Meet Becca Sheets: GNCC Racer and Member of the 2018 ISDE Women's Trophy Team
Becca Sheets, 25, Ohio - @bsheets551
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED RIDING DIRT BIKES?
I’ve been around dirt bikes since I came out of the womb! My dad always raced for fun with his buddies, so I spent a lot of time at the track growing up. It wasn’t until I was 6, turning 7 that I asked my dad for a dirt bike for my birthday.
On my 7th birthday, my dad picked me up from school with a PW50 on the trailer and a new (used) pair of boots in the truck and we went riding!
WHAT BIKES HAVE YOU RIDDEN AND HOW DID YOU MAKE PROGRESS?
I learned to ride on that PW50. I ran in to ditches and fences but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. I kept riding it until I was 9!!
By that age, most kids had the oil injected KTM50s, or 50JR or SR bikes; they don’t stay on the PWs for very long, but I had ridden a KTM50SR that I didn’t care for, so then I went straight from the PW50 to a KX60.
The ole KX60 was what I learned to shift and use the clutch on. It was a raw powered bike and It was pretty hard to ride from what I remember. I rode that bike for a year then moved to an RM65. Once I learned to shift and use the clutch on the 60, riding the RM65 was a breeze!
By the time I was on 65’s, racing had become a lot more serious. We put a lot of time into learning proper cornering techniques, jumping, and just getting faster in general. I did another two years on the RM65, then two years on an RM-85 and a year on a KTM105.
My 85s and 105s were great bikes. I started to get a lot faster once I was on 80s. Being on a little bit bigger of a bike gave me more confidence to jump bigger jumps!
Then I switched to a YZ125 (4 or 5 different bikes within 6 years) I rode 125’s for what seemed like forever. I also had the most injuries I had ever gotten in my entire childhood of racing once I was on big bikes. So, I would say the transition was a challenge for me. I eventually got the hang of it. I really liked the 125’s and I put a lot of time and effort into improving my riding skills in those years.
WHAT CAME NEXT?
Next came my YZ250FX which I rode for 2 years. This was my first 4 stroke bike! I waited a long time to switch to four strokes because I liked the light weight two stroke bikes in the woods.
Learning to ride a four stroke was so different. The bike was heavier, there was engine brake, and well it was just totally different. I would say it took me an entire year of racing before I really got the hang of it. This bike ultimately lead me to win my first national title so I’m quite partial to it.
Next, came my KTM250XC-F (1 year). Switching from a Yamaha to a KTM was definitely one of the hardest challenges I’ve faced so far in my racing career. I had ridden only Yamaha for the past seven years. The KTM handled very differently, the suspension was different, just everything about the bike. My team and I put a lot of time and effort into getting myself comfortable on the bike last year and it paid off.
My current bike is a KTM250SX-F. This is my second year riding KTM’s and I truly love these dirt bikes. I am very grateful to receive the support that I do from KTM.
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR EARLIEST YEARS RACING?
My earliest years of racing started out with motocross. We raced locally for a few years. And when I say locally, I mean we traveled to Indiana, KY, and TN and all over the state of Ohio. My dad always encouraged me to go faster, jump bigger jumps, beat more people, and to just become a better rider always. You know, the things dads do.
In 2004 at the age of 12, Dad told me we were going to try and qualify for Loretta Lynn’s motocross. I was able to qualify although my results weren’t the best. I was just a kid seeing motocross at an amateur national level for the first time.
From that year forward it became my personal goal to win an amateur national title which I think instilled that drive inside me to become the best rider I could be.
My dad spent so much time and money to make sure I could practice at least once a week and race every weekend we were able to. Our focus was to get to Loretta’s each year to fight for a better finish and eventually a title.
2007 was my last year I was able to race the Girls 9-13 65cc-105cc class at Loretta Lynn’s. I was so confident I was going to win that year. Kiara Fontanesi (a now 5x World Champ in Europe) showed up that year for her first time and got the win. I came in second and never won an amateur national title.
2008 was my first year on big bikes. I got a brand new YZ125 and I was ready to go race with the big girls. Unfortunately, I broke my back early in the qualifying season which resulted in a spinal fusion that took me out for the year.
In 2009 I was back in action and ready to give it another go. I practiced a lot and tried pretty hard to improve my bike skills. I made it to Loretta’s and finished in the top 10 in the Women’s 14+ class.
2010 had no plans for me to race a dirt bike. I suffered two major injuries six months apart and I didn’t accomplish much. Motocross is a grueling sport and I had done it for my entire childhood. My dreams of becoming a professional motocross racer seemed hopeless. At that point I was pretty tired of getting hurt and I just wanted to ride for fun.
Until I discovered GNCC racing…..HAHA
The first GNCC I raced was in 2011. I had spent the previous years on and off the bike with injuries from motocross. So the four GNCC’s I raced in 2011 were just supposed to be for fun but it quickly became something I took very seriously which lead me to race the full series in 2012.
