Check Out Our Sports Photo Galleries Contact Us
Single mom loves desert racing
by Dan McGee
Nov 20, 2011 | 2773 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Dan McGee - Kari Cashen, with her 4-year-old son Cade, pose with the KTM she races in the MRANN desert series. This year Cashen not only won the V Women amateur championship but a video she created won an international competition.
Tribune/Dan McGee - Kari Cashen, with her 4-year-old son Cade, pose with the KTM she races in the MRANN desert series. This year Cashen not only won the V Women amateur championship but a video she created won an international competition.
slideshow
Tribune/Dan McGee - Kari Cashen, who is a graphic designer and illustrator, creates videos of her races. Here she has two camera, including one pointing backwards, to record her race at Moon Rocks race.
Tribune/Dan McGee - Kari Cashen, who is a graphic designer and illustrator, creates videos of her races. Here she has two camera, including one pointing backwards, to record her race at Moon Rocks race.
slideshow
Tribune/Dan McGee - During the Halloween Moon Rocks race, Kari Cashen heads out of the pits and back onto the course.
Tribune/Dan McGee - During the Halloween Moon Rocks race, Kari Cashen heads out of the pits and back onto the course.
slideshow
Tribune/Dan McGee - Always wanting to help his mom, Kari, and with a little assist from her, Cade Cashen helps clean the KTM motorcycle she races on the desert.
Tribune/Dan McGee - Always wanting to help his mom, Kari, and with a little assist from her, Cade Cashen helps clean the KTM motorcycle she races on the desert.
slideshow
RENO — Now that the racing season has ended its time for competitors to relax and take stock of the year’s efforts. It’s been a good year for Kari Cashen as she achieved one goal in winning a championship, and to add some icing on her cake, won an international contest that came with some great prizes.

Not bad for this single, self-employed mom.

Growing up in Livermore, Calif. her involvements with sports began at age 7 when she took up competitive swimming.

“I’ve been a life-long athlete and I swam all the way through high school,” she said. “During my high school years I swam on two teams so for part of the year I was swimming four-hours a day.”

While Cashen admitted to not being the best swimmer her best events were the distance ones.

Her creative side began to blossom when she attended the private Athenian School for her junior high school days. After that she went to a public high school but missed the creative atmosphere of the private school.

Looking for a college that had the right atmosphere, Cashen moved to Indiana where she attended a small Quaker based college and she switched sports from swimming to playing lacrosse.

While she enjoyed the sciences, Cashen admitted to be academically searching for a field that she could excel at. After Indiana, she returned to California to attend Humboldt State University in Eureka with a major in Marine Biology.

Still playing lacrosse, she competed on a men’s team.

“They had a club team so therefore I could play with the men and was the only woman in the league,” she said.

After one of the team’s home games her life took a new path when a woman spectator sought her out.

“She had been on a Hot Shot crew in the Sequoia National Forest but was unable to make it that season and suggested I might try it,” Cashen said.

Not knowing what to expect, Cashen assumed one had to be in top physical shape and began a rigorous training. That included long hikes, with a backpack full of books, as well as running in a pair of fire boots and strength training.

“So when I got there we did this fitness test to see where everyone was at and I was the third fastest out of all the guys,” she said with a laugh.

Seems her male counterparts would take the off-season off then get back in shape during the first month of fire training.

“That was a great summer, I learned how to work hard, learned how to do things physically I’ve never done before and raise that challenge bar way high for me. And when you get done with a fire crew, you can say to your self when you come to the next difficult thing in life, ‘well this seems pretty hard but can it be as hard as forest fire fighting?’ So I measure all my challenges against the hardest thing I’ve ever done.,” she said.

After two seasons Cashen moved to Truckee and worked with a fire crew in the Tahoe National Forest. And one project led her to becoming a Graphic Designer and Illustrator.

“Our crew was doing really well that season and we kept getting really great assignments, she said. “And we were trying to become a Hot Shot crew.”

To help everyone remember the 10 Standards and 18 Watch Out Situations they needed to memorize, Cashen created a set of cartoon posters.

