QUEENS CATCH UP: KIRSTY CLARK
After the successful Queens of Dirt event: Rise of the Queens, and in anticipation of the announcement of their next event, we thought we would catch up with a few Queens from around the country to see how their dirt biking story began. First up is a Taupo local and mortgage/insurance/finance specialist by the name of Kirsty Clark.
Name: Kirsty Clark
Bike: Black (colour is important) Suzuki DRZ125
Been riding for how long? I got on a 2 wheeler bike for the very first time in May 2018. I remember it feeling so scary, engaging the clutch and throttle to make the bike go forward, and not knowing whether I’d be able to do it or not. It was so thrilling when I realised I could do it......and I felt a little bit of addiction creep in. I had a one hour lesson on flat pasture, and then straight to Western Blast (a Taupo event run by Epic Events) where a good friend took me around the kids track. I nearly ran straight into a tree, lost control of the throttle......thought I was literally going to die on many occasions that day. I seriously had not felt that scared for my life for a very, very long time, and I think I was captured by that feeling.........that feeling of needing my entire body and mind to be completely present in order to stay alive. By being forced to be present to each moment I was on the bike, it allowed me to completely switch off to some ‘interesting’ challenges that were going on in my life. The irony of dirtbike riding being a dangerous sport, is actually the opposite for me, and has played an instrumental part in my wellbeing.
How did you get into riding dirt bikes? Who encouraged you (if anyone)?
There was an ‘interesting’ challenge going on in my life, and I felt like I just needed to do something completely left-field, with a completely different group of people with a whole new skill set to learn.....I needed distraction. Gordon & Claire from Epic organised my first borrowed bike for me and that’s where it all began. I’d just go out on the 4km novice track at Berm Buster which initially took me more than an hour to get round. On the one decline in that track, I’d have to turn the bike off and use the clutch as the brake to get myself down what I thought was a massive scary hill and it really had no place being on the novice track.
Tell me what was your first bike and why?
I borrowed bikes initially from extremely generous people who would take them to Berm Busters, and I’d rock up and try to ride them. Each time I’d need to be reminded how to start it, and what to do for the gears etc.....then there was a bike I had borrowed a couple of times, and I asked if they wanted to sell it to me, and they said yes!
What was the first thing you learned when you started riding?
The most helpful thing I learned initially was how to manage steep declines with the bike. My strategy was to turn the bike off and use the clutch as the brake. Once I was taught this, then I could basically look after myself on the trails, which was really important, because I was on my own out on the trails......’Nelly, No Mates’.
What did you initially find easy about riding dirt bikes?
My horse riding skills helped immensely I think. So Balance, but probably even more so was that when you ride horses, you always make sure you’re looking at the line you want to ride, and that’s obviously the same for riding bikes. Not so easy to achieve when there’s a tree coming up pretty quick, but apart from that incident, it’s definitely something I keep reminding myself when I start to freak out with all the ruts or stones, keep looking at where I want my wheels to go, and the bike seems to follow my eyes. Not all the time though! It’s the same philosophy as living a good life, you’ve got to focus on where you want to go, don’t focus on the obstacles.
What do you still struggle with when out on the trail?
For the life of me, I can’t figure out how to stand up on the pegs very well.....so I’m basically a couch potato the whole way round just sitting on the bike. Looking forward to figuring that skill out as it will reduce the energy needed to get round the track. When I try to stand up, I feel like I’m going to lose balance and accidentally grab the throttle for balance and subsequently launch myself off the track.
What is the best tip/trick/piece of advice you have had over your riding career?
Ignore the people riding behind me, or overtaking me. Just stay focussed on what I’m doing and stay chilled. People coming up behind are responsible to stay clear of me, and obviously I always stay left as best as I can when I hear riders coming. There are some absolute speedsters out there and I think I actually stop breathing while they’re overtaking, and hoping they don’t take me out.
Why are you riding the bike you are on right now, and what do you like most about it?
Everyone told me that a Suzuki DRZ125 would be an ideal bike for me, so I was lucky that I was able to buy this bike. I think they were pleased that it was going to me, and so it wasn’t going to get thrashed.
What would be the one thing you could change about your current bike?
An electric start would be nice for when I’m exhausted and don’t have enough energy to kick.
If money was no problem, what is your ideal dream bike?
Haha.....I completely love my current bike. I don’t even know what other bikes really are or how they differ. All I know is that I can touch the ground at all times if I need to on my bike, and that’s all I really care about. I just want to stay alive out there!
Where/who do you get your inspiration/advice/tips/ tricks from right now?
So, I have no family or close friends that ride motorbikes, but this example might sum it up. I remember when I actually bought my bike (I had already borrowed it a couple of times, so I knew it well enough), but the day I took it home, I text a friend in another part of the country, that is an expert with dirtbikes and asked him ‘what kind of fuel does my bike use’? I seriously had no idea, and I only just learnt at Berm Buster in September how to check the oil. I learn heaps every time I go to an event. Now I just need to youtube how to find my air filter
I’m definitely connected to Epic Events FB page, and Kiwi Chicks on dirt bikes FB page has a bunch of ladies that I met at Queens of Dirt. For example, I posted that I was going to Berm Buster, and asked if there was anyone as novice as me that wanted to ride with me. Lucky for me, Jodie Buckland (who’s not a novice) put her hand up and she actually came looking for me at base (thankfully my sign written Vehicle is easy to find) and rode with me.
Your bike doesn't start - who do you call?
Currently, I only ride at events, so if my bike doesn’t start, then it’s always the lucky or unlucky person that’s parked next to me that saves the day. I always learn something from the people that help me, and I’ve definitely found everyone to be extremely helpful with their time and knowledge. My bike is kickstart, so when I’m out on the trail, and if I’m exhausted and I’ve stalled, I just wait until someone comes by, and they’ll kick it for me.
What kind of riding do you enjoy doing the most?
Currently I only do the organised events like Queens of Dirt and Epic Events, because I like to know that there’s a full medic team and a full team of sweepers only minutes away from helping me out of the swampy stuff, or when I’ve been stuck on the side of a steep hill, literally unable to move.
What is one piece of advice that you would give other girls thinking about getting into dirt bikes?
You’ve got to know that it won’t all go smoothly from the outset. It will definitely take time to build up the skills to even load and unload your own bike and learn how to tie it down. I learnt the hard way with this.......the bike fell over in the trailer whilst I was cruising down the Taupo bypass. Not cool at all, very stressful. I’ve even pulled into a gas station when I saw people there with motorbikes, and asked them to tie my bike down better for me, so I could keep going to the event.