Girls who ride rough

Danger-inspired adrenaline doesn’t always necessarily make an adventure better. But sometimes (read, often) it does. The edge of risk sets your mind awhirr, thinking that hey, I’ve got to stay sharp on my toes or else I could get hurt.

And a bit of stimulation isn’t a bad thing.  So long as that stimulation doesn’t stem from hurting someone else.

Anyway, this weekend I visited Sherbrooke, QB, where my brother was registered in an enduro-cross dirtbiking race. I was going to be simultaneously covering the event for a feature on young girls who dirtbike for my magazine class.

I got up early to watch the 8am start of the PeeWee class. Kids aged four to seven were lined up on little 50’s revving their engines(dirtbike sizes are measured by cylinder size, so a Yamaha 50 would be a smaller, less powerful bike than say a Honda 200. 50’s are about as tame as you can go, to my knowledge).

The fumes rising into the air created a foggy cloud against the backdrop of autumn leaves, lit up by the golden early morning light.

I spotted a rider with long hair streaming out from under her helmet; another wore a pink jacket with a sparkled depiction of a cartoon ostrich. I watched as the parents fussed. Tightening helmet straps, rubbing tiny mittened hands to keep them warm, picking up bikes which had tipped over (often with the rider still straddling it). It was adorable. But I know a LOT of parents who would NOT be comfortable sending their five year old offspring – son or daughter – in a dirtbiking race.

So I took my highschool french down from the attic, dusted it off, and approached one toqued father who was busy fussing over a tiny orange KTM.

What was her name?

Karen. I must have misheard him, because I wrote down her number and later matched it up on the results board to a Melodie. Go figure.

She was five years old.

Did he ever get nervous when they raced (Karen/Melodie had a brother in the same category)?

Always. But they’d been practicing, this was about their fifth race, and they liked it.

The flag dropped and the race started. The kids put-putted over moguls and 15-foot jumps that my brother and the pros would later soar over. Every once in a while one would tip over unspectacularly and people would rush to the whimpering child’s side, help them back up, tell them it was okay to stop if they wanted to. But come race-end, there were no DNF’s (Did Not Finish) on the result’s sheet.

Later in the day, I interviewed Natasha Lachapelle, who is the champion of her women’s class in the FMSQ race series.

Natasha Lachapelle

She started dirtbiking when she was four, and said the rush you get from racing was just incredible. She maintained that so long as you know yourself, know your bike and what you’re doing, then an age limit isn’t all that important.

Frankly I’m not sure how much the pee-wees really knew what they were doing, but I later overheard the same father talking with his two little racers as he took off their neckguards.

“Plus facile! Oui?!” he exclaimed and kissed each on the forehead. The kids smiled proudly – they had after all just successfully completed their own exhilerating adventure, injury-free. I guess you’ve got to start somewhere.

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