“I did some watercolor and all the cartoons were of people on my crew and situations we had been in that summer. I gave them to my captain, he loved them and put them up in his office,” she said.

As the crew was up for a promotion they kept being visited by higher ups that really like the posters. As a result, Cashen got a national award for her work and the fire service bought the posters from her.”

“They distributed them to all the fire agencies and that’s when I thought that maybe I should go to school for graphic design as I got such a great response,” she said.”

She enrolled and went through the graphic design program at TMCC, which Cashen said is excellent.

Since she had to keep working it took her three years to complete what is normally a two-year program. Some of her jobs were snow plowing and working on a trail crew.

She graduated from TMCC in 2005 and about that time took up motorcycle riding and desert racing.

“Now I’ve been riding for about seven years,” she said. “I always wanted to do it but there was never an opportunity. And also when I wanted to get into dirt biking there wasn’t a bike I felt comfortable in starting with. I’d have to buy an 80 or something like that.”

Finally the Honda CRF150F bike became available so she bought it and began to ride.

“It’s a great bike if you’re a small woman,” she said. “It’s a 4-Stroke, super mellow and it’s pretty tough so you can’t do anything that can destroy it.”

She soon outgrew the Honda, as it wasn’t suited to her aggressive style of riding. In a MRANN event riders encounter many types of terrain, not to mention deep sand, and they need a bike that can handle all these challenges.

“But it was a great bike to race a whole season on as it trained me to ride a really squirrely bike. I rode it as hard as I could and I think that got me ready for a bigger bike,” she said.

Eventually Cashen got married, had a son in 2008 and moved to Lemmon Valley. After getting her design degree in 2005 she began doing freelance jobs that enabled her to stay at home with young Cade.

She also moved up to a KTM 200XCW, which is the two-stroke machine she races in the Saturday V Women’s class.

“In the desert series a lot of people ride KTMs and race them,” she said. “And it’s like buying a PC or a MAC. A MAC comes with everything, same with the KTM, as you’re going to buy that stuff anyway and it already has it.”

While she admitted it might be a little more expensive, the bike is pretty good for desert racing.

“It was a bike that a kid used for desert racing so it was already set up for that with a bigger tank and since a teenage boy was racing it, it was all tricked out,” she said.

She’s enhanced the bike with a new steering damper as well as a Rekluse clutch that will slip and not stall the motor on hills, technical sections or deep sand. It’s an important asset in desert racing.

The bike also rides on a Ground Control suspension.

“They didn’t just take in my weight and height but listened to how I approach riding,” she said. “I like to ride aggressively and to attack. And in competition I really love that.”

Another big help was having Shawn Hybarger, as her riding coach. A motocross racer, he competed in the Over 50 class at the recent Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals.

“He’s excellent, taught me throttle control and how to go fast in the corners,” she said.

She uses her riding and racing to relieve the stress of raising her son and being self-employed, a field that doesn’t come with a steady paycheck.

“I’m a dirt bike racer and not a mom for that hour and a half when I’m out there every few weeks. That’s huge as I need that focus to keep going,” she said.

But working-at-home mom has its rewards.

“I’m really grateful that I got to stay home with my child and work. It’s a total gift because I got to instill in him values up until this age. He’s going to preschool now that he’s 4-years-old, so I’m looking for a studio job as it is more creative to have people around,” she said.

Cashen competes in the MRANN V Women’s class, which races on Saturday using a short course. After the spring series she was determined to win her class championship.

At the end of October, going into the Moon Rocks event, Cashen was 10 points ahead but gave up her race after accidentally hitting a youngster that swerved in front of her. The Mini Bike class, made up of younger riders, race at the same time as the V Women, Vintage and Bomber bikes that are ridden by adults.

She’s tried, so far without success, to have MRANN have a separate race for the V Women so they won’t conflict with the kids. To her it’s a safety concern.

At the season’s final race Cashen forfeited her club points so she could race and secure the title. Since her main rival chose not to show up, she achieved her goal of a championship and had a good race as well.