As a lower middle class family with my parents raising 3 kids in the house, things were hectic. I played other sports growing up too like soccer, softball, and basketball; as did my sisters. I literally owe it all to my dad and mom for all they have done for me. Racing dirt bikes has made me the person I am today and I wouldn’t change a thing.
FOR RIDERS WHO HAVEN’T YET VENTURED INTO THE RACING, BUT ARE DYING TO GIVE IT A TRY, WHAT INSIGHT CAN YOU OFFER?
I would recommend doing a riding clinic or take lessons from a better rider that can teach you basic techniques. This way you have a bit more confidence on the bike going into a race setting.
I have always benefitted from riding schools even if I am the one teaching! Practice makes “permanent”. If your form and techniques aren’t correct, it’s good to put yourself in check every once in a while, so you can continue to improve.
There are so many awesome local harescramble series and motocross series that cater to all levels of riders. Ask around and find out which tracks are easier vs the ones that may be a little more technical and give it a try!
DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE RACES TO DO EACH YEAR?
My favorite GNCC is the Ironman in Indiana. There is always such a huge turnout there and racing against 900 other bikes on an 11 mile loop makes it pretty wild. I love the energy from the crowds on the hill climbs, the smell of fall, and the cold creek crossings.
Everybody wears pink to show their support and help raise money for breast cancer. It’s just a good vibe there. This year will be my 8th year in a row racing that race.
THIS YEAR YOU SUFFERED A BAD INJURY, CAN YOU CATCH OUR READERS UP ON WHAT HAPPENED?
At the X-Factor GNCC in Indiana I crashed at a pretty high speed in a field section. I came out of it with a severe concussion and broken jaw on both sides. I had surgery so they could plate bones and wire my jaw shut. I spent the night in the hospital, went home, drank smoothies, and ate baby food for 6 weeks.
At first I thought it was one of the easiest injuries I’ve ever had to deal with, because I was still able to walk around freely and do my day to day activities. I just couldn’t train as hard or ride.
It actually ended up being a very mentally challenging injury to overcome. But as we all know; racing is dangerous and things happen. I just tried to keep it positive and know that I would come out of it as a stronger person and rider. I consider myself lucky that it wasn’t worse!
YOU WERE PART OF THE WOMEN’S ISDE TEAM IN 2017, WHAT WAS THAT EXPERIENCE LIKE?
It was a really cool experience. First of all, it was such an honor to be selected to represent the USA. It was very challenging, one of the hardest things I’ve ever accomplished. Getting to ride your dirt bike for 8 hours a day through farms, countryside, backyards, woods, and main roads was definitely the coolest part about it. If an average joe went to tour the country of France, they probably wouldn’t have seen it in the same way that we did. It was very surreal and something I will remember forever.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR BIGGEST POINTS OF FOCUS AS YOU APPROACH THIS YEAR’S ISDE?
Endurance racing is my strong suit so the hardest thing about ISDE for me is flipping the switch from a steady speed on the technical transfers to a full sprint level speed at the special tests throughout the day.
I’ve been training really hard this year and with the help of my awesome boyfriend Tyler; we’ve been putting a lot of work into my initial speed on the track, trying to push the limits. It’s made me a lot faster. Racing the Full Gas Sprint Enduros has helped me a lot also. It’s set up similar to ISDE but without the transfer trails.
We are still working hard! My USA teammates, Brandy Richards and Tarah Geiger are both really strong riders as well. I can’t wait to see all of our hard work pay off in Chile.
WHAT TYPE OF TRAINING DO YOU DO (ON OR OFF THE BIKE) TO STAY IN TOP RACING SHAPE?
I focus a lot on my nutrition because I believe it’s the most important. You have to have good energy to do the things that make you stronger and keep you in shape.
Cycling, mountain biking, running and strength training are things I work into my days outside of riding. I almost enjoy training as much as I do riding my dirt bike! I kind of have to find joy in it and mix it up or it can become very humdrum. It’s basically always a competition with my own self.
HOW HAVE YOUR SUPPORTERS HELPED YOU?
I’ve had so many great people and companies as sponsors over the years. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of those people. People have sacrificed time and money to help me improve as a racer on and off the bike.
My biggest supporters have always been my parents. My boyfriend Tyler is such a great sport. He helps me be a better person and understands my love for racing just the same as his. My best man friend Johnny has given and taught me so much over the past few years of my racing career.
I can’t thank them enough. Racing a dirt bike may not be a team sport but you definitely can’t do it alone!
Raffle proceeds from Over And Out’s first event in 2018 were donated to help support the US Women’s Trophy Team in the FIM International Six Days Enduro (ISDE).
Click here to read more about the team and the donation in an interview with team manager, Antti Kallonen of KTM North America.