Austin Vince at the Georgetown Stables…

I watched Mondo Enduro a couple of years ago and was of course immediately won over by that ragtag group of men who rode their motorcycles around the world back in 1995. So when I heard that both Lois Pryce and Austin Vince were going to speak at two separate locations in Seattle in the space of a week, I had the distinct sensation that Christmas had arrived early.

Austin’s talk was on a weekday, making that a slightly more difficult commitment, but I ended up going after all with Kris, my rider in crime. The talk was held at the Georgetown Stables, a little south of Seattle. I arrived there about 15 minutes before the talk began, thinking I’d just buy tickets at the venue. Kris informed me that they had a waitlist because the turnout was so huge. Who would have known? I guess Vince has quite a following in Seattle. We put our names on it and waited around until we got in.

The venue was tiny and crammed full, so we squeezed into some seats against the wall to the left of the podium area, which had a projector screen set up and the man himself in his trademark red jumpsuit.

Now it had been a while since I saw the movie and I had no recollection of him or what kind of a person he was. All I knew was that he was Lois Pryce’ husband and I secretly hoped that it wouldn’t be a stodgy, dull talk. I needn’t have worried though, because for the next three hours, I proceeded to laugh my head off. Austin’s talk was replete with witty stories interspersed with hilarious imagery and jokes that had me splitting my sides. It wasn’t a traditional slideshow with chronological images of a ride with commentary on the side. That would have been a bit dull seeing that I had already seen the movie. Instead he focused on the kinds of bikes they rode, the gear they carried, chance encounters on the road.

To my surprise and astonishment , and well… delight, his narrative was peppered with snarky references to what “adventure riding” has turned into today –  buying a big, expensive motorcycle – preferably a GS or KTM Adventure, outfitting it with expensive Touratech accessories, and then riding forever on tarmac and rarely going on dirt. Okay, he said it a lot more crudely than I’ve put it, and I wonder how much of the audience cringed inwardly at those remarks. He flat out said that if your riding has been only within North America and West Europe, you shouldn’t dare to call yourself an adventure rider.

He especially seemed to have a big bone to pick with Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman about Long Way Round. I could understand where he was coming from. Him and his Mondo Enduro friends  and riders like Lois Pryce and Ted Simon – have proved that it is possible to travel the world on cheap bikes, minimal gear and nothing more than your wits and an open mind. While I loved Long Way Round for a number of things, the things that bothered me about it were the same things that Vince vehemently spoke out against the fact that they had ridiculously expensive, heavily overloaded bikes, a ton of gear they didn’t need, a team of people who managed all the trip logistics for them, a support crew, and an obvious attitude of suspicion and at times mockery of the foods and customs of the people they encountered during their journey. While the movie was inspiring to quite a few of us, it also seemed to have given the idea that you needed to have a lot of money and privilege to be able to go have an adventure. It is saddening that people like Lois and Vince do not get recognition and acclaim for their remarkable achievements outside of the niche of motorcyclists who recognize their names.

During the intermission, I bought a copy of the book Mondo Enduro and got it signed by Vince and got my picture taken with him.

He spent most of the rest of his talk speaking about the Zilov Gap in Siberia – the Russian equivalent of the Darien Gap in South America. This was a 400 mile section of road between Khabarovsk and Chita that they had attempted to ride and given up on, finally hopping the train, only to discover that the rest of the train journey paralleled a neat little dirt track which they could have been on, if only they had known. During Terra Circa, they made it their mission to find that road and ride the entire length of the gap without taking recourse to the train. He ended that story with a photograph of a dirt road leading to a river, with a bridge above it. He said that he had one thing in common with Ewan McGregor in that they had both been at that exact same location, except that he had ridden all the way to the end, and Ewan and Charlie had taken the train on that bridge.

From here, the talk went on to going towards North America and LA. By now it was well after 10PM though, and Kris and I decided to leave because we had to be up early the next day to get to work. I wish I could have stayed for the whole thing, especially the Q&A. Maybe next time. Although judging by how acutely uncomfortable he must have made Touratech his sponsors with his incessant lampooning of their products, I’d be surprised if he ever got a return invitation. ;)

In conclusion, I’m glad I attended the talk. Austin Vince is a funny, funny man who you wish was in your close knit circle of buddies because you know there would never be a dull moment with him around. I cannot wait to watch Terra Circa and read the Mondo Enduro book.

