Roll Call | Get to Know Vanessa Watson of Husqvarna

Vanessa is one of those women whom we admire, look up to, and respect wholeheartedly. She is one of the kindest and most dedicated person you will ever meet on 2 wheels and it shows every single time she throws a leg over her moto. You may have met her at Babes in the Dirt (1-4) or were lucky enough to have gotten to ride with her in between but now we finally have an interview so you can get to know her in depth, find out how she got her taste for the dirt, what it's like to work at Husqvarna Motorcycles, and her advice to any ladies ready to hit the dirt for the first time. 

Photo by WLF Enduro

Photo by WLF Enduro

What is your name?

Vanessa Watson       

What do you do for a living?

Marketing Specialist at Husqvarna Motorcycles

Where are you from?

Californian through and through. Born in the San Bernardino Mountains, but moved to Temecula just before going into middle school in 1990.

Where do you live?

Fallbrook, CA

When were you first introduced to riding dirt? Who introduced you?

I am very fortunate, some say spoiled…. My first dirt experience was shortly after being hired at Husqvarna on a brand new FC 250. We had rented out the track at Cahuilla Creek for a test run of the concept that has evolved into the current demo program we run at Babes in the Dirt. It was less than awesome, I didn’t even get out of the staging area before falling over multiple times in front of everyone... Dirt bikes are really tall! We have learned a lot since then and now we lower bikes for shorter riders. So, I guess you could say that working at Husqvarna and being part of an amazing team was my introduction to dirt, the same way it has been for a lot of other ladies that have come to Babes in the Dirt over the years.

How long have you been riding?

5 years

Why do you like riding dirt?

I love riding dirt for a lot of reasons. I grew up riding bikes and building dirt jumps with friends on the undeveloped land behind our housing tract. I’d get up in the morning, go out on my bike all day and come home in the last moments of dusk. I have always loved being on two wheels. Back then it was freedom and in a way, it still is. It’s a break from cell phones, the internet and responsibilities; it’s just me talking to myself inside my helmet. Lots of cussing.

I love riding dirt because of the skill it requires. When I ride I repeat the things I’ve learned in my head. I have little mantras and when I practice the techniques I see the improvement. Again, so fortunate, I ride with and learn from some pretty legendary people in our industry.

Run us through the list of bikes you have had?

  • 2015 Husqvarna FC 250
  • 2018 Husqvarna FE 250
  • 1994 Harley Davidson Sportster

What do you ride now?

  • 2018 Husqvarna FE 250
  • 1994 Harley Davidson Sportster

If you could have 2 bikes what would your other bike be?

That’s really hard, do I only get to have two!? If we are talking dirt I would love to have a motocross bike again but probably a TC 125, I am also really in love with the TE 150; that is a super fun, light weight bike. Definitely a two-stroke!

If we’re talking street, a VITPILEN 701 and not just because I work for Husqvarna… The design of the 701 is the first modern street bike that I have ever looked at and thought, “Damn that bike is beautiful as is”.

Tell us what you love about the bike you ride now?

Previous to my FE 250 I had a 250 motocross model and at time it was a little too much bike for me. I hadn’t been riding very long and didn’t have the control or skill for the power of that bike and it was intimidating. I hadn’t ridden many of other types of dirt bikes to know that I might like something else better. Since improving my riding abilities and knowing what kind of riding I enjoy the most I would say the FE is the perfect bike for me. This bike is also the bike that comprises the majority of the Husqvarna Demo Fleet that we bring to Babes in the Dirt. It’s great all around and being a dual-sport means that I can ride it off-road or on the street. It’s without limitation, and to me it means freedom and power and that makes me feel like a bad ass!

What kind of terrain do you like riding the best?

Single track and whoops.

photo by WLF Enduro

photo by WLF Enduro

What kind of terrain is a challenge for you but you want to master?

Rock sections and sandy whoops.

What is the most challenging riding experience you have had?

Progression means to me that I’m challenging myself and riding with people more skilled than I am on increasingly technical terrain. I am really into riding off-road, single track stuff right now which is always a challenge but I also enjoy riding at a track and working on cornering.

Where are some of your favorite places to ride?

I just rode at McCain Valley for the first time and that was incredible, such a fun day! That place is a literal playground if you like riding off-road, single track trails. Company wasn’t bad either! That’s definitely one of my favorite parts of riding trails, you’re out there with your friends pushing each other, encouraging each other.

