One of our contestants was a little girl who was passionate about ballet, one grew up on a 100 acre farm, and one is part of a powersports enthusiast family. All of them are so passionate about motorcycles that they are headed to the GS Trophy Qualifier in 2019, on the road to the GS Trophy 2020.
Backgrounds of our GS Trophy 2020 Riders
Ellen grew up hiking, playing in the woods, and dancing. It wasn’t until 2015 that she first attempted to learn to ride a dirt bike when her husband Lance was teaching their children. Like many people who aren’t sure they are invested in the sport, she got an older bike which was a challenge to kick start, and as a new rider, stalled it every few minutes. She was not a fan of this sport.
But, this was not to be the end of motorcycling for Ellen. She went to the GS Qualifier to support her husband, and for fun, rode the challenge with him two up. She was hooked. “After that weekend of watching Lance and the other ride these crazy challenges, I had decided I wanted to learn to ride a big motorcycle like that.” At first, her husband was unsure. He told her “it takes a whole lifetime of riding to get to that level of skill.” But Ellen is not someone you want to stand in the way of. Her husband is now her trainer, and she puts a 2016 BMW R1200GS through its paces as if she’d spent her whole life riding.
A hundred acre farm in eastern Ohio at the edge of the appalachians supplied the backdrop for Kandi’s childhood. She was the youngest of five kids by a decade, so there were no gender roles for chores or play. She was 10 when her cousin Jeff bought a KDX-80, and “I rode that thing like I stole it.” Playing with her cousins, she developed a competitive spirit which served her well in high school sports like basketball and track.
Kandi’s biggest role models were her two older sisters. They “both went to college and were very career-oriented, adventurous, and quite frankly, total badasses.” Her older sister Kim hikes, skis, rock climbs, runs, and loves to travel. “In a nutshell, she works hard and plays harder. Perfect role model, right?” Then she described Kelley, her sibling closest to her in age. Kelley “had a V-Star she would take me out on, which is kind of funny looking back, because she is shorter than me. I’m 5’3.” Kandi now knows how intimidating it can be to have a pillion as a short rider, but at the time, she didn’t give it a second thought. She just knew she loved riding on the back of that bike, but she wanted more. She wanted control.
Lisa’s family was passionate about everything motorsports and outdoors. “On weekends, we’d often find ourselves camping from the Jeep on old mining roads, exploring ghost towns and mine shafts, and hiking through the mountain picking wild raspberries, which would later end up in Mom’s homemade pie.” Her family encouraged her to ride motorcycles from a very early age, and due to their passion for all motorsports, she’s dabbled in trail riding, drag racing, land speed racing, and currently she’s loving adventure riding.
Lisa’s motorsports have not just been a hobby, however. She had a twenty year career in law enforcement as a motorcycle officer. She describes the training as “the most grueling and intense two weeks I had ever endured. Each day began at 5am and lasted into the mid afternoon in Arizona’s monsoon season with triple digit temps and high humidity. I was one of three police officers selected to begin motor school training after a rigorous department-wide testing process. Each day was met with physical and mental exhaustion. My clutch hand would get so fatigued, I would resort to using the crook of my wrist to pull in the lever. The rear brake would become so overheated, it would completely fade and the brake disc would turn a glowing red. We repeated exercises the required skills I was frustratingly struggling to acquire. I was relentless and determined, and in the end I succeeded.”
Why the GS Trophy 2020?
For Ellen, this is what inspired her to start riding motorcycles. Not only did she attend the qualifiers with her husband Lance, but she saw women competing in challenges she used to think were “just for the men!” Her further inspiration is the camaraderie she sees with adventure riders. She loves being pushed outside of her comfort zone, and finding the community there encouraging her. “The entire GS Trophy experience is outside of my comfort zone, in the best ways. I’m nervous being in front of other people, I have never traveled very far from home, and certainly not by myself. I’m still learning to ride my motorcycle! But I’m going to go out and do my very best and conquer some of those fears and cheer on my fellow riders.”
We’re not sure there’s ever been anyone more enthusiastic about the GS Trophy than Kandi. In 2017, She threw herself wholeheartedly into supporting her friend Bettina to compete in the 2018 GS Trophy. She became consumed by Bettina’s success. “Bettina was such an inspiration, as were the hundreds of women who knew Bettina and were cheering her on.” “I loved the excitement, the camaraderie and the passion she generated, and the outpouring of love. I love to see others get inspired- whether I’m the one inspiring or someone else – it gets me jazzed. And that’s what I loved about Bettina – she was inspiring others to do what they love – riding, exploring, finding their own adventures. How can that not excite you?”