An evening with Lois Pryce

Two Saturdays ago, Shubbu, Mark and I drove down to Southsound BMW in Fife to go see Lois Pryce talk. The one and only Lois Pryce who rode her motorcycle across the Americas alone! I was super stoked and excited about it, but I managed to curb my enthusiasm enough to get us there in one piece. On the way, Shubbu couldn’t stop talking about how guilty she felt about not riding to the show. Me, not so much. It’s about 30 minutes on I-5 to get to Tacoma and I wasn’t particularly interested in riding the XT on a bunch of boring freeway miles going 65 on roads where the speed limit was 70.

I had brought with me my hardbound copy of her first book Lois on the Loose – the one that had started it all, where she rode solo from Anchorage, Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego down south in Argentina, an epic journey covering 20000 miles in 8 months on a Yamaha XT225 (no co-incidence that this was the dual sport bike I eventually bought as well). I planned on getting her second book at the talk if they were selling it, and get them both signed by her.

We arrived there about twenty minutes before the talk started, giving us enough time to purchase tickets and get food. Kudos to SouthSound for having really good food available! I’d never been to this dealership before. It was huge – almost three times the size of the BMW dealership in Seattle. In the center, there was now a projector screen with a graphic of Lois astride a bike. The seats looked like they were filling up quickly.

Lois, an unmistakable redhead – was actually sitting in one of the seats in the audience signing books. I went and stood next to her for a little bit, quite possibly with a dazed expression on my face. Then I snapped out of it when my friends went to go look for seats to actually sit down in. We found some seats and I bought a copy of her new book Red Tape and White Knuckles which recounted her solo ride through Africa.

Armed with both books, I went over to her and waiting for a couple more people to get their books signed before finally sitting down next to her and handing over my books. She asked me whether I had any big rides planned, and I told her that I was trying to decide between South America and Australia next. I told her that my friend Sarah and I had wanted to contribute to her video Ladies on the Loose, recounting female adventure riders in the world, but we hadn’t because we didn’t have any HD quality footage. She was strongly encouraging of the fact that us women riders must film ourselves more, because  “When you look at what’s out there, it’s all blokes! Fair enough. I pondered out loud that this would be a toughie because it was all I could do to stop riding long enough to take pictures, never mind video. She empathized “I know, you just want to keep riding, not stop!” But maybe this is something I need to think about for future rides. She’s right in that I see a lot of men filming clips of their rides. It’s just not a medium that I’m particularly fond of due to my ultra-short attention span, but the videos do serve to make you more visible, and that’s something that most of us women bikers could use a lot more of. I asked her what her next big ride would be, and she mentioned a possible upcoming trip through Iran, Pakistan and India. How cool! Shubbu and I told her that she had to take us with her when she went. I mean, she’d need guides who spoke the language, right? ;)

We chatted in that vein for a little bit more before I reluctantly got up and let other people have their turn.

At around 7PM, they made an announcement asking for people to take their seats because the talk would be starting shortly. I wished there was some sort of podium that she could have stood on because I had a difficult time seeing her from the middle row seats we had. I was a little surprised to see that her slideshow was about her first book, and not the second. I had assumed that she was on a book tour of the latest book. Since I’ve read the Lois on the Loose a couple of times, I was quite familiar with the story she recounted. The pictures were new though, and her narration was peppered with lots of little jokes that had me laughing.

I remember at one point when she was talking about how people were horrified that she picked a small 225cc bike for her journey, and she responded with yes, it’s pretty slow but it was totally fine for a cross-continent journey. Shubbu whispered to me – “You didn’t even want to ride it to Tacoma. I choked back my laughter at that.

After the talk, there was Q&A where a bunch of people asked a bunch of daft questions, as is the nature of these things. One of them was – “You’re married to Austin Vince, right? Isn’t he too old for you?” (echoing my thoughts somewhat, I have to confess). She replied that they had 8 years between them but that he was a fantastic guy and they had a blast together.

