No matter the motorsport – asphalt racers, off-road rigs, or two-wheel bikes – there’s little doubt that a healthy enthusiast base helps improve both competition and the sport in general.
A few switched-on souls have recognized that, even in this day and age, female enthusiasts can have a hard time breaking into the arena. This has led to the creation of International Female Ride Day, held this year on May 1st.
15 years of celebrating International Female Ride Day
It’s actually IFRD’s fifteenth year celebrating female ridership and carrying out its mission to inspire more women to get out and ride. Big companies like Polaris have long been part of the movement, helping to foster inviting spaces for like-minded women who share the same passion and enthusiasm for driving.
This year, the north star brand created an event called Women Behind the Wheel, making their too-cool open-air Slingshot the centrepiece of an event in Texas attended by professional racer Loni Unser.
Canadian outfits like Can-Am are in on the action as well, holding a Covid-friendly virtual event in celebration of the 8000+ members who make up their Women of On-Road community. In fact, the company says women have accounted for more than 50% of registrations for their acclaimed Can-Am Rider Education Program, a sure sign that the group is has healthy membership.
Atlantic Canada is home to many female champions of powersports, like the inspirational Marijke Nel
But it’s not just big corporations that impact the number of women who take up the powersports lifestyle.
There are several females right here in Atlantic Canada who are champions of the sport and do a tremendous job of being role models for other women who have similar interests. People like Marijke Nel, a lifelong athlete from South Africa but, while living in Nova Scotia, decided to learn about riding dirt bikes following a cancer diagnosis.
She trained for national dirt bike events and, along the way, managed to raise nearly ten grand for the Canadian Cancer Society. Inspirational doesn’t even begin to describe her story.
Jillian Cross organizes events and groups in Atlantic Canada for female motorsports enthusiasts
Jillian Cross has motorsports roots that run deep, organizing the Women in Moto event designed to help females jump into the sport. A certified coach at the event heads a 45-minute session in which people are introduced to safe dirt bike riding. They even kit out their learners with protective gear if needed.
She is also an integral part of East Coast Women Offroad, described as a safe space for those who identify as female to meet others while celebrating and sharing their dirt biking experiences in a non-judgmental environment.
So many places to find female role models in the powersports and off-road riders worlds
There are umpteen other examples of female role models in the sport, some of whom were profiled on the Nova Scotia Off Road Riders Association page in the run up to International Women’s Day. It’s also cool to know that local businesses are on board, like the crew at Shore Cycle & Marine, who aimed to organize an event called Ladies Motorcycle 101 in which attendants would learn about key bike points from a Red Seal tech, plus helmet safety from experts in the know.
The event was altered because of Covid-related health directives but it’s still important to applaud the effort made to create a welcoming atmosphere.
Initiatives like these, plus people like Marijke and Jillian and countless others, are instrumental in encouraging like-minded gearheads to chase after their interests. It all gets a big thumbs up from us.