By Kris Fant
Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, a quiet but powerful movement is occurring. This year, at the ADV Woman Rally, seventy women and a handful of men gathered to empower themselves and each other, taking great leaps in their motorcycle skills, and even greater leaps in confidence and insight.
As someone who has been riding off road for five years and has been genuinely nurtured by male riders, I’ve not really understood the excitement around women’s only events. I admit, however, when I started riding I looked for female role models. With all male riders around me, I was skeptical about my own potential to master this hobby, yet the guys were patient and good humored. They swept rides, picked up my bike, and subjected me to only a minor amount of ribbing and advice, which I figured was part of the initiation process. I found a handful of women riders, and read stories about inspirational women who learned to ride at all stages of life. Fast forward to the ADV Woman Rally five years later and I found myself wondering what the ADV Woman Rally was all about, and what it would be like to spend the weekend in a women-centric riding environment.
Women had traveled from as far away as Great Britain for an experience they cannot get anywhere else; a women’s motorcycle rally created by a woman rider, for women riders, with classes taught by women riders. The air of camaraderie and community could be felt the moment you joined the collective.
As the sun set Wednesday night, you could hear the familiar fears and uncertainty about this new experience. “I’m simultaneously excited and terrified.” “I have a big bike, I’m not sure how this will go.” “I’m totally comfortable on the street, but I haven’t ridden off road much.” “I’ve never ridden without my husband.” These sentiments were followed by affirmations: “You’ll learn new things.” “We’re all in this together.” “We’ll help each other.”
The rally began with the rising of the sun. Nervous excitement was replaced by bonding over meals.The stories mirrored co-ed events, with ride reports, laughing about falls and injuries, eagerness to discuss bikes and gear. But there was also a growing confidence as the women were able to support one another in their journeys as riders.
On the range, the top-notch instructors skillfully presented the material and watched with care as each rider completed an exercise. Positive reinforcement was given for everything a rider did well, and suggestions made for improving form. A variety of classroom sessions were offered on the basics of gear, moto-camping, trail-side maintenance, navigation, fitness, and more. I loved seeing women changing tires to an audience of rapt pupils. Women are generally the minority at co-ed motorcycle events, and this came as a welcomed change. With someone’s husband being the sole male observer, my immediate thought was, “I’m usually that guy.”
I would bet money that you have never been to a fitness class like Pat’s. She started with this story. “I was chatting with my personal trainer, and said ‘Tomorrow is my birthday, and I probably won’t be in.’” My trainer responded “Oh, that’s sad. I’ve always looked at fitness as one of the greatest gifts I can give myself.” While she managed to cover the nuts and bolts of what a fitness routine must include for health and riding, she brought the room to tears more than once with her stories and authenticity. She fired up women who have been told that there is only one way to do something. She held space for a discussion about what it means to give ourselves health, nutrition, and fitness.
Over the course of the weekend, the tentativeness on the range was replaced by women spraying rooster tails high in the air, skidding the back tire, and practicing racing starts. If a bike was dropped, there would be an eruption of cheers, adoption of a power pose, and a team to lift the bike, if requested.
Saturday evening came, and we knew this experience was nearly over. But Pat Jacques, ADV Woman, knew it would be time to cement the lesson. Following dinner, she wanted to share with us a badass who has walked a different path than ours. Holly Forlenza is a young woman who, due to a seizure disorder, has never spoken a word in her life. In 2011, an occupational therapist helped Holly find her voice through facilitated communication. Holly’s mom shared with us what the occupational therapist challenged her to do: Presume competence.
How many of us doubt our own abilities on a motorcycle? How many of us put everyone in our lives before ourselves? Why do we speak so humbly about our skills and so candidly about our faults? What if we decided to presume competence? What if we simply could ride our own ride, and be comfortable with the body, mind, and skills we brought to our bike today, while committing to our own growth and development?
Holly shared her message of love, and told us we were all Badasses. That meant a lot coming from a woman who is committed to sharing her love with the world, and encouraging people to love each other. That meant a lot coming from Holly, who has touched people’s lives with her struggle and her words. When Holly finished sharing her message, you could hear a pin drop, followed by an outburst of applause. We finished our night with a DJ dance party, and Holly and her family joined us. The women of the ADV Woman Rally danced the night away with wholeheartedness, connection, and unbridled passion for life.
This passion is really what I want to share with you; I really understand why this event, run by women, instructed by women, and attended by women, is so important. This year’s theme was “Get Your Badass On.” When we feel confident, we do the badass walk, we take up space, we state our needs. When women come together, they lift each other up and hold each other high. And when we connect at the ADV Woman Rally, we lose all of our inhibitions. The light inside each of us shines through, shining with love and encouragement on ourselves and those around us. Pat Jacques shines her light on us. Her instructors shine their light on us. And every single woman at this rally is empowered to become a radiant light for herself and those around her.
Would you like to attend next year? Check out the 2018 ADV WOMAN RENDEZVOUS!
Like this review? Read about the TOURATECH RALLY too!