I asked how many miles on average she rode during that trip and what her top speed was. Apparently she rode about 200 miles per day at a top speed of about 60mph. From my experience with the XT, this sounded about right, even downright excessive on dirt roads, but of course she’s a far better rider than I am.

Overall it was a great evening. Even though I had read the book, it was quite something to hear a firsthand account of her experiences and meet the woman herself. I loved how down-to-earth and charming she was. And yet, behind all the jokes and stories, there was no hiding the fact that she is also tough as nails. You’ve got to be, to have done the things she did and lived the life she leads.

If ever I needed encouragement for my next big ride, here it was! Now excuse me while I go recharge the battery of my XT, replace the starter cable, fill up gas and break this three month hiatus to go ride! :P

Helge Pedersen @ RideWest BMW

From RideWest BMW’s events calendar:

An Adventure Debriefing by Helge Pedersen

After 3 months on the road covering 14,500 miles, on a Ride that started in Seattle and ended at the Southern most tip of South America, GlobeRiders founder Helge Pedersen returned to Seattle a couple of months ago while his BMW R1200GS Adventure 2009 model came the slow way, on a cargo ship from Tierra del Fuego.

This Saturday, June 12th at 10am, Helge and his traveling mate, Vincent Cummings, will do a debrief of their adventure at Ride West BMW. No pictures, no video, but a pure hands on run through of what worked and what did not work. With his fully packed bike, Helge will go through all issues from mechanical to logistical issues

If you want to learn something about packing and outfitting for your own touring bike, come and be part of the teardown of this GlobeRiders Expedition to Tierra del Fuego. Bring a notepad and 2 hours to participate in this hands on Free Seminar. You do need a reservation! Please call (206) 527-5511 to get your name on the list.


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First 2Fast trackday…

A few words before Super Tired Schmi turns in. Today was one of those perfectly perfect days that I will remember for a long time. It was of course, the day I took off to go ride the SV at Pacific Raceways for a 2Fast Trackday. As far as turnout goes, it wasn’t quite the “unofficial MS trackday” we had hoped for because only four of the original people who had expressed interest actually signed up and showed up. The day itself was dull and rainy. But it was still fabulous in spite of everything.

There were sucky parts, like the obligatory waking up at 4:45AM, and riding to the track which is about 30 miles away (in the rain). Stopping on the way to get gas at the one gas station in Washington state that has trouble with filling motorcycle tanks did not help.

I managed to get to the track fairly early, before any of my co-workers showed up. I started pulling off the mirrors and prepping the bike when a hella cute guy came up to me and said that I could pit under his EZ-Up if I was there alone, since it was predicted to rain all day. I thanked him and said that I was waiting for my friends to show up and I was going to pit with them. A clear sign that Schmi’s brain was still asleep at that early hour. :P

When co-workers showed up, I chatted with them a bit (super nice guys!). Then finished prepping the bike – taping everything up, defusing the headlamp, taking off mirrors etc.; got through tech inspection and registration. There were about 28 riders in the Beginner group. I was number 47. We did a ridearound of the track in the 2Fast truck, which was VERY educational. Amazing how big and wide the track looks when you are going through it at 10mph. They gave us some info about what lines to take and where to be careful e.g. turn 7 is supposedly very dangerous in the wet (and boy was it wet out).

J. turned up around 9:00AM with EZ-up, chairs, water, cooler, tools etc. Bless him. :)

I find that I was quite enjoying riding the track now that I’ve gotten over my destructive attitude of cursing myself about everything I did wrong in every turn, rather than observing what I did wrong and improving it in the next lap, like Keith Code says to do (I owe a lot to that man).

Session 1 [9:45 AM]: Getting used to the track and warming up the tires. It seemed so rough, bumpy and shoddy compared to the gorgeous Willows Springs track I was on last month. I went pretty slow to get used to all the turns and familiarizing myself with everything. I was relaxed and loose and feeling good – in marked contrast to every trackday I have done until now.

I did brace myself a little going through Turn 9 for the first few laps though.

