Kirsten Landman: Trailblazing the path for women riders!

Kirsten Landman: Trailblazing the path for women riders!

The Xross Hard Enduro Rally welcomed Kirsten Landman, South Africa’s top female enduro and rally racer, this year. Kirsten competed in the Expert Class and finished the race, which she considers a quite nice start to the season, given that her previous one had a few bumps along the way. We caught up with Kirsten at the finish of the Xross in the center of Zlatibor and talked about the race, the motivation, and what needs to be done to see more women in this sport. 

Kirsten comes from Cape Town (South Africa) and has been riding dirt bikes since she was eight. When you grow up in a country that hosts famous events such as the Roof of Africa, it seems like a natural turn of events that you get into hard enduro. However, we wanted to know if that was the case with Kirsten. 

- Living in South Africa is what motivated me to start riding because a lot of people ride, and it was also in my family. We are so free to ride, we do not have any restrictions, and we have such beautiful riding spots. I like to seek adventure and the physicality of hard enduro. It is really tough, and you have to be really strong. But it is not only physical, it is mental strength as well. I love it. I love the people I meet when I am traveling the countries I visit. And at the same time, finishing a race like this is a cool achievement - Kirsten says.  


Photo by Xross Hard Enduro Rally

She first gained experience in the Roof of Africa in 2012, and her first international race was Red Bull Romaniasc two years later. Since then, she’s been racing Romaniacs, Sea to Sky, and Roof of Africa, and she generally tries to do as many races as possible. This was her debut at the Xross. 

- I didn’t expect it to be this hot, and I didn’t expect it to be rocky, either. My expectations were that the Xross would be closer to Romaniacs, but it turns out it is closer to South African terrains on Roof of Africa. You have the forest and the trees, but it is so hard on the body. It is really rocky. It is really tough on the long downhills, but the heat played a big part and even got the better of me. But it is a beautiful ride because, in South Africa, we are used to rocks and the heat. I absolutely loved it - Landman said after the race. 

The Serbian Enduro Thriller takes riders on 100-km rides each day, traversing the wild beauty of three Serbian mountains. We wondered what parts of the track were Kirsten’s favorite and what sections gave her headaches. 

- I liked the really technical rides because I am a technical rider, Michael Foster’s rider, so I battled to keep up with the guys in my class; I mean, the pace is really fast. In the moment when it got more technical, I would catch them, but when it opened again, I would lose them, so I needed to get a bit faster. My worst are the downhills because I am afraid of downhills and heights. So when I had some steep downhills, I tended to get a little bit nervous there, but getting through these events made it worth it - says Kirsten. 

Hard enduro is known to be one of the friendliest sports out there because when things get tough, you can count on the help of your fellow riders. We didn’t lack this spirit at the Xross this year. 

- Today (the last day of the event), I got to the Expert and Pro section. The Pro riders needed help, and we helped them. We help each other. It is a common courtesy, and I think that, generally, the guys in Hard Enduro are good guys. If you are stuck, they are never just going to pass you. They will help you through that. We all have the same goal, but we aren’t nasty to each other, which is another reason why I love the sport so much - says Kirsten. 

Photo by Xross Hard Enduro Rally

She finished 40th in the Expert Class but is more than happy to have finished the race, given that last season wasn’t that great for her. Also, she takes the lesson out of every situation, so she knows what aspects of her riding need improvement. 

- I had a hard season last year. I never finished Romaniacs because I dislocated my shoulder, my bike broke at Roof of Africa, and then at Sea to Sky race, I finished in Silver class, but I wanted to finish in Gold. This is a good start to the season to finish the race, and I am happy with that. I feel like I have to go home and do some work to be a little bit faster. Because you always go home and work, and when you start racing on the international level, you get a wake-up call about how high that level of riding is. Now I know what I need to work on ahead of Romaniacs. I have 4 weeks to prepare myself for that - Landman concludes. 

Hard Enduro can also be a mentally exhausting sport. Even when your body says quit, your mind can push you to the finish line. We asked Kirsten how she motivates herself during tough moments in the race. 

- It is on my handlebars. On the left side, it says, “Keep the wheels turning,” and on my right side, it says, “Get to the finish.” So when I am tired, I see this, and all I have to do is keep my wheels turning and get to the finish line - she says. 

Women in hard enduro and motorsports in general are not a novelty. They’ve been riding for quite some time and achieving amazing results. However, all players in this game of professional sport need to play their part.

- It is not hard to find sponsors when you are a girl, but getting the needed exposure is problematic. I think that TV does not provide coverage of women's races or feature women in the races. They should promote them more because if they promote them more, the sponsors will come, which will only grow the sport. Little girls who watch TV, YouTube, or Instagram and see women who ride will be like: Oh look, this girl rides hard enduro. That will get them interested in the sport, which is how you grow it. Show the women who are competing. Show them racing. Do not just feature the PRO’s. At the end of the day, people want to see people who are relatable. No one can relate to Wade Young, Teodor Kabakchiev, or any other top rider, but they want to relate to someone who is tired but keeps trying. Media companies have to show riders in other categories - bronze, amateur, hobby- and tell their stories because they are relatable - says Kirsten. 

Photo by Xross Hard Enduro Rally

We hear you, Kirsten, and we are with you on that one. At the end of this chat, this trailblazer and the voice of women in motorsports also has to say: 

“I would like to invite all girls out there considering riding hard enduro to come and race with us. You will never know what you are capable of if you never try. It doesn’t matter the class, just come and ride. I mean, I was a beginner once and rode in Hobby, and you are just trying to be better and progress further.”

Thank you, Kirsten. Keep on riding! The Xross team wishes you the best of luck in the upcoming races and looks forward to seeing you next year on Zlatibor.