What is on you moto bucket list to ride?

Revelstoke, BC and Moab, Utah. Definitely.

Do you ride with a lot of other female riders? Yes, pretty much always. A lot of the women here ride and I have made so many friends coming to Babes in the Dirt events. The guys on our team are also really supportive and often extend the invite to a track day or a trail ride.

Do you have anyone in the moto world that you look up to? 

Another hard one, I have been lucky enough to ride with Mike Brown quite a bit. That’s a pretty special opportunity and I try and absorb as much as I can from him. He’s such a cool, laid back guy, super helpful and eager to share tips for improvement. Also, Ashley Fiolek, she’s a personal hero of mine. Her story is so inspiring and she has such a fluid riding style, she really looks at home on a bike. A colleague/ friend and I attended her MX school, we learned a lot and was I completely impressed at her ability to instruct.  

What was your experience at Babes in the Dirt/Babes Ride Out events?

I have always attended Babes in the Dirt for work, that being said, it’s the best work I could ask for. Come on, I get to ride dirt bikes with rad women in the California desert! Seeing the event grow over the years and evolve into what it’s is now has been awe inspiring and I couldn’t be more proud of our role or to be part of our team. The inclusive vibe and free flowing kindness and helpfulness is unlike anything I have ever experienced. Babes in the Dirt empowers women and creates friendships to last a lifetime all bonded by the sport of motorcycling. Now if we could just do something about the wind!

What advice do you have for someone thinking about getting into riding dirt?

Well, if you already ride on the street, riding dirt will challenge you to become a better, more technical and reactive rider. I think everyone that rides a motorcycle should do it. Personally, I went through an MSF riding school and got my motorcycle endorsement never having ridden a motorcycle before. I didn’t feel confident enough in my skill set to just get out on the road even after the course; so I spent the first couple years of being licensed riding only on dirt. I established guidelines for myself, “once I can do this, this and this, then I will feel confident enough in my skills to be out on the road.” Take a fundamentals course, ride with people more skilled than you, follow them, watch the lines they take and ride within your limits. Lastly, come to Babes in the Dirt, make new friends to ride with and be empowered by. Learn to load your own bike so you never have to depend on someone else if you want to ride. That alone will build your confidence, you can do it!

How long have you worked at Husqvarna and what do you do there?

I was the first external hire for Husqvarna after the KTM Group acquired the brand in 2013. I started out here as the Office Administrator hoping to move up in a company about to have some major growth. At the time there wasn’t a marketing or media team so I was tasked with a lot of marketing related projects. My then boss gave me some solid advice, “do as much as you can, learn the processes and own the projects you complete. When the time comes to hire for the positions you want, you can say you already do that.” I did just that and I am now in the Marketing Department as a specialist and I love it!

Aside from my daily duties of tracking and recording print and digital press, accounting for departmental expenses, creating press releases and marketing bulletins, I coordinate efforts for demo events such as Babes in the Dirt and WLF Enduro’s Mission II. I also work closely with the events team to translate the intended marketing message and brand aesthetic. Most recently, I was in New York to assist in our North American VITPILEN and SVARTPILEN media launch announcing the arrival of the new street product to the U.S. marking Husqvarna’s exciting return to street motorcycling.

Tell us about what it’s like to work there?

I am around motorcycles and motorcyclists all day long and sometimes riding motorcycles is even part of my job. We have race teams of world class, championship winning athletes and everyone here holds themselves to the highest standard. It’s nothing short of amazing and consumes a huge part of my life. We get up every day, Monday through Friday, and call it a job; and on Saturday and Sunday we do it all over again for fun. 

One of Husqvarna’s primary initiatives is Women’s Motorcycling; it’s also my favorite part of the job. I am so proud to work for a manufacturer that sees the value in marketing to women and increasing the number of women on motorcycles by supporting events like Babes in the Dirt and learn-to-ride programs like Ashley Fiolek’s MX School; which ultimately help lower the barriers-to-entry. I work with a fantastic team and every single one of us looks forward to seeing the excitement, happiness and pride on someone’s face after learning to ride a motorcycle or getting back on a bike after a long time. It’s a great reminder to me that in the midst of all the hard work, motorcycles are fun and at the end of the day, that is what it’s all about!