Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover
Las Vegas isn’t always the hot desert you think of, and this past weekend proved it when the Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosted the annual Femmoto event: a female-only trackday and bike-demo opportunity. Just as that bright sun appears to be hot and warm, the rider blazing through Turn 3 of the Outside Classic Course might not be the “guy” you think it is.
Looks can be deceiving, and despite the cold windy morning on Saturday, the girls of Femmoto suited up and got the job done with style and grace. By mid-afternoon, the wind had stopped and the girls’ dance cards were only partially complete, as this year’s event spanned two women-only demo riding days for the first time. This six-year-old event is organized by the ultra-friendly Bonnie Strawser and Monte Lutz of SportbikeTrackTime.com.
I went to Vegas to support the girls and bring back the story. I was also there to take any and all girls to dinner at the end of the day and maybe hold an umbrella once in a while. It’s rare that the motorcycle industry turns its spotlight toward the female persuasion with such intensity, even more rare towards any sort of track riding of a demo fleet. That’s what makes Femmoto so special. If there was a demo day for men that included the manufacturer spread that this event does, sales might double on sportbikes overnight. So might the crash rate of the demo fleet, unfortunately.
Piling on Layers and Piling on the OEMs
In the chilling wind of Saturday morning, female riders of every skill level we’re treated to the max. Because Femmoto is a demo-only trackday, attendees didn’t need to transport their motorcycles to the track. They didn’t even need to bring a motorcycle endorsement, as MSF-certification classes were available thanks to Discover Today's Motorcycling. The ultimate Fly-n-Ride!
This year’s sponsor list grew to nine OEMs to include Honda, Kawasaki, Harley-Davidson, Buell, Suzuki, Kymco, Ducati, Hyosung and Aprilia and a half-dozen vendors displaying their women’s riding gear and products.
Femmoto has grown every year. The first year entertained only 53 riders and hosted three manufacturers. In 2007 there were 500 participants riding two full days with two additional days for mixed-gender sessions. Femmoto is here to stay and shouldn’t be missed by any female rider or wanna-be rider.
The next step I can see for the growing woman rider event is to have a second date in the East for those not willing or able to make the trip to the West Coast, though no such event is planned as of this writing.
Sportbiketracktime’s 2007 Femmoto event included a ROK (Riders fo Kawasaki) trackday on Thursday and a “Femmoto & Friends” mixed-gender trackday on Friday the 5th of October, in order to appease the males of the riding couples out there. If you weren’t in town before the weekend and still wanted to get your ride on something, the OEMs offered street rides for an additional fee. Bored gentlemen in the pits – or ladies – could sign up for street rides on the bikes not typically run alongside sportier motorcycles on the track such as the Harley-Davidson Springer and the new Kawasaki Concours 14.
While Buell was on hand for the track-riding sessions, promoting everything from the Blast to the Ulysses, Harley-Davidson served up some free ice cream and had seminars for attendees on topics like picking up fallen motorcycles and how to properly choose a helmet for your head shape and size. Karen Davidson, daughter of the legendary Willy G. Davidson and Creative Director for Harley-Davidson Merchandise, was also on hand to welcome the girls to motorcycling with signatures, photographs and conversations.
In the pits you could have found any level of motorcycle rider, from newbie to AMA pro. Sally Lawrence was there with the MSF certification course, teaching a two-day class, giving women riders their first miles and licensing permits.
Also in attendance were some racers that helped show the girls the fast lines around the circuit. Kawasaki Team Green rider and AMA Formula Xtreme Championship pro racer Jessica Zaluski was there again this year to lead the girls around the track and give riding tips wherever necessary. You don’t see that too often, folks. Imagine going to a trackday and casually riding in your session was Jake Zemke, offering you tips on form and line. You wish! I wish!
Stuffed in the middle of the experience scale between racers and general public, are the celebrity folk that ride - like magazine editors, television and movie stars and musicians.
Gloria Fontenot is one of them, and she’s a Hollywood stunt woman! Not stunts with a ‘z’ but stunts as in she falls out of buildings for a living. Gloria’s been riding for nearly 10 years and came out to support the cause. Starting out in 1999 on some dirt riding and racing the “A Day In the Dirt” event that same year, she’s a tough cookie! (She enjoys long walks on the beach and does her own cliff diving in this scenario.) You’d recognize her from Charlie’s Angels 2 (disguised as Drew Barrymore) or from the Suzuki Boulevard and automobile combo commercial. She’s also a singer and is performing the National Anthem at tonight’s U.S. Open Supercross race in Las Vegas. Talented, beautiful and can ride a motorcycle: I think I found the main nerve, the epicenter of awesome!
Gloria Fontenot was just one of the girls on the all-female instructor staff at the event. Girls only – with one exception. The only boy allowed on the track was Attack Kawasaki’s Steve Rapp. Steve was on hand to give the attending girls perhaps their most thrilling ride ever – two-up sessions ran through the weekend, putting both the fear and the excitement of more throttle into every lucky girl after spending 10 minutes with Steve.
Closer to home, Motorcycle.com ex-editors nearly outnumbered the current MO editorial staff. Both Johnnie B and Sean Alexander were in attendance. Sean assisted in getting the audience set up with Kawasaki demo bikes this year, while the only thing I saw JB doing was schmoozing. Way to go, buddy!
The real stars this past weekend, however, are those that traveled from around the nation to attend the event. It’s the girls walking away with huge smiles on their faces, they’re the winners. And now perhaps they’re addled with the same wants as the boys – a Tuono/ZX/Ducati in our garages at home – or maybe they already came to Femmoto with that desire. Gimme Gimme.
With more riding miles under their belts, their overall experience was accompanied by the satisfaction of also supporting many charitable organizations - some that help women specifically, and some that benefit Mother Earth. A portion of the entry fees we donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and estimations over the weekend put another $10,000 in the pockets of the charities.
Some people go to Las Vegas to gamble, others to work. Most come to escape their normal life, and Femmoto falls into that category. With a veritable who’s who in female motorcycling, along with a trackday tailor-fit to women riders, you can come to Vegas for the riding and meet all your riding heroes in one place. Come to meet your old friends, come to make new friends.
“Trackdays are like playing the slots here in Vegas,” stated Femmoto attendee Allie Lock of Southern California. “Play safe in this life and you’ll go a long way. Stay away from the table games and higher stakes riding, like racing, and we’ll ride a lot longer together.”
Moderation is the key to long life. Kudos to all that came out to Femmoto 2007 to learn and ride!
For more information on next year’s event, or women’s riding apparel, please visit the Femmoto link below.
http://roadracinggirl.com/ Jessica Zalusky
http://www.motorcycles.org/ Discover Today's Motorcycling