A dozen women from all over the U.S. geared up and threw a leg over their dirtbikes for the Babes in the Dirt weekend in Anza, California, last October.
“Today, we’re at MotoVentures doing some hands-on training with some gals that want to become better motorcyclists,” said Ashmore Ellis, co-founder of Babes Ride Out and Babes in the Dirt. Ellis added that the goal is for riders to end each day feeling “really comfortable on the bike, knowing how it handles, and everything in between.”
Related: Coverage of Babes Ride Out 7 in 2019
The first day began bright and early under a gray sky, and as women arrived or emerged from their campsites at the MotoVentures facility, there was a buzz of excitement, nerves, and camaraderie. Ladies from all walks of life introduced themselves and shared where they were from, including places like Temecula, California’s High Desert areas, Las Vegas, and Oregon. The group collectively gasped “Wow!” when one rider said she traveled from Alaska.
Geared up and ready to go, Andre LaPlante, owner of MotoVentures and a USMCA-certified instructor, called everyone together for the riders meeting. LaPlante detailed the weekend’s activities, telling the group they’d become proficient in sit-down turns, braking exercises, and stand-up riding. Other exercises included hill riding and turning, slalom exercises, a beam ride (to represent a rut or single track), and finally, the dreaded sand wash.
Groans were heard in the group. One woman said, “I’m terrible in sand,” and many heads nodded in agreement. LaPlante smiled and confidently said, “You won’t be by the end of Sunday.”
After an hour explaining what was to come, with some storytelling in between, there was a mix of hesitation and excitement on the faces of the riders. Recognizing this, Ellis stood up and asked the group, “Is anyone nervous?” A bunch of hands shot straight up. “You have nothing to worry about,” she said, “so everyone stand up!”
A natural leader with a joyous presence, Ellis had everyone shake out their arms and jump around, wiggling the jitters out. Feeling better and with the adrenaline urging them forward, the ladies mounted their bikes and roared away in a single file line for the first group ride.
After the ride, LaPlante collected the riders together, had them shut off their engines, and explained the first lesson of the day. He was supported by two of MotoVentures’ instructors, Matt Kelly and Kylee Nordby, who are also USMCA certified. Keeping a sharp eye on all the students, the three worked seamlessly together while encouraging proper techniques and cheering everyone on.
When body positioning needed to be corrected, LaPlante provided honest feedback and adjusted the riders so that they could try the exercise again in the correct position. Seemingly tireless, LaPlante clicked through the drills with the riders until he was satisfied that everyone had completed the task correctly. He explained that riders become better and more confident once they master a solid foundation of technical skills and fundamentals like stand-up riding, counterbalancing, braking, and hill-riding techniques – “the fun stuff,” he exclaimed with a big smile.
As the good times continued, it was easy to see why Babes in the Dirt and MotoVentures are a natural fit. These two organizations came together out of a shared need to get out of the house. As Ellis explained: “We canceled all our events for 2020 due to the pandemic but found that [MotoVentures] was a safe place where riders could come to receive training and social distance in those dark days.”
At the time, Ashmore reached out to lifelong rider and trials champion Gary LaPlante. A longtime veteran of the motorcycle industry, Gary founded MotoVentures more than 20 years ago with a “dirt first” philosophy. As summarized on the company’s website, “dirt bike riding is the best way to first learn how to ride a motorcycle, and it’s also great for improving the motorcycle riding skills of any rider.”
Sadly, Gary passed away last August after a long battle with brain cancer. His son, Andre, continues to run MotoVentures, which is based at a private 350-acre riding facility in Anza, a remote area of Southern California between Escondido and Palm Springs. There’s an expansive flat area for riders to feel comfortable and confident when practicing their exercises, as well as a variety of terrain to hone more advanced techniques.
Ellis said Babes in the Dirt was created as an alternative to their larger Babes Ride Out events, providing a “more intimate setting where we can get to know some gals.”
“Even today with 12 riders, it offers real face-to-face time, getting to know them and their stories,” she said. “They want to become better, more confident, and more skilled so that they have more fun on the trails.”
Krissy Fritz came to do exactly that, traveling nearly 4,000 miles from Girdwood, Alaska, to Anza so she could improve her overall riding.
“We don’t have any training schools for girls anywhere in Alaska,” said Fritz, who has a lofty goal. Next July, she and several friends and family members will participate in Romaniacs, the hard enduro event in Romania sponsored by Red Bull. She wanted more practice time riding terrain different than what she’s used to at home.
Personal goals can range from big dreams to small aspirations. Babes in the Dirt and MotoVentures help riders achieve those missions by cultivating an air of inclusion for everyone. As Ellis noted, “Out here this weekend, we have riders that range from anywhere in their 20s to 60 years old, which is like the range of all our events.”
The weekend began with some unknowns for the participants, but you could quickly see riders overcoming fear and growing in confidence and ability. Babes in the Dirt stays true to its mission of “enhancing each rider’s skill set while connecting other off-road enthusiasts who share the same passion.” Parallel to that, it’s clear that LaPlante takes a lot of pride in both his coaching and continuing his dad’s legacy. We think Gary would be proud.