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"Fast Bikes", May 1, 2013

TEN MINUTES WITH... JOLENE VAN VUGT

Jolene is the first woman to fully back-flip a motorcycle, and spends the most of her time thrashing around with Nitro Circus!

WORDS: BENJAMIN ‘BJ’ KUBAS CRONIN

PIC: DC SHOES & GODFREY ENTERTAINMENT

I won’t be in the UK for the world record back flip attempt.

Sorry guys, I would love to be there as I do love England and the UK. I’m not injured or anything, I just have a few things that need taking care of back home, so I’m having to miss this one. But all of our other riders will be there, and they are all awesome! They’re going for the most number of back-flips done in one attempt, and I guess when you read this you will know if they did it or not!

I’ve loved bikes all my life.

I have loved and been in and around bikes all of my life, even as a kid. My dad raced, he was pretty good and he raced motocross. Actually, he’s 67 years old and is still racing most of the time! Me and my brothers used to go to the races when we were kids, and of course my brothers were riding bikes not long after that. I’d be there playing in the dirt, but loving the bikes, so at some point I asked myself why I wasn’t riding too?

I started off with just 80cc.

My first real bike was an 80cc motocross machine, but I wasn’t even big enough to touch the ground. I’d ride around and Dad would try his best to grab me whenever I needed to stop. I just went out and practiced and practiced and practiced until I had got totally used to the bike.

I began racing against adults.

Eventually, my pestering of Dad saw me racing in the women’s MX class. I was the youngest girl in my area by some margin racing MX. I was just eleven years old when I began racing, and the women I was racing against were a lot older than me. There wasn’t a full grid of girls, just a handful in fact, but they were all lined up on their big MX bikes, and then there was little me on my little scrambler!

I crashed a lot. As in, a lot!

I really did crash a lot back then, and spent most of the time finishing dead last. Eventually though I came good, and won the CRMC Ladies Ontario provincial championship. That was in 2003, when I also raced in some Canadian series and came second in two of them. The following year I won both the Ontario Provincial title and was CMX Ladies Canadian National champion, too. 2005 is where it all started with Nitro Circus for me, though.

Travis, meet Jolene...

My brother had transitioned to freestyle MX years ago, and I loved it. I met Travis Pastrana at an event that everyone goes to, while I was racing the Girls Pro Circuit. I was introduced to Travis by a friend, and ended up visiting his place. He was looking for a girl to do a back-flip, and asked me if I wanted to do it. The thing is, I really wasn’t sure if I could, but found myself agreeing! It took me a couple of days to nail it, and he was enjoying seeing my persistence and durability. Those are attributes he enjoys seeing in people, and it snowballed from there, with me being the first female in the group – apart from Travis’ wife.

I get hurt now and then.

You do this, you’re gonna have the odd wipeout and half of the time you’re carrying some injury or other. But there’s different levels of injury. Some just see you out for a day, maybe two, and then the bad ones see you out for months. But any injury that stops you riding is a bad injury – mostly because you don’t get to go out and play anymore! You get upset that you can’t play, and your first question is which doctor will say the earliest date to ride again!

I’m not giving this up without a fight.

I’m not sure how much longer I can do this, but how can I put a time frame on it? I take this day-by-day, but it is my world and I love Nitro Circus and all the guys involved. I think I’ll be doing this kind of thing as long as I possibly can, so we’ll just have to see.

Maybe Hollywood will be next?

It’s possible that’s where I could go when I’m done with all this. I would for sure throw it in the mix, and would love to be a stuntman (woman? – Ed). I could see myself doing that kind of thing in the movies and TV though, why not? I like doing stuff that’s on the edge, that’s what I call living, so I wouldn’t want to totally wave goodbye. And doing the hardcore stuff gets easier. When you just accept what you’re supposed to be doing, it all comes together a lot easier.

I’ll be back in the UK.

We’re touring with Nitro Circus again in the Autumn, so I should be back in the UK at some point soon. You guys must come watch the show! And don’t forget Nitro Circus will also be on the cinema and DVD and stuff, you guys really gotta check it out. Especially the record attempt, with maybe 20 guys back-flipping at the same time, who would want to miss that?!

(Find Nitro Circus 3D Blu-Ray & DVD on Amazon)

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