emotion as the second annual Fem Moto all ladies track day at the Spring Mountain Motor sports Park in Pahrump, Nevada drew to a close. Having experienced the excitement and laughter first hand, as the participating ladies lined up for the group photo, there was no need to ask her if the event had been a success. The glow on everyone’s faces was rivaled only by the color of the mountain range behind, as the late afternoon sun lit the desert a myriad of golden colors. For Bonnie it was the climatic end to a year of hard work and planning, and for the 65 lady riders who came from all over America to attend it was the end of an incredible day’s riding.
As the co-owner of www.Sportbiketracktime.com, Bonnie had seen a great opportunity to host an event that catered specifically to women riders. Fem Moto was born, and the inaugural event was held last year at Virginia International Raceway. The response was incredible and leaving Virginia, Bonnie went straight to work on this year’s event. Drawing help and support from her good friend Nancy Johnson, a web site was built, dates were picked and a suitable racetrack was found. Sponsors were contacted, motorcycle manufacturers were approached and the media alerted: the choreography of this event was no small task! The year went well with commitments from Aprilia, Moto Guzzi and Triumph to provide motorcycles, Speed Channel and Moto Euro for media exposure and Woman Rider, Friction Zone and the Robb Report for additional support and coverage.
With the event scheduled to take place at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a huge wrench was thrown in the works: Literally weeks before the event, the track owners decided to boot Fem Moto in favor of a Nascaar event. With panic setting in, and nearly a year of hard work in danger of becoming unraveled, a Knight in shining armor galloped in to save the day. Hearing of Bonnie’s plight, Rupert Bragg Smith stepped in offering his awesome facility at Pahrump, just outside of Las Vegas, and immediately lowered the track rental into the bargain.
The day starts with a big welcome from Bonnie and a riders meeting from husband and STT co-owner Monte Lutz. I have attended a good number of track days with Bonnie and Monte and heard the speech numerous times, but I am always highly impressed with the way he deals with the serious business of the day while managing to inject plenty of humor in the talk to emphasize his points. “There are no winners at a track day, only losers,” and STT has a strong desire to see everyone has a safe and fun day.
With the entire track time being done on demo bikes a little extra caution is asked for and without further ado, class is dismissed. Riders are split into 3 groups; novice, intermediate and expert, and as the novices head for their first class the intermediate riders take to the track. STT has provided plenty of instructors to provide everyone with enough hands on instruction and Michigan based Sally Inch and Nancy Johnson are among them. This ensures that riders who have never been on the track before get the exact coaching they need and by the end of the day everyone is out there flying.
With the groups rotating throughout the day, there are seminars to attend during off track time and the novices get their own 30-minute workshop after every three track sessions. Woman Rider Magazine’s Genevieve Schmitt has flown in from Colorado to talk and gives two seminars during the day. As one of the foremost journalists in the country it speaks volumes about the excitement Fem Moto is creating. “Super” Sarah Schilke from America Motorcyclist also gives talks in between howling round the racetrack on various demo bikes. As the Advertising Manager for the AMA’s western area, Sarah is very active in the motorcycling community and you can find out more about here at www.supersarah.net.
Out in the pit area I stopped for a chat with racing chiropractor, Rebeka Falkner. Rebecca has been riding for three years and is currently racing a 2000 Suzuki GSXR 750 in the Southwest CCS road racing series. Rebeka is with her boyfriend Gary who races with her and after a day of trying the various European bikes available has a soft spot for Aprilia Mille. Very positive about the whole experience, and having a lot of fun, Rebeka told me “it is very generous of the manufacturers to bring all of these demo bikes and I am going to make sure we are here next year.” Her sentiments echoed those of everyone I talked with. Pamela Kelmer from Madison, Alabama who must win the longest distance traveled to attend. Pamela is an STT regular and complete addict and at 53 years young is just an incredible ambassador for the sport. Positively beaming all weekend, she had fallen for a bright green Triumph Speed Four and managed to take three sessions on it during the weekend.
With not a single cloud in the pastel blue sky, the temperatures were soaring, but with plenty of cold drinks available no one was put off in the least. There was one minor incident when someone ran out of track but that was about it. Without the aid of testosterone, there were no other incidents as everyone got to sample the bike of their choice. According to Bonnie, the ladies all listen and pay attention to instructions better than their male clientele and do a whole lot less crashing. A lot of the ladies had brought their own sport bikes and stayed over till Sunday to ride them, and pitted up across from us Nancy Montgomery and Kelli Cotner from Los Angeles had brought their own bikes: A Suzuki GSXR600 for Nancy and a Suzuki SV 650 for Kelli. Riding in the expert class, they both chose the Aprilia Mille as their favorite bike of the day. These guys are fast and they liked the power and handling of the Mille so I guess it should come as no surprise. Having both attended the first Fem Moto I was interested to learn they thought this years event was even better than last years. Kelli told me she thought ” it’s amazing and I wish it would happen more often as woman don’t usually feel so comfortable riding with the guys.”
Moto Guzzi had a great presence, giving riders’ chance to sample some of the cruisers that they offer as well as their sport bikes and the new Breva seemed to be a popular choice. They were pitted in the middle of Aprilia and Triumph and between the three manufacturers there was a huge choice of machinery to try out. Hats off to Aprilia’s Robert Pandya who made a 38-hour journey from Venice, Italy, to attend the event. Robert is one extremely hard working guy and shook of his jet lag to do television interviews and shoot some of the pictures you see here, in between everything else he had to do. Moto Guzzi’s John Stoddard had made the trip from Georgia to oversee his bikes and it was nice of him to interrupt his busy schedule to attend. Flying the Triumph banner, Will Tate and Pete Knox, accompanied by their lovely wives, made the trip from California. Unfortunately, Will had a minor mishap on his TT600 leaving him with a broke collarbone: now what was that I was saying earlier about testosterone? The demo bikes were also available all day Sunday and this gave the boyfriends and husbands that attended a chance to try out some new bikes as well. What a great concept, spending 15 minutes out on a racetrack on your demo bike of choice. To actually get the chance to see how the bike performs, handles and feels. For the riders who were having trouble getting both feet on the floor, spotters were available to help get them going and to help at the end of the session. But, as Monte a self confessed vertically challenged type said,” we are all the same size once we get passed five miles per hour.”
As with all great days it went by far too fast and the group photo signaled the end of this year’s Fem Moto. Bonnie was lost for words as people gathered around to hug and thank her. “It makes everything worthwhile” was all she could manage to say. For me it was just further proof that I have the greatest job in the world. Many thanks to Nolan Woodbury, Larry Williams and Robert Pandya for shooting the great pictures you see here. For everyone that attended, great to meet you and see you next year: To Bonnie, Monte and all at STT, you guys are the best.