By Ken Lee
For the vast majority of street riders, a day at the track is something that’s pretty rare and decidedly exotic. For Gigi Pridmore, being at the track is just another day at the office. That’s because she’s been the go-to do-it-all person at Reg Pridmore’s CLASS Motorcycle School for 16 years, and among her many duties she also includes track instruction. So what’s it like for a woman instructor working in a predominantly male-populated track school environment? That’s what we set out to discover in a very entertaining interview.
Question: How long have you been teaching people to ride motorcycles?
Gigi Pridmore: Officially, I’ve been working at CLASS Motorcycle Schools since 1995. Unofficially, I’ve been helping people with their riding skills ever since I started riding, around 1996. Being around Reg and the school, I was in an environment where it was so much of what we talked about. I was sort of on the ‘fast track’ to knowledge about riding, which by no means replaces experience, but at least there was a level at which I could help.
Q: How did you start teaching at CLASS?
GP: I was attending the CLASS schools, not as a rider, but as a friend of Reg, and I sort of jumped in and started helping out with administrative stuff at the track. Before long I was learning to ride and it naturally led to sharing my experience with riders who maybe were a little behind me on the learning curve. I also rode on the back with Reg at the track often - I like to say my first 500 laps were on the back. I had a pretty flawless picture of what Reg meant by smoothness and control. It was a great visual to begin my understanding. So soon I was also riding at the schools and I saw people that I could help, so I did—and I guess you call that teaching.
Q: How do you think your perspective as a female instructor differs from the perspective of the male instructors?
GP: I think it helps to broaden the overall perspective of the school. It may sound a little corny, but I think I bring a woman’s touch to the school, and that’s a good thing. Our guys are really good at making all riders feel comfortable but for some, perhaps as a woman I may be a little softer and more encouraging, which is good for many students. I also think that just by merit of my being on the track and demonstrating techniques, some students think, “If she can do it, I can too.” And that helps them make progress. I know I was that way when I started and Jason’s wife Susie was riding and teaching. She helped me a lot in the early days of my riding.
Q: How does your participation help the female students in particular at CLASS?
GP: I think that my being a woman helps open doors to communication with other women. Female riders in general tend to be a bit more conservative and open. When I interact with them I think they’re more apt to admit they’re scared or nervous about being on the track or trying a new technique, and that level of open communication only helps the instruction and learning process.
Q: What kinds of reactions do you get from students in general when they see they have a female instructor?
GP: Oftentimes, I notice a definite reaction from male riders. Sometimes I’ll go past a rider, and he’ll notice that it’s me, and he gets all crazy trying to pass me back. Of course, it’s hard to learn anything under those conditions. Sometimes a guy will come up behind me, and he’ll trail me to watch and learn. Because I’m slower than most of the male instructors, sometimes a student riding at my pace has more time to think and learn about various techniques. In the end, people are just people; some people refuse to be taught by a woman at a track school, while some people think it’s the best. Sometimes I don’t really know what people are thinking, as they have different reactions. But as I show them what I can do by riding, I think I usually earn my creds by the end of the day. Sometimes I have seen that even if I’m not as fast as a student on the track, I can still see what needs a rider might have and I can help teach that person. A coach in any other sport—basketball for example—need not be able to dunk the ball, yet can still be an effective coach. If I sense that a student can’t accept my input because I’m a woman, sometimes I just mention what I’ve seen to another instructor and let him carry that message, guy to guy. In the end, we all just want to help people become better riders. That’s what counts.
Q: What would you say to a woman rider who is thinking about attending a riding school but feels apprehensive?
GP: I’d tell her it’s the safest place to learn how to really control your motorcycle. Many people equate the track environment with competition, but when you sign up for our school we tell people you need to try to get rid of that competitive edge. When you arrive at the track you may have a few butterflies in your stomach, but once you get over that - and they do go way, usually by 11:00 am :) --you’ll have more fun than you ever imagined. Coming to CLASS, it’s not about racing, it’s about developing control. And once you take these newfound riding techniques back to the street, you’ll jump for joy! Sort of a generality but sometimes I think women tend to be more open to teaching and learning and listening, and that attitude ends up with them gaining a new—and better—level of motorcycle control.
The Ladies at VIR 2014 with Reg & Gigi and Gery - umbrella boy.
Photos: Top: Dito Milian - Got Blue Milk; Riding: E-tech Photo; Ladies: Ted Holman