A dozen women from all over North America geared up and threw a leg over their MotoVentures rental bikes for the Babes in the Dirt weekend in Anza, California, Oct. 22-23.
“Today, we’re at MotoVentures doing some hands-on training with some gals that want to become better motorcyclists in general,” said Ashmore Ellis, co-founder of Babes Ride Out and Babes in the Dirt.
Related Story: Interview: Babes Ride Out Founders Anya and Ashmore
For this weekend, women who have riding experience but want a refresher or to build more confidence are considered Level 2 (intermediate) riders. The course taught skills like body positioning, quick stops, how to get unstuck from a hill, and trail riding. Ashmore said the goal is for riders to end each day feeling “really comfortable on the bike, knowing how it handles and everything in between.”
The first day began bright and early under a gray sky at 8 a.m., and as women emerged out of their on-site camping spots or rolled in to the MotoVentures location in their personal vehicles, there was a buzz of excitement, nerves, and camaraderie. As these ladies from all walks of life started introducing themselves to each other, riders were asked where they were from. Places like Temecula, the High Desert, Las Vegas, and Oregon were mentioned, and the group collectively gasped “Wow!” when one rider said, “Alaska.” This was proof that distances may separate us, but the love of dirtbiking unites us as a community.
Geared up and ready to go, Andre LaPlante, owner of MotoVentures and a USMCA certified instructor, called everyone to join him under the canopy in the “pit area” for the riders meeting. LaPlante detailed what the ladies would be taking on for these next two days, telling the group they would become proficient in sit down turns, braking exercises, stand-up riding, and hill exercises, such as how to get unstuck if they ever found themselves stalled on the side of a hill (“hill extraction,” he said with a laugh). Continuing on with the two-day school’s list of activities, LaPlante said they would move on to hill riding and turning, slalom exercises, a beam ride (which would represent a rut or single track), and finally the dreaded sand wash.
Groans were heard following the statement, and one woman said, “I’m terrible in sand,” to which many heads nodded in agreement. LaPlante smiled and confidently said, “You won’t be by the end of Sunday.”
The weekend would culminate with a ride on Rick’s Trail or the Lost Cherokee Trail. After an hour of explanation of what was to come and storytelling in between, you could see a mix of hesitation and excitement on the faces of the riders. Recognizing this, Ashmore stood up and asked the group, “Is anyone nervous?” A bunch of hands shot straight up.
“You have nothing to worry about, so everyone stand up!”
A natural leader with a joyous presence, Ashmore proceeded to have 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 around the facility.
Once that ended, LaPlante collected all the riders together, had them shut their engines off, 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 and cheering everyone on.
When body positioning needed to be corrected, LaPlante provided honest feedback and adjusted the riders so they could try the exercise again in the correct position. Seemingly tireless, LaPlante clicked through the drills with the riders until he was satisfied the task was repeated correctly by everyone. 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,” LaPlante 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. The organizations came together out of a shared need to get out of the house. As Ashmore 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 between those dark days.”
At the time, Ashmore reached out to lifelong rider and trials champion Gary LaPlante, Andre’s father. A longtime veteran of the motorcycle industry, Gary founded MotoVentures more than 20 years ago with a “dirt first” philosophy, summarized on the company’s website as following: “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, after a long battle with brain cancer, Gary passed away this past August. Andre has continued 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 practice more advanced technique.
Listen to an interview with Andre LaPlante on the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast
“[Babes in the Dirt] came out of realizing that we have these bigger events [like Babes Ride Out],” Ashmore said, “and we do offer training there, but [those events] are so large. This is a more intimate setting where we can get to know some gals. Even today with twelve riders, it offers real face-to-face time, getting to know them and their stories. They want to become better, more confident, and more skilled so that they have more fun on the trails.”
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Krissy Fritz came to do exactly that, traveling 3,730 miles one-way to Anza to participate in the Babes in the Dirt October Training Camp. Fritz made the trek from Girdwood, Alaska, so she could improve her overall riding.
“We don’t have any training schools for girls at all, anywhere in Alaska,” Fritz said. She explained that she has a lofty goal: Next July, she and several friends and family members will participate in Romanics, the Red Bull-sponsored hard enduro event in Romania. She wanted more practice time riding terrain different than what she’s used to at home. Riding on-and-off her whole life, she’s happy that she spent a week in California, made some great progress in her riding, and is now looking forward to getting home to her two kids. Fritz is clearly ambitious and goal-oriented, and we extend best wishes to her and her crew to do well in Romania next summer!
Personal goals can range from big dreams, like competing in an international race, to small aspirations, like wanting to feel more confident when riding. Babes in the Dirt and MotoVentures help riders achieve those missions by cultivating an air of inclusion for everyone.
As Ashmore 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.”
And as an indication of how quickly these riders improve after just an afternoon at MotoVentures, LaPlante recognized that this group was making great strides. “In just a few hours,” he said. “I’ve seen all the ladies improve by about 30% in their riding.”
The weekend began with some unknowns for the participants in the two-day school, 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 riders’ skill set while connecting other off-road enthusiasts who share the same passion.”
And parallel to that, it’s clear that Andre LaPlante takes a lot of pride in both his coaching and continuing his dad’s legacy. We think Gary would be proud.
Babes in the Dirt will be offering its next class at MotoVentures, Dec. 3-4, 2022. For more information, visit the Babes in the Dirt and MotoVentures websites.