By Debbie Teofilo
Special to the Sun
One would think that being the first woman to win the world’s toughest motorcycle competition would be her life’s crowning achievement. But to Wendy Crockett, former co-owner of Kernville’s The Cyclesmiths, even more precious were the adventures she experienced along the long and winding road to winning that trophy.
Over the near decade that Crockett and her husband, Mike Loomer, lived and worked in the Kern River Valley, they became well-known for their motorcycle shop and their sponsorships of community events. Even people who did not own a motorcycle had heard about the shop and the long distance endurance rallies that Crockett participated in. When they moved in March 2018 to the mecca of motorcycles, Sturgis, South Dakota, many felt the loss of that unique excitement they had brought to the community.
Crockett has brought some of that excitement back to the Kern River Valley which shares a feeling of pride for her history-making win of the 2019 Iron Butt Rally (IBR). Many fans followed her daily progress on The Cyclesmiths’ still active Facebook page. The news arrived there on June 28 with two simple words: “She WON!!!”
After riding 13,000 miles around the U.S. and Canada in just 11 days and planning a route that collected her the most points, Crockett accomplished something no other woman has ever done. Written in the IBR final standings newsletter was this praise for her feat: “Wendy Crockett has become the first woman ever to win the Iron Butt Rally. And the first Mom to ever win the IBR. Huge congratulations to Wendy on a masterfully planned rally with perfect execution!”
“I had no actual expectation of winning and was left at a nearly complete loss for words when the big moment came,” said Crockett during her acceptance speech. “It still seems quite surreal that my exhilarating adventure was enough to bring home the win.”
The 35-year-old Iron Butt Rally is famous worldwide as the competitive endurance motorcycle rally that challenges riders to cover 11,000 miles in 11 days. Rather than a race that focuses on mileage, it is a rally that includes a scavenger hunt for the riders who can earn bonus points by visiting a choice of specific sites along the route. For competitive riders, strategy is the key to winning by planning routes that include the most bonus points within strict time windows. Other riders prefer to focus on fun and plan their routes to include restaurants and tourist sites.
As a very competitive rider, Crockett chose to omit a bonus option that entailed taking a photo of herself at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park because of the time delays caused by traffic congestion and waiting for the geyser to erupt. She instead chose to travel to the far east region of Canada to visit what became her favorite destination for the beautiful green cliffs and waterfalls nearby: the Cap-des-Rosiers lighthouse at the tip of the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec.
“This was a culmination of a really big stream of bonuses I was aiming for on an extremely tight timeline,” explained Crockett. “Getting there meant I’d accomplished what would be a major part of my placing well in the rally standings.”
On June 17 in Greenville, SC, 102 bikes set off on their adventures, and 71 finished back there on June 28 with enough points before time expired to qualify for placement in the final standings. Only about 10 percent were women riders on single bikes.
Contestants did not know the routes or bonus options until the night before the race began when they each had to rush to plan the first four days of their individual routes. At a checkpoint in Kennewick, Washington, all the riders assembled to receive and strategize their options for the remaining 7 days of the rally.
This was Wendy Crockett’s fifth time competing in the IBR, and she’s ridden the same 2005 Yamaha FJR 1300 each year; no other single motorcycle has completed that many IBR rallies. The bike has 250,000 miles on it, but it is very well-cared-for with Crockett’s professional mechanic skills. Support teams and chase trucks are not allowed on the race, so she had service supplies shipped to the checkpoint stop in Washington where she did some basic maintenance while also taking time to carefully plan her next route.
She treats her own body well, too. She learned from prior endurance races to pay close attention to nutrition and physical preparation. This time she did not feel as fatigued during the race, and she was able to avoid the back and leg pain that usually occurs when riding over 1,000 miles per day.
Even after riding 13,000 miles, Crockett did not want the IBR rally to end. She was anxious to ride even farther. What is it that drives her to such extremes in endurance riding?
She answered this question best in a posting on her blog where she states, “This is my zen. This is my release.….I’ve had moments where the sky is so blue, the air so calm and warm, the ride so fluid and so effortless, that the entire world melts away and I’m left with a calm focus that I can only imagine must rival the most ardent practitioners of meditation.”
Local KRV resident Kelly Pankey had the opportunity to ride cross-country on two occasions with Crockett who was traveling to industry conventions to give seminars on endurance riding and motorcycle maintenance. Pankey remarked, “I was not surprised at all that she won the Iron Butt Rally. She is amazing, and her bike is like a pilot’s cockpit for her. Wendy always has a Plan A, B, and C to cover any ‘what-ifs’ along her journeys. She was born for this!”
Crockett would like to compete in the next IBR rally in 2021, but in the meantime she is headed out on a yearlong motorcycle adventure around the South American continent with her husband and 5-year-old daughter. They leave in early October to collect precious travel memories as a family, which is the biggest win of all for Wendy Crockett. Fans can vicariously ride along with them by following them on their new blog: www.thirdwheeladventures.com.
Crockett writes in a blog posting there, “I hope you all have a space in the world where you find your best self; this is mine. On two wheels, exploring, experiencing, looking for any opportunity to avail myself of the majesty of the universe.”