Pat Jacques was just 4 years old when she first fell in love with motorcycles. Her father was in the Army and the family was stationed in Germany at the time she saw her first motocross race. She remembers watching the riders approach a gully and then seeing a couple motorcyclists take the lead after opting to jump to the other side rather than ride down into it.
“I was hooked,” she said. “I said that’s what I want to do.”
And she did. At 8 years old, Jacques and her brother were riding the mini bike they’d been gifted for Christmas. And by 11, she had her very own motorcycle: a shiny red Honda that her father gave her for earning a place in the honor’s society at school. Once her brother started racing motocross, Jacques was eager to give it a try herself, especially after participating in the makeshift races with the neighbor kids.
After convincing her father to let her ride in a “powder puff” race – one specifically for girls – her skill and competitiveness became clear. She lapped the entire field and won first place in her inaugural race and then went on to win her second and her third race in the same way.
For the next two decades, Jacques went on to race all over the country. From the time she was 11 to her retirement in her 30s, she only raced against women seven times. Her father even painted “It’s a girl” on her chest protector to let all her male competitors know that they were getting passed by a woman.
Looking back, Jacques realizes that much of her self-confidence was wrapped up in her performance. She desperately wanted to win a trophy, to beat the men and to finally feel “good enough.”
Some bad luck during races prevented her from breaking into the record books, but Jacques is grateful for the lessons that she learned when she didn’t win the coveted prizes.
“I’m still very competitive, but my competitiveness is healthy now because my expectation is that regardless of circumstance, I always do the very best I can,” she said. “I know now that I don’t need to win to prove anything. I know my value.”
That realization is one she aims to share with other women. It’s at the core of what she hopes to teach her clients during her ADV riding lessons and the all-women backcountry rides she leads through Colorado.
“I realized that motorcycles were my gift and my way of empowering women,” she said. “That’s really my mission: I want to empower women through off-road motorcycling.”
Jacques led the first-ever all-women Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route tour in 2017 and then again in 2018. This summer, she plans to lead two more week-long trips. For the seven days, 10 women ride about six to eight hours a day on a challenging route through Colorado with “stunningly beautiful” views, Jacques said. This year, riders on the first trip will be joined by Elspeth Beard, a motorcyclist and award-winning architect who, in the early 1980s, became the first British woman to ride a motorcycle around the world.
The “shero” on the second tour this year will be Lisa Taylor, a policewoman who rode for the GS Trophy Female Team competing for the BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy in 2020.
“It’s really a life-changing experience,” she said.
During her lessons and on these tours, Jacques often finds herself merging the roles of motorcycle coach and life coach.
“We stop to take a break and we start talking and things come up,” she said. “We end up discussing having the courage to try, to ask for help, release limiting beliefs, and to celebrate our successes, which translates to all parts of our life.”
In recent years, Jacques has also focused on understanding the ways that women’s bodies are different from men’s and how to find teaching and riding techniques that cater to those differences and give her clients an optimal experience on their bikes.
Some of that learning has come out of necessity because of the ways Jacques has had to learn how to ride smarter and safer because of the toll she’s put on her own body.
Now 61, Jacques has undergone 23 orthopedic surgeries. She’s had three back surgeries, a knee replacement and reconstruction surgeries on both her shoulders, both ankles and both thumbs.
Despite that physical impact it had on her body, Jacques said that riding a motorcycle is almost a necessity for her.
“There’s nothing that feels more natural to me,” she said. “It’s like breathing air. My whole life, I’ve wanted to share what I learn, and I end up teaching it. So teaching this also comes naturally. I help women stand in the truth of their own brilliance.”
This story was told by Mara Klecker