Honda cbr 600 rr at the track

At the end of June, I was super excited to fly out to Washington State and attend a track day hosted by Carol Carpenter of MotoVixens at the Ridge Motorsports Park. She was hosting a very special event where she had also invited Jason Pridmore and his instructors to teach a special advanced riding session for those that wanted expert training. I did the Star Motorcycle School last season in early December, but this was a wonderful refresher and helped drill in and solidify some concepts I was still having a hard time grasping. 

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Myself with Caroline Olsen and Jason Pridmore after a session at the Ridge Motorsports Park

Myself with Caroline Olsen and Jason Pridmore after a session at the Ridge Motorsports Park

The very cool thing was that Carpenter split up the class into female-only on Monday, and male-only on Tuesday. There’s a vastly different way women learn compared to men; that is why I was excited to see how an all female class would feel. Men tend to dive headfirst into their activity and just try to tame the beast, while most of us women take a more systematic, incremental approach. We generally like to immerse ourselves in the information given and process it before we take on a task. Then once we’re out on track we tend to focus on one thing and work on that until we are able to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

Having an all ladies class allowed everyone to work on their techniques in their own time. The number of girls on track was very small and skill levels were quite vast. I had plenty of ladies blow past me, and then got to pass some myself. However it was really interesting and amazing to see everyone’s progress. I enjoyed lap after lap putting my knowledge to the test and seeing how everyone else was also working hard. There’s a very positive feeling in situations like this, generally there is no pressure of having to be fast and perfect—the ladies just focus on their own progress, technique and goals. 

Attending a class with Jason Pridmore is incredibly beneficial—I can’t even begin to tell people how much you’ll learn. Any avid track-day junkie immerses themselves in reading materials and conversations with fellow riders and racers for any scrap of new knowledge. Attending one of Pridmore’s classes is like having an entire year of riding rolled into one day that you are able to understand, retain and execute. Doing this a second time, I was actually amazed at how much more I learned again—that actually caught me by surprise. I personally was already amassing some bad habits and assumptions that Pridmore broke instantly. By the second day, I was more confident and faster than ever before. It’s an amazing feeling when you stop worrying about what to do and just ride. Just ride your heart out!

As part of the curriculum, Pridmore takes students on a two-up ride around the track for a few laps. That ride is probably the single most beneficial thing you can possibly do with Pridmore after he assesses your skill level. For me personally it was an incredible confidence boost because it let me see firsthand just how much faster I could be going. After that session with Pridmore, I got back on and really rode my heart out. All of a sudden my earlier fears and insecurities just melted away. I was no longer second-guessing my tires or myself. It simply felt great—and this was all on a loaner bike at an unfamiliar track. 

One key thing to remember when attending one of these classes is to check what you think you know at the door. It can sometimes be hard and humbling to realize that what you’ve been doing isn’t necessarily helping you or doing you any favors. I personally was pushing my head down too far, trying to look like a MotoGP rider, which in fact is silly considering I’m riding an almost stock machine. Turns out I was weighting my pegs improperly, which took away from my control, and not putting my head up was impeding me from properly seeing out far enough. After I adjusted my body position I immediately started hitting my apexes, which I was struggling to hit initially.  

Another super helpful thing one of the instructors, Caroline Olsen, did was tape over my speedometer. I had the pleasure of training with Olsen one-on-one for the majority of the two days. She was extremely patient with me, and we would go back and discuss my problem areas and figure out a way to tackle them. 

Being shadowed by David Kolb of StarMotorcycle School

Being shadowed by David Kolb of StarMotorcycle School

One thing she noticed is that I was occasionally looking down at my speedo. I was justifying it as needing to know how fast /slow I was going to make the corner… in retrospect I now see how ridiculous that must have sounded to her. Speed on track should be judged by feel and feel alone, after all there are no speed limits or set speeds for anyone to take a corner—it’s all based on skill level. I think I was constantly afraid of being too slow or wanting to go faster. Of course the fact that I kept getting passed should have been enough for me to tell I was slow. 

As soon as I went out without a speedo, everything changed. At first I had a little moment of panic, “OH NO, but what if I go into this turn too fast and crash?!” What a silly notion! 

Taping up my speedo was the single best thing Olsen could have done. Instantly I started getting smoother and was focusing on the important stuff, not my speed. And most importantly, I started having a truly amazing time. No more was I plagued with the fear of being too slow, I was just feeling the bike and having pure fun! From now on I will tape up my speedo at track days. And furthermore, after comparing my GoPro footage, I ended up going significantly faster with the speedo taped up… who would have thought?

Getting to spend the day with fellow females that share the same passion and appreciation for their bikes was truly beautiful. It felt special to be out there only with other women. It’s obvious that women are still quite a minority in this sport and industry, so banding together for a special event like this makes us feel stronger and unified. Big thanks to Carol Carpenter at MotoVixens for putting together such a special event for us. Nothing against the guys of course, we just like to know we aren’t alone in our quest for speed!

Anna “Red” Rigby (@RedSpade) is an avid track rider and the founder of RedSpade Racing, which provides moto photography services for product advertisements, catalogs and marketing materials and digital media services and photography for racers. RedSpade Racing sponsors and promotes a select group of riders every year, providing them with on-site race photography, branded apparel and social media shout-outs. Follow RedSpade on Facebook and Instagram @redspade

Photos provided by the author

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