There were two things standing in her way of competing in the GS Trophy herself. She’d heard MSF Rider Coaches were not permitted to compete, and as competitive as she is, clearly inspiration is her driving force. She wasn’t willing to give up teaching. And, she’s 5’3 – “how the hell would I be able to compete on a standard height 1200GS? This really baked my noodle.” Even our inspirers need inspiration, and in 2018, Jocelin Snow, at 5’1, “forced me to throw out all those doubts I had in my mind and reconsider what I once thought was impossible. She was a force to be reckoned with at the Trophy. She is short, has spunk, a great attitude, and is a freakin’ badass rider. Ok. Enough excuses. Where do I sign up?”
It was not until 2017 that Lisa ever heard of the GS Trophy. She was at a BMW MOA Rally in Salt Lake City, when she decided to try a free, one hour BMW Performance Center Intro Class at the track. As a mostly street rider, standing up was foreign. However, she had fun, and there happened to be two hours of women’s track time following. This was not your typical track; there was a ribbon course, a board plank, tight turns in the “office”, holding a PVC Pipe attached to a stationary pole, and putting tennis balls on traffic cones. She loved the challenge, and signed up for the beginner competition for that afternoon. This got her wondering… “What is the GS Trophy all about?”
She rode to the ADV Woman Rally, registered for a beginning adventure riding class, and got to know the women leading these classes: Pat Jacques, Louse Colleen Powers, Betting Nedel, Caroline Stevenson, and Kandi Spangler. In 2018, she coached at the ADV Woman Rendezvous, and listened as Bettina shared her story of the 2018 GS Trophy, Louise shared her story of 10 months traveling through South America, and Caroline talked about being involved in the 2015 GS Trophy Qualifier. Her cup of inspiration full, she committed to training for the 2020 GS Trophy.
Training of our GS Trophy 2020 Riders
Ellen’s only motorcycle goal has been to compete in the GS Trophy. Her husband is an experienced rider, competitor and trainer, so it seemed only logical to her that he become her coach. “Lance has only two rules for our riding lessons and training, and they’ve always stuck with me. 1) There’s no crying. And 2) Try anything I ask you to do on the motorcycle one time without questioning.” With determination and commitment, she has followed those rules through broken toes, steep hill climbs and steeper descent. She officially got her motorcycle endorsement in 2016. She has found every person she meets eager to help and encourage, and finds herself especially inspired by all of the strong women riders she sees.
Kandi’s support team includes Bettina Nedel, Caroline Stevenson, Bex Becker, and Louise Coleen Powers. You might recognize some of these names from previous years GS Trophy qualifiers and GS Trophy events. She also has the entire Colorado GS Girls community rooting for her, and so many others. She is using the knowledge her team has from previous years to guide her training, as well as all of the videos of the US Qualifier from 2017. She’s been training in a horse arena, and bringing in experts like Dusty Wessels with West 38 Moto and famed trials motorcycle champion Mark Joselin.
“But wait, there’s more!” Kandi says. “If I’m going to compete, I’m going to compete to win.” Yeah, that’s her competitive spirit coming out. “In addition to the on-bike training I’m undergoing, I’m also putting myself through a strict workout regimen, eating right and not drinking alcohol right now, so I can be at my peak fitness by the end of May.”
Training for Lisa has included fine tuning clutch, throttle and brake control, and attempting to replicate some of the past GS Trophy exercises she’s seen posted on social media. She’s practicing the exercises she experienced at the BMW MOA Rally and Overland Expo. She’s been strength training at the gym. “And of course, I’ve been riding, riding, riding. My desire to improve is endless.”
Final Thoughts on the 2020 GS Trophy
Strength, passion, determination, and desire are qualities I hear throughout these women’s stories. They all expressed a love of riding, and a love of BMW GS’s and GS Culture. Lisa shares “I’m anticipating that I will be immersed in BMW GS culture, which I love. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends I’ve met along the way and making new friends that share my same passion. I want to be part of the team, to encourage and support other riders. I want to be a sponge for learning. I also want to be able to tackle the challenges myself with overwhelming confidence, overcoming my fears and proving to myself that all things are possible. I want to promote adventure motorcycling and show how truly capable the BMW GS is. I anticipate that the opportunity for all of these desire will present themselves at the qualifier and beyond.”
“10 weeks. This is going to take intense focus and determination,” says Kandi. So, keep an eye on these incredible women, who will be competing at Rawhyde Adventures in California the weekend of May 30th – June 2nd. We’ll be following their journey every step of the way, cheering them from near and far.
Love GS Trophy stories? Read about Jocelin Snow HERE!
Want to read more about the GS Trophy? Check out the official site HERE!