story and photography by Donya Carlson
[From the April 2007 issue of Rider]
Several leather-clad women are ogling a guy who looks like he should be on the cover of GQ. He’s holding a pink-and-white umbrella to shade his wife from the sun while she climbs aboard a Ducati and gets ready to head out onto the racetrack. As I look around, other “umbrella boys” are catering to their women, and one’s even wearing a kilt. Talk about your role reversal!
This was one of the typical sights at the fifth annual Femmoto at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a popular event that drew 300 women last October. The husband-and-wife team of Bonnie Strawser and Monte Lutz created Femmoto for women to try out a variety of motorcycles in a safe environment, and improve their riding skills. A racetrack is a great place to ride a motorcycle with which you’re unfamiliar, because everyone is going in the same direction, there are few hazards and the pavement is clean and free of oil and sand. In addition to Femmoto, Strawser and Lutz run 130 track days yearly nationwide. The cost for each Femmoto track day is $125 (plus the $40 annual club membership dues), and a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
Motorcycle manufacturers Buell, Kawasaki, Kymco, Aprilia, Ducati and Moto Guzzi brought their demo fleets, which included primarily sportbikes, with some dirt bikes and a few cruisers and scooters mixed in. Track time was divided up for novice and experienced riders, and over the two-day event we each had a chance to ride at least 10 different motorcycles. You’d be hard-pressed to find that opportunity elsewhere. Representatives from each manufacturer were available to answer questions and give details on the motorcycles, or chat with and offer suggestions, and instructors for each track session followed us around the track and offered advice. Or we could follow them and learn a few things.
The event is a great time for women to get together to share experiences and ride on a track without feeling intimidated. Women also tend to listen to advice from an instructor—rather than, shall we say, listening to their hormones, like our male counterparts often do! I got a kick out of watching one corner worker whose enthusiasm never wavered as he cheered us on and clapped each time we rounded that particular turn. In addition to the bikes, apparel, helmet and tire manufacturers peddled their wares.
I overheard a woman tell her friend it was a good thing she could buy leathers right off the rack, because she’d forgotten hers at home. She could justify the expense because the leathers she’d forgotten were “thrashed anyway.”
I made my Saturday a Buell day, sampling an XB12R Firebolt, a Lightning CityX, an XB12Ss Lightning Long and a Ulysses during each 20-minute track session. Buell’s demo fleet included 18 bikes, and the XB12X Ulysses turned out to be my favorite. It’s the least exciting for the racetrack, but that’s not where I spend the majority of my time anyway as I’m a touring/ commuting kind of gal. I liked the Ulysses’ tall seat height and upright seating position with plenty of legroom.
Between the track sessions we were treated to a Supermoto demonstration. The crowd gathered to watch West Coast Supermoto instructor Darrick Lucchesi and guest rider Michelle DeSalvo expertly slide around corners and wheelie down the straights. This was our chance to sign up for personalized instruction—if we wanted to learn how to stick our feet out in a corner without snapping one off like a dried twig, for example.
For three days again in 2007 women will rule the racetrack in Las Vegas. If you want to ride on the track and demo the bikes you have to be female, though men are free to be there as spectators and lend support. Umbrella boys are especially welcome—no, make that enthusiastically encouraged. Dates for the 2007 event are October 5-7.