Lots of rain.

Session 2 [10:45 AM]: More of the same. Getting used to the track, and going cautiously into Turn 7 as instructed.

Lots of rain.

Session 3 [11:45 AM]: J. pointed out that I wasn’t getting the revs high enough and was in too tall a gear for all the turns he could see. I worked on this in this session and it was a bit distracting to look down at the tachometer so often. Kinda difficult to do that *and* figure out turnpoints at the same time. Got better though.

Misty rain.

*Lunch Break*

Session 4 [12:45 PM]: This was a bit of a sucky session. I was going okay until a control rider beckoned me to follow him. Is there a hand signal for “NO, I really don’t want to!!” No, I thought not. Anyway the next two laps I was stuck behind him showing me lines that I already kinda knew, except we did them super-slow at about 40mph. *rollsyes* I was a little bummed at the waste of time when I got back into the pits. Session right after lunch is never that good. I also felt a little bit ach-y.

Session 5 [1:45 PM]: This one was J.’s session (I owed it to him although I hated sitting out a session). He snuck out on the SV and put it through its paces. He was so stoked when he got back and was crowing about all the riders he passed and how crazy good the bike was (he used to roadrace a GS500 back in the day and apparently those didn’t handle quite as well as my bike does). He had even managed to scrape both footpegs really good. It was good to know that the SV could lean way over and ride like a dream if it had a competent rider on it. :P

Session 6 [2:45 PM]: One valuable tip J. gave me which really worked out well was to go into the busstop in 2nd and exit in 1st, and crank it up from there on. This worked really, really well, and I was redlining all the way through the straight (although the wind buffeted me quite a bit), went in through Turn 1 pretty good with no braking, brake d a bit for Turn 2 and shifted down, and rolled through it constantly, cranked it up to go up the hill and then down towards Turn 3, braked a little more and downshifted to go into Turns 3 and 4  (for once I didn’t blow them completely), revved all the way up the back straight, then straight line through Turns 5 and 6, a hard left at 7 and then uphill towards Turn 8 (this was the only part that wasn’t smooth as I felt like the bike “slowed down” going uphill), constant throttle roll through Turn 8, onto Turn 9 which I didn’t do   very well, eyes on the busstop, brake and shift down at busstop and back out onto the straight.

The next few laps were more of the same, and everything flowed together. J. timed me and said that I was consistently clocking in at 2:35. He said that I could be going a lot faster through both Turns 8 and 9 and the busstop and we strategized as to how.

Session 7 [3:45 PM]: This was the best one, of course. :) Everything just worked and my lap time improved to 2:24. No, it’s not as good as the lap record of 1:29, but not a bad beginning! :)

Session 8 [4:15 PM]: This one was a bonus 15 minutes for people who still wanted to go out. I jumped at the chance until I realized that it was a mixed session with Level 200. I was on such a good run that I really wanted to go out again at least for a couple of laps. People were passing me waaaay too close for comfort though, especially one marshal who zipped by with little over a foot between us, and another instructor who cut me off in the busstop (he later stopped by and apologized). Thankfully I recovered from that one although my right tire wobbled violently coming out of the turn (not sure why?). I also scared myself silly when I scraped the left footpeg in Turn 4 and felt the bike feel unstable. :P

I came in to the pits after those two laps. They weren’t stellar but then again I was sharing it with a bunch of maniacs and didn’t feel safe. :P

Overall it was a wonderful, satisfying day. No more demons. I didn’t break any lap records and didn’t hang off or drag a knee, but I was quite satisfied with how I did. I wish I had done more before lunchtime, and that things had come together sooner than they did, but there’s no point rushing these things. I didn’t use all the instruction from CSS School – I never quite memorized turn points, relying on the cones on the track instead, and I didn’t use reference points. Things I did use were wide view, body positioning, relaxing, and two step. My biggest breakthrough was learning to redline the bike and use it to its full potential, rather than being afraid of blowing the engine. I was also quite pleased that I was no longer afraid or nervous of the speed or of other riders on the track.

