Riding massive dirt bikes across deserts over gruelling multi day events is a pursuit reserved for the toughest of the tough. To win you've got to be made of something special. It's no place for a lady. Right?

Herts TRF member Donna Gray is one half of Torque Racing. Walk in to her shop and she'll greet you with a welcoming smile. Bump into her on a rally and she might not be so friendly. We caught up with her to find out what it takes to beat the boys, and how the navigation skills that get you to the front of the pack are just as valuable back home on Green Roads when you're not in such a rush.

 

TRF:

Hi Donna. How's business? Everything busy down at Torque Racing?

Donna:

Hi, yes all go, it’s been just over a year since we opened the doors at our new location and our feet haven’t touched the floor since. We are just in the middle of preparing for the Hellas Rally in Greece. We have 17 riders to look after and many of their bikes will come through our workshop before we Transport them down to Greece in May.

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Donna loads a serious looking bike into a serious looking truck

TRF:

It sounds full on. What exactly do you do for your customers?

Donna:

In a nutshell, we take care of everything so that our customers can just focus on the riding. Before the event we modify and adapt the bike as necessary, fit GPS, large fuel tank, tyres etc, and make sure it's serviced and ready to go. We arrange transport of all the bikes on a specialist lorry and get all the gear down to Greece. During the rally we are the service and food area for our customers, making sure body and machine are properly looked after. It's great.

TRF:

I don't know how to tiptoe around the 'elephant in the room' here so I'm just going to come out with it. Do you think customers that don't know you would be surprised to find out that the woman serving them behind the counter is not just part of the back up team but actually a very accomplished and experienced trail rider/racer?

Donna:

Yes I think they would be, I don’t think about it myself, kinda just assume people know, but now you ask the question, I guess many don’t know! Hee hee.

I occasionally get embarrassed by friends of mine telling customers in front of me about my riding experience.

On more than a few occasions whilst racing I have overtaken a guy, they have then realised it was a lady and try their utmost to overtake back. By now they are riding slightly out of their comfort zone, which usually ends with them falling off. Chuckle!

TRF:

How would you sum up your riding career? Any career highs or lows?

Donna:

I started riding Enduro bikes a little late in my life back in 1998 when I also met Martin. I seemed to have the knack for it. I think my misspent youth BMXing with my friend and mountain biking helped. I rode the ‘Trail Bike Enduro Club’ events (great club to learn with by the way!) and learn lots there. In 2000 I raced the ‘British Enduro Championships’ back then we had a good 5 Ladies battling for the trophy.

I used to get so nervous before races, as the top three ladies were all so close in speed and ability, just seconds between us. These were two day events so 2 nights of little sleep and not being able to eat in the mornings. Anyway good news as in 2001 I took the title of British Ladies Enduro champ. Yay!

To be fair, my favourite win was actually against the guys in the ‘Dawn till Dusk 12 hour Enduro’ back in 2003. I won the Clubman class overall, or the ‘Iron Man’ class, as it was called back then. Because of winning this they had to change to Marathon class as it still stands today!

In 2012 I tried my first Rally, Tuareg Rally in Morocco on a KTM400EXC Rallies are all about Navigating by Road Book and GPS. I had some top training in the art of riding by Road Book and GPS before I went. So it was just the matter of lasting the 7 Days and learning how to ride large sand dunes at the same time.

I must admit I pooped my panties all the time I was riding in the sand dunes but I learnt quickly thank the lord and came away with 1st place lady and so I’m told a respectable 24th place overall.

I followed this up with a 1st place win on the Transanatolia rally in Turkey on a KTM690. On the last day and last 40km of this event I accidentally cut a bend on a switchback corner and had a head-on with a car. Stiches put in my chin on the side of the road but I still finished. Transpired my wrist was broken too and my leg was twice the size of the other. This taught me not to look for a good place to stop and go a wee wee while negotiating bends!



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It takes more than a few stitches to put Donna out of action

TRF:

It seems that traditionally trail riding, and indeed motorcycling in general, has been a very male dominated past time. However, things seem to be changing and more and more women are taking it up. Would you agree with this?

Donna:

Yes I agree, we see more ladies either riding Motorcross, Enduro’s, Adventure riding or rallies. Not so many trail riding mind. I see in social networks more ladies getting out there riding off road. Seat heights can be a problem but that goes for over half our male customers too! Did I say we offer bike lowering!

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No deserts, no competitors, no rush, just a leisurely British trail ride 

TRF:

Adventure motorcycling has seen a huge boost in popularity over the last 10 years. Trail riding seems to be a way of enjoying this without having to take a year off and travel round the world. Do you get many customers buying bikes and then needing help to find out where to ride?

Donna:

Oh yes, we see this all the time now. New riders with new bikes and no idea where to go. We hand them a TRF leaflet and tell them all about what the TRF does and how becoming a member can help them.

Also what a great bunch we all are! Its handy that we have a TRF lead novice group go out from the shop once a month. I also advise them about GPS choices if they want to go down that line, along with my Novice Tuition.

TRF:

How do you think the TRF can help to make sure that trail riding remains an enjoyable countryside pursuit long into the future?

Donna:

By doing what you all do best, and educating the public, communities and the members. Keeping lanes open and trying to reopen forgotten green roads.

TRF:

Thanks Donna!

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The TRF welcomes everybody. We encourage all trail riders to get out and enjoy the countryside on Green Roads responsibly using our Code of Conduct as a guide.

If you would like to find out more about us why not get in touch with your nearest regional group, or join up up here.