Women at the wheel: On the right track to rider safety

There’s the expression: If you build it, they will come.

But building it usually takes a lot of time and effort. And getting them to come, well, that can also prove to be a challenge.

But that didn’t matter to Nancy Joyce, an avid motorcycle rider and member of the RCMP.

“It wasn’t about making money,” she says of her creation. “It just needed to happen.”

Nancy is chatting with me regarding the Pitt Meadows Track Days, a program that she and Randy Cook — their chief instructor — put together in 2010.

“We really need to have a place where younger riders, people that are street riders, can come to get experience in a safe place.”

And it’s quite perfect.

As we are talking, you can hear the not-so-distant acceleration and deceleration of a multitude of motorcycles.

The “Ab Initio,” or first-time riders group, is out on the track. Riding groups are divided based on experience. Passing is allowed.

And the track? Randy builds it differently each program, with cones on a surfaces that stretches 76 metres (250 feet) by 335 metres (1,100 feet). Not only for variety, but to deal with different types of weather.

On this particular day, the rain was on again, off again. And so the course was designed with less straights and more curves. That way participants couldn’t necessarily ramp up their speeds too much, especially in the wet.

“It’s all about learning, and giving people the opportunity to try different types of corners,” Joyce explains about the different configurations and layouts. “Out on the road, you’re going to run up against changing conditions.”

Nancy Joyce gives a rider and safety briefing at the beginning of the Pitt Meadows Track Days.

Nancy Joyce gives a rider and safety briefing at the beginning of the Pitt Meadows Track Days.
Alexandra Straub, Driving

The idea to create a “no walls” program at the Justice Institute of B.C.’s training facility in Pitt Meadows was a long time in the making.

“There was a guy running some track days over at Boundary Bay,” Joyce continues. “It was a lot of fun. And then Boundary Bay shut down because of the Olympics.”

From there, she went to work to continue to be able to offer that kind of training for all levels of experience.

“In order to become a better rider, I started doing track days,” and wanted to offer the same kind of environment for fellow two-wheeled enthusiasts.

When Pitt Meadows Track Days started four years ago, they were only able to use the north half of the training surface. That soon evolved into using the whole facility, which benefits everyone who attends.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing for Joyce and Cook, but she really believes in the program.

“The first couple of years, we were lucky to break even,” she admits, adding that she’d fund it out of her own pocket just to keep it alive. “It is a labour of love, and I feel it is very important.”

That labour of love is shared by others too.

“I have a really good crew,” which makes her days run that much smoother.

The morning starts off with a bike inspection and then a riders’ meeting.

“We want total safety,” Joyce explains. “It’s a mentality with us.”

It’s also about making sure the riders have proper protective gear. If they don’t have it on, they don’t ride.

When asked what she would like students to learn about, Joyce answers, “Firstly, I want people to have fun. I want them to ride away with a smile. I want people to be saying, ‘You know what? Wow, I really conquered that corner that I was having trouble with. Now I know how to get through a corner faster.’

“Whatever their goal is, I want them to be a better rider.”

Whether that entails turning their head more, or body positioning or looking through a turn, it’s about learning.

As for females attending, she realizes that it can seem intimidating.

“Because I’m a female, and I ride, I really want other women to know I’m trying to create a non-intimidating environment.”

And because of high demand, she has been able to run all-women’s groups.

Male or female, Nancy states, “Really, at the core of it, it was all about getting as much track time as possible. Getting comfortable with your bike and being a better rider on the road.”

Visit pittmeadowstrackdays.ca for more information

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About Alexandra Straub