It’s crazy how very good, energetic and unstressed I felt. No soreness, no muscle ache, no mental fatigue, just a wicked grin thinking – “Hey, this is fun.” :)

Note: There were a few crashes during the day – most at Intermediate level, and one bad one in the Advanced one where they brought ambulances in to take the guy to the hospital. No crahes in my class though. Guess we n00bs were being way too cautious. :P

Onto some photos:

These are the ones of me on the track that J. managed to take while watching from the grandstand with my point and shoot. Brandon Bones’ pictures aren’t up yet on Studio 819, but he did take the majority of them early on in the day, so I don’t expect them to be that good in any case.

J.’s way of saying: “Relax, schmi!” :) The tape on the odometer was to mark off how high I needed to keep my revs.

Coming round Turn 9 to the bus stop. Yes, I could have been leaned over more.

Going through the new busstop.

Another one through the busstop. Whee, for once I’m happy about a blurry photo. :P

My gear is very bulky. :( Especially the jacket. I need to consider replacing it soon.

Scenes from the WMRRA races at Pacific Raceways…

It was a hot, sunny day – a perfect Sunday afternoon at the races. :)

I woke up a bit late which snowballed into getting to the track pretty late and up missing the first race. Stayed for most of the day, saw some old friends and familiar faces, met with the super-nice people at Acme Motowear, saw some some good racing and a couple of crashes, took some good photos, and overall had a good time. Going to the track is always a bit like coming home. Can’t wait for my trackday on 5/14.

The ride to and back from the track was bad and uncomfortable with the SV riding inexplicably rough. Ah well, can’t win ’em all, huh?



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Adrenaline Freaks 9/8/2006 trackday update

Finally time to write a post about my trackday on Friday in words, rather than just pictures. So this was my second track day, in a manner of speaking. I did ride at Pacific Raceways on July 27th as part of Mike Sullivan’s Women-Only Day, but that was more of a performance school+trackday, with a lot more coaching and one on one attention than I got this Friday.

It was organized by Adrenaline Freaks, and I only really booked it because my friend Liz had won a free trackday and picked that date. Until that moment, booking a day was something I continually postponed as it meant taking time off, and actually dealing with transporting my bike to the track on my own. As usual, fear of the unknown equated to constant procrastination. It’s a good thing I finally did decide on a day, because there is only one more day on the calendar (Oct 6th) before the Pacific Northwest rains and doom and gloom descend onto this lovely city.



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Adrenaline Freaks trackday pictures

Now those are tires to be proud of. :)



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Mike Sullivan’s Women-Only trackday

I attended Mike Sullivan’s Performance School‘s Women-Only event late last July and have held off on posting an update about it for various reasons. A small part of it is that I didn’t have the pictures from it, but they are finally up here, courtesy of .

OMGZ I have a racer’s eyes! I always wanted my eyes to look like that. :P

The rest:

My favorites:

The pictures are copyrighted and I need to pay to get the digital originals. I might wait until my trackday on Sep 8th to decide which pictures I want though. Still, these are brilliant images, and the very first ones I’ve had of me actually riding the bike, rather than posing on it. I always wondered what I looked like when I rode. :)

A brief list of the pros and cons of the event, in no particular order:


  • It was my first ever time on a race track and a great learning experience. It was oddly exhilerating to not have to switch on turn signals, look out for left-turning idiot drivers, dodge crazy traffic, but just ride, ride, ride on a safe enclosed circuit.
  • I got 1:1 instruction with one of the trainers, and got a lot of valuable feedback. If you look closely at the pictures, you will see one particular bad habit I had that was pointed out to me.
  • It was great to practically have the track to myself, seeing as there were only 26 riders out there – far less than a typical track day.
  • My riding style improved dramatically after this day.
  • I won some freebies! A $50 gift certificate to Skagitt PowerSports, and a 50% discount off of a rear tire from Seattle Cycle – pit I’d already broken the bank for brand new tires the week before. :|
  • I got to hang out with Wendy Leber – ranked 104 at WMRRA, and according to Mike – the fastest woman he’s seen on the track. I’d met her before and chatted, and she’s such a lovely person! It was also cool to have three brilliant female instructors.
  • I was sick the day before, and practically collapsing when I woke up at 5:30 that morning. I got my leathers on and made it to the race track on sheer willpower alone. Strangely enough, I felt perfectly fine at the track although I felt like I was holding back a little. I felt sick again an hour after I got back home in the evening. Guess someone was looking out for me that day – it would have broken my heart if I hadn’t been able to make this event.
  • The instructors said that I had very good, clean lines. :) They also said that it was great how I anticipated every turn and looked far into it. It was nice to get some compliments where I was beating myself up for being so abyssmal.
  • I have started studying Keith Code. I love Twist of Wrist 1 and am beginning to critically analyze my riding and mentally correcting myself. All the racers recommended TOW2 as they thought TOW1 was more “philosophical” than practical, but I like it a lot.