“It was so much fun and I ended up having a great battle with two other racers,” she said.

Cashen explained those in the V Women’s class have a lot of camaraderie as they’ll hang out in each other’s trailer, help each other get ready and even give each other a hand during a race. And the same goes for the W Women that race on Sunday’s long course.

However, once on the track they love the bar-to-bar competition.

This next season she plans on doing some Sunday races and will compete in her favorite Saturday races as well.

To keep in shape she rides mountain and road bikes as well as her motorcycle and now has a bit more time as her son usually spends weekends with his father. She’s also doing a lot of balance training, which helps her when racing

Being a visual artist, Cashen moved toward multimedia a while ago and began to make videos of her son and his friends. This evolved to her racing with a helmet cam and making videos she shares with her friends.

“It’s so much fun out there I just wanted to express my gratitude to my sister racers and they just look forward to it.

This year she learned through Facebook that Leo Vince, an exhaust and electronics company, had a contest. This company is one of the biggest in the world and usually markets to high-end street racing bikes like those used in Moto GP.

The contest asked for a one-minute video showing why a person races. Cashen made one, titled “Why Does She Ride” and submitted it.

Turns out she was one of only three women that sent in submissions. And she was surprised to have won this international contest.

“Here I am a 42-year-old woman on a KTM that they don’t even make an exhaust system for. They picked me and I was so flattered,” she said. “They are the nicest people, they’re stoked that I won and liked my story.

Leo Vince is ordering a new pipe for her 2-Stroke bike from FMF as well as sending along some carbon fiber guards for it. They’ve already sent her a new helmet cam and in February are sending her to a special boot camp.

That camp in Texas is run by international racing star Colin Edwards, the “Texas Tornado.” He’s a two-time World Super Bike champion and now races in the top level Moto GP series.

Students learn on a 125cc bike that has a dirt tire on the front and a street tire on the back, which means a lot of sliding through the corners.

“They teach you how to ride fast on hard clay. So you get serious corning and throttle control and do that for a week,” she said.

Her winning didn’t go over very well with several European riders, especially a group fro Portugal and Italy, “they were livid.” And that’s the source of some satisfaction for Cashen,

“It was awesome because Leo Vince could have picked someone that brought their products and would display it all the time,” she said.

Like any athlete she has her favorite and least favorite of her favorite sport.

“My favorite part of racing, and why I started, is that it just makes me a better rider,” she said.

She also gave special thanks to Beth and Justin Legenbauer for their help in not only fixing her bike as well as showing her how to do this work.

Besides the rising entry fees, her least favorite part, and one that makes her sad, is watching more and more areas being restricted.

“We’re not a bunch of idiots out there but people that love the desert,” she said. “They pick up and they don’t leave their cars out there. We’re not those guys, we’re out there, racing and we take care of it.”

And she gave special thanks to those in MRANN.

“I want to thank them for sure, as they’ve been my second family. I couldn’t have done it without them and their huge support. When I bring my son out, there’s always people offering to watch him and entertain him.”

For this woman racer, the desert is where her heart is and she plans to race on it for a long time to come. And in a couple of years her son might join her.

OTHER RACING NEWS

•NASCAR’s championship weekend ended their racing year at the Homestead Miami Speedway. And 5 Nevada drivers competed in two races.

In Friday’s Camping World Truck series event Dusty Davis finished 15th while Brendan Gaughan ended his season with a 20th place finish.

Sunday’s season ending Sprint Cup race wasn’t too good for the Busch brothers as a broken transmission dropped Kurt to 34th while Kyle faded at the end and ended up 23rd. Former Sparks resident T.J. Bell, who didn’t make the cut for Saturday’s Nationwide race, started the Cup race 41st, was up to fourth during pit stops and ended the night 23rd.

•NNKC member Austin Dement spent the weekend competing in the Super Kart Nationals at Las Vegas. He was 5th in the Super Nationals and won the TAG Junior national championship.
Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
Featured Businesses