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ADV PreppingPint-Sized Rider Tames Big-Bore ADV Bikes Nearly 5X Her Size

Pint-Sized Rider Tames Big-Bore ADV Bikes Nearly 5X Her Size

 Powerhouse Jocelin Snow on a big GS Is living proof size doesn't matter.

Published on 10.30.2019

Watching Jocelin Snow command a 550+ pound adventure bike is a bit uncomfortable, like seeing Cirque du Soleil for the first time, or watching people skydive in squirrel suits. It just doesn’t seem possible. You find yourself holding your breath as the petite rider, just 5-foot-1 and 118 pounds, pirouettes her big bore GS Adventure around a skills course. But soon enough you realize she’s in absolute control as she nails every obstacle. All that’s left to do is enjoy the show.  

Seeing Jocelin power slide to and fro you’d think she was born atop a bike, and she pretty much was, buying her first motorcycle against her parents wishes, a Kawasaki KDX80, with paper route money when she was just 12. “I paid a kid at school $10 a week all year until I had the bike paid for,” she says. When she’d finally made the last payment she took the school bus to his house where he “kind of” told her how to ride it. And off she went. “That’s where it all started,” she says. “I haven’t rolled off the throttle since.”
Rider Jocelin Snow Taming the Big BMW R1250GS Adventure
Photo by Chris Scott

Jocelin, who competed in the 2018 BMW-sponsored GS Trophy in Mongolia as a member of one of two International Female Teams says she’s not sure where her passion for two-wheels originated. No one in her family rode motorcycles, nor did any close friends. Aside from a vague memory of staring into the pages of a dirt bike magazine as a very young girl, there was nothing to predict riding motorcycles would become her super power. 

The Lead Up

Long before Jocelin was coaxing full-sized ADV bikes along the spines of logs and up and over teeter-totters as if it were actual child’s play, she was mastering other sorts of two-wheeled magic, including an impressive stint as the only (at the time) professional female rider on the AMA 250GP circuit.

WATCH: Not even the big GSA is too much for Jocelin Snow.

Eventually the cost of road racing outweighed her rock star status in the sport. Not only was it all-consuming, the physical toll was exacting. After a couple nasty crashes at Daytona and Willow Springs, the last of which left her in a wheelchair for months, Jocelin decided to come at motorcycling from a different angle. “I found a new passion in teaching kids to ride dirt bikes,” she says, “so I started a school.” The school took off and before long Jocelin was teaching people of all ages.

Jocelin Snow next to the big-bore BMW GS Adventure

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Many years later the racing bug caught up to her again. “This time it was anything with two wheels and a motor,” she says. “I competed in flat track, TT, motocross, hare scrambles, drag racing and supermoto…but this time I was riding for fun and I didn’t let it consume my life.” 

Adventure Ready

In the early 2010s Jocelin began noticing adventure bikes at trade shows and rallies but was discouraged by their height and weight. “I remember sitting on a BMW R1200GS at an IMS show and struggling just to get it upright,” she says. “After that experience I filed the idea away.” Then one day she came across the KTM 990 SMT (supermoto touring), which was a little lower than the GS models thanks to 17-inch wheels front and rear. Jocelin went for it, adding panniers and knobbies. “Of course no one was making an aggressive tire for the bike’s 17-inch front, so I created a bracket to lift the front fender for more clearance, mounted a rear knobby backwards and called it a day.”  

Jocelin Snow getting ready to ride the BMW R1250GS Adventure
Photo by Jacob Junn

After a couple years playing with the Supermoto she found herself yearning for more functionality, yet didn’t feel confident enough to move up to a taller bike. “Then it happened,” she says of the revelation in 2017 that changed everything. “I was scrolling through social media and came across a video of a then six-year-old boy, Tommy Morrissey, who only had one arm but was golfing at a pro level. It was amazing to me,” she says. After clicking on a few more related videos she found another story about a woman, also with one arm, who was playing violin in the symphony.

Jocelin Snow riding obstacle course on the big bore BMW GS

“That night I couldn’t sleep,” she remembers. “I couldn’t stop thinking about how these two superstars had overcome their handicaps to become magnificent at something they enjoyed. The next morning I went to the BMW dealership and purchased an R1200GS Adventure.”

Inspiration had lit a new fire for Jocelin, but we all know greatness can only be achieved by hard work.

Taming the Beast

After just a few months of practicing on the GSA Jocelin decided she was ready for a real adventure and began planning a 30-day trip to Alaska using as many dirt roads as possible. To advance her skills ahead of the trip she signed up for Rawhyde’s Next Step course. She credits this training for the wonderful experience she had in Alaska, and by the time she returned 12,000 miles later she was irrevocably hooked on adventure riding. 

Photo by Chris Scott

Then a friend suggested she try out for the GS Trophy, pointing out that women were only recently invited to qualify. “I had never heard of it,” she says of the event that would soon present the greatest challenge of her riding career. For those who don’t know, BMW’s GS Trophy is a pretty cool event. In a nutshell, GS owners from around the world compete in skills challenges at qualifying events within their own countries. The top three riders from these events go on to represent their nations during a week-long competitive adventure held every other year in a new host country.

It was the part about women rising up in the sport of adventure riding to compete head-to-head against men that had her hooked. “I wanted to show up and try, even if I made a fool out of myself.” With only two months to prepare for the qualifier, she went to work building a challenge course on her property in Northern California and started practicing every day after work and all day on weekends. “Some days were a real struggle,” she says. “I was frustrated and tired, training well into the night, riding with only a headlight. At first, I tipped my bike over at least 20-30 times a day, but eventually my skills improved and the tip-overs diminished, while my confidence grew.”