  • We were instructed to get to the track at 7:30 am, but we only got out there at about 10:00. We wrapped up at 4:00 PM with a one hour lunch break. I was rather disappointed at not having enough time on the track, and didn’t feel like I got my money’s worth. I would have given up the freebies and catered lunch for more track time. :|
  • I felt like such a squid. Some of the women on the track were so young and so fast that I cringed at how bad I was. This woman especially is someone to watch out for. You can see from the pictures how good she is. Do any of you feel this way on the track? The feeling that you got into this way too late and the young ‘uns have everything going for them? This was one of the few times in my life I felt like I was old. :|
  • I wish I had done a few trackdays before this school. My form was so bad and I never really pushed the limits of my bike. Part of this was the fear of wrecking my only bike – I think I really need to get an inexpensive race bike that I don’t mind crashing and losing for next season. The track was also unfamiliar to me, and I spent the major part of the day just learning it and getting used to it, rather than improving my riding abilities.
  • At the end of it, I still didn’t master shifting my weight on the bike, getting my butt off of it, sticking out my knee, or shift gears without using the clutch. I know it’s impossible to learn everything in one day, but I wish I had made some progress in each of these areas. I have however started working on the former while commuting to work everyday. I look like a right tool with leaning and shifting my weight while going 20mph on city streets, but it’s really the only place I can practice until my next trackday.
  • I know everyone goes through this, but I am still concerned about just trusting riders behind me to not collide into me and overtaking me safely. The instructors said that I need to get past this mental block and just concentrate on the road ahead and trust my fellow riders on the track. It’s hard for me to do though. I’m reminded of the last horrendous accident I heard about at the WMRRA novice races a couple of months ago, where there one of the riders lost control of his bike, flew up into the air and his motorcycle landed on another guy ahead of him, who had to be airlifted to the hospital. :| Scary shit.
  • I need to get in shape and really build up my core strength and endurance. I just know that it’s going to improve my riding.
  • I didn’t ride two-up with Mike Sullivan. I just couldn’t get past my mental block of never doing two-up with anyone, but I felt a little wistful when the other women who did it said that it was the scariest thing they had ever done, and they were that close to vomitting in their helmets. Maybe next time?
  • I think I hit 100mph, but I’m not completely sure as I was trying my best not to look at the speedometer. It was sobering to realize that while my bike was upto hitting 120+mph, me – the rider – was not.

In conclusion, I love the little motorcycling community. I really got a sense of that on this day, the same as I do when I attend WMRRA races. When I rode away from the track, I felt so empty – heading back to my normal life in my normal city seemed like such an anti-climax to the day.

I was hoping that I would be able to decide on this day as to whether I want to race next season, but I’m still not there yet. I don’t know if I’m able to spend that much money and time on something that could potentially get me killed. It’s not the getting killed part that I’m daunted by as much as the time and money bit though. Add to this my insecurities about my abilities although even this I could work on. I remember the first time I tried riding and how terribly bad I was, and how far I have come since. I know I can do this, and I know I can be good, but I am a little haunted by the thought of how good those other racers were – I don’t know if I have it in me to putting in the effort to get to that level. Perhaps I’ll settle for just doing trackdays regularly, rather than club racing. I’ll give myself some more time to decide. I have another trackday with Adrenaline Freaks coming up on Sep 8th. I’ll just concentrate on having a blast there, and let the decision-making rest until then.