We're lined up with at least 30 other riders. They've already let 40+ riders go, and there's over 100 more behind us. People are on the sidelines hooting and hollering, waving towels in the air. Engines are revving. It's really freaking loud.
They pull the rubber band tight across the starting line. I pull my clutch in. Shift into first gear. The rubber band snaps and we all take off. Dust is rising and rocks are flying. We're heading towards... a tunnel. Yes, a tunnel. Right out of the gate, we had to ride through a puddle and funnel through a tunnel. (Claiming dibs on that for a children's book.) Then into some whoops and up a hill. There's a bike mere feet from my front tire; somebody so close to my right side that I can reach out and hold her hand. My adrenaline is pumping so fast, I can feel my heart beating in my eyeballs.
There's so many things to remember. My mind is racing.
Take a deep breath. Pick a line and stick to it. Bend my elbows. Bend my knees. Hips back. Squeeze the gas tank. Relax my shoulders. Don't worry about anyone else. But there's someone right behind me. Focus on your ride. Shift up. Oh shit, a hairpin turn. Clutch in. Shift down! Don't look at that rock. Why are you looking at the rock? Avoid the rock. Shit I just hit the rock! I hope I don't get a flat. Breathe.
That's just the first 5 minutes. I proceeded to repeat those thoughts (in no particular order) for the next 2.5 hours.
On April 1st, 2023, Kelly and I raced our first-ever dirt bike race! Biltwell hosted its 3rd Annual Biltwell 100 in the California desert just south of Ridgecrest. The course is a fast-paced, wide open 25-mile loop consisting of some whoops, rocks, sand, tunnels, a highway crossing, some fire roads, a couple small hill climbs, and this year: puddles, thanks to all the rain. This course was the buffet of desert riding—you got a taste of a little bit of everything. We've never ridden in a race-type environment... with hundreds of people on the same trail at the same time... and multiple levels of riders and bikes... so it's safe to say there were some nerves. Although, mine and Kelly's experience with nerves was very different.
Kelly had a lot of nerves in the weeks leading up to the event, but once we got to the campsite, she was as calm and cool as a cucumber. It was the opposite for me. I wasn't too concerned about it until we got there, and then my nerves started to build quickly. There were just so many unknowns. What was the course going to be like? Were we going to be able to ride all 75 miles? Were we good enough to keep pace with everyone else?
Well the answer to that last question is... Y.E.S.
We raced the Women's Novice Modern 20-40 class. I placed 4th out of 20, just eight seconds behind 3rd and 6 minutes behind 1st, and 108/293 overall. Kelly had some technical difficulties, but still managed to come in 15th out of 20 and 188/293 overall! In her first lap she took a rocky route to go around a collision and tipped over, bending her hand guard in and preventing her clutch from moving. After her and another girl (thank you!) got her clutch free, she took off to make up time, only to find at the end of lap 2 that her fuel line was cracked and Chief had to tow her back to camp. Instead of giving up, Kelly hopped on our friend's 110 that we brought and finished the race on a pit bike! After all that, she still managed to place 15th! So badass.
- Slow is fast.
- Take it easy on the first lap, and then speed up the next laps.
- Ride your ride.
Slow is fast: If you push yourself to go faster than what you're comfortable with, you're more likely to make a mistake, miss a turn and go off course, fall, or worse, get injured.
Take it easy on the first lap: Get a feel for the course on the first lap so you know what to expect—hairpin turns, rocks, whoops, whatever is in store for you! Once you know what's in store for you, then you can start to add a little oomph to the throttle.
Ride your ride: Everyone rides at different levels, at different speeds, on different bikes. Don't compare yourself to the people in front of you, behind you, and racing past you. Please see "Slow is fast" for the consequences of doing so.
For someone as competitive as me, those are all easier said than done (especially the first two) but they're super important to remember because going fast isn't going to do you much good if you can't finish the race.
Cheers to our first time racing, but definitely not our last! For the best gear to wear while racing, shop our collection of unique women's motocross jerseys & performance socks.