Jocelin chasing glory at the GS Trophy competition. | Photo by Alfonse Palaima

It’s all in the books now, how Jocelin nailed the U.S. qualifier and then competed against the best female GS riders from around the world at another qualifying event in South Africa for a spot on one of two international female teams. Those teams, along with 16 men’s teams from around the world went on to compete in last year’s 8-day GS Trophy in Mongolia, an event Jocelin describes as epic. “The local people would follow us on their little motorcycles, cheering us on. Children would run out from their schools to greet us, laughing and passing around high-fives. The experience changed my life, my attitude, my belief in humanity, the way I view everything.”

So, Does Size Really Matter?

“If we are talking about chocolate chip cookies, then yes, size matters” says Jocelin. But when it comes to adventure bikes she says what really counts is commitment. “Gaining the confidence necessary to properly handle a 550-pound GS did not come easily,” she says. “At first my bike spent more time horizontal then it did upright, and often I had to have out-loud conversations with myself to get up, shake it off and keep going.”

Jocelin will have the opportunity to host the upcoming GS Trophy competition in Mongolia along with BMW brand ambassador Shawn Thomas. | Photo by Jacob Junn

She explains how shorter riders have to develop better balance because they can’t easily dab a foot to steady the bike. As a result, shorter riders develop finesse because they stand on the pegs more, controlling the bike with balance, as opposed taller riders who default to their outriggers in tough situations, dabbing their feet or even paddling the bike in technical sections. 

Jocelin tells riders who want to master a larger adventure bike that they need to remember the phrase “Take a CAB” because it represents the three things necessary to succeed: Confidence, Attitude and Balance. “These three tools make a good adventure rider,” she says, no matter their size. 

Mounting a Big Bore Adventure Bike is second nature for Jocelin after many years learning how to perfect her balance. | Photo by Alfonse Palaima

She also says seat time and continual practice is essential, especially as you gain more expertise. That’s because some skills are “motoric,” or mechanical, such as, yup, pedaling a bicycle, while other skills, like flying a plane (or commanding an adventure bike) are cognitive processes involving variation and sequencing. You literally lose those skills if you don’t use them often. 
 

The Takeaway

Today Jocelin has created an even bigger (105 acres!), and more challenging skills course on a new property in California. She laughs about how dialing in the garage of her new place, not the house, was her priority and in that garage you’ll find plenty of bikes. “The lineup changes quite often,” she says, “but this is the latest inventory: 2016 R1200 GSA, 2018 R1200 GS Rallye, 2019 R1250 GSA, 2019 G310 GS, KTM 200XC, KTM 525 EXC, KTM 500 EXC, 1985 Yamaha 80, Yamaha RZ350, 1971 Honda Trail 70, Honda XR75, Honda Z50, Honda 450 and a Beta trials bike.” 

Lucky girl, you say? Definitely lucky to have the drive and determination required to create and run several successful businesses on her own. Also fortunate to be so badass that brands like Clearwater Lights, Sena, MotoPockets, Touratech, BDR, Weiser Technikr, Ram Mounts, KLIM want her to represent them. Jocelin’s latest hard-won chance-of-a-lifetime will be hosting the 2020 GS Trophy in New Zealand alongside BMW Brand Ambassador, Shawn Thomas. 

When we asked Jocelin why she favors the big GS over more lightweight adventure bikes from BMW or other brands she says that for her, the GSA is the one bike that truly does it all. “I can drag a knee on a twisty highway, explore dirt roads and singletrack, trials ride it over rocks and logs and then load it up with camping gear and ride comfortably on a month-long trip.” 

Photo by Drew Martin

After hearing Jocelin’s story, it’s hard to sit on your hands and let a single moment pass you by. It’s also hard to make the argument that you need to be able to touch both feet to the ground to be comfortable on an adventure bike. Because as it turns out, you can ride whatever bike you’re dreaming about no matter your size, you just have to believe in yourself and put in the hard work.

“Just remember the golfer and violinist,” says Jocelin, “and you’ll never make excuses again for why you can’t do something.” And if that’s not enough, feel free to return to this page and behold the fruits of Jocelin Snow’s labor anytime you need a little size-doesn’t-matter refresher. 

Follow Jocelin and her adventures on her Instagram and Facebook page.

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

Author: Jamie Elvidge
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7 thoughts on “Pint-Sized Rider Tames Big-Bore ADV Bikes Nearly 5X Her Size

  1. I seriously think that the big manufactures need to start realizing that women bring much to the sport and love riding as much as the guys… Time to start really looking at what they can do to bring more into the sport and support them while they learn and later when they are moving up. This women has a great story and it says a lot about determination and zeal for life… Thanks for the article Jamie.

  2. I don’t think any instructors at the BMW Rider course was over 5’9. I’d guess 5’6/7 and the female instructors were 5’4″ they all had motocross/dirt experience and could do everything they taught.

    I had come over from HD’s many years ago. There’s a false sense of security coming from low suspension and forward controls, which are completely useless for controlling a bike other than riding straight on super slab. This riding position “<" is not normal.

    In her case, she'd shame 75% of riders out there. She's obviously got the mount/dismount nailed. That's an often overlooked part of most rider training and a critical part. Most courses offer small bikes that most people can flatfoot, mounting is an afterthought.

  3. I never thought that a smaller person couldn’t ride a big bike well. I don’t think it makes much difference as long as one has confidence and works on their skills. I don’t want to work that hard so smaller/lighter = easier but it still does not negate the need for practice to be an adept rider.

  4. Awesome article. Good job! I’m a BK amputee and it’s my shifter foot that’s missing. I’ve done some mods to make it safer for me to ride my 1200 GSA. I’m in the process of attempting to ride to SA and back, but both the guys that were going to go have bailed. I’m at Lake Tahoe working my way south. Do you want to go? Let me know…
    .