News Riding

All-Women Off-Road Racing Club Aims to Support Female Racers

Kelly Gouldthread’s one-of-a-kind club focuses on female riders in Northern California

November 17, 2021

By Keaton Maisano

Kelly Gouldthread did not have a female motorcyclist to look up to growing up. However, thanks to her current efforts, her daughters won’t face that same reality.

Hoping to support female riders, Gouldthread established the Women’s Dirt Bike Racing Association in 2021. Chartered by the AMA, it is currently the only chartered all-women off-road racing club in the United States.

“I was actually really surprised that there wasn’t another women’s competition club, and that shows me that there is such a huge need for that,” Gouldthread said. “And now with the club, everybody has a group to support each other, people to ride with and connect with.”

Women’s Dirt Bike Racing Association
Kelly Gouldthread, Marci Hannum, Millie Bespaly and Selena Larson doing trail maintenance for the NorCal Motorcycle Club for their upcoming race at Willseyville.

Learning to ride at 3 years old, Gouldthread’s exposure to motorcycling came through trail riding and watching her father, AMA Congressman Ed Santin, compete in races. With motorsports etched into her family’s lifestyle, Gouldthread said she grew up watching AMA Supercross and National events on TV.

While televised events provided her with great exposure to and a love for motorcycling, Gouldthread said the lack of female professional riders on TV made it hard for her to have any female role models in the space.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t have anybody to really look up to when I was a kid, but now I feel like there are a lot more for young girls growing up,” Gouldthread said.

Contributing to the change is Gouldthread herself, who is involved with her local racing district in Northern California. She worked with Katie Pond, Women’s Cross Country Steward for District 36, to help open more classes and to make women’s racing more beginner friendly.

Pond’s efforts resulted in full gates of women at races, and Gouldthread was inspired to act on the dream she has had for years that could offer additional support for female riders.

“I started the club, and then I reached out, obviously, to other people that I work with, other people that are on our board for our local racing district, and we’ve kind of reached out to other ladies they know, and so that’s how it started,” Gouldthread recalled.

Gouldthread noted the local support for the creation of the group has been on full display, with the local racing district giving her and a few members of the club a standing ovation at a recent sanctioning meeting.

The group, now 20-members strong, is in its infancy and elected its board members Oct. 13 — a process that will occur every two years. Although the lone catalyst for the club’s creation, Gouldthread said she does not want to oversee everything and emphasized her commitment to make every member feel involved.

“My biggest thing with this is I want everybody to be respected, respect each other and everybody to feel like they have an equal part in it,” Gouldthread said.

Women’s Dirt Bike Racing Association
Selena Larson racing in the District 36 GP race — Riot at the Riverbed in Marysville, Calif.

The club will keep points for races they do, with an opportunity to gain additional points through volunteering at local races. Gouldthread said volunteer opportunities are meant to get women more involved in racing and leadership roles.

The group will also hold an annual awards banquet.

Although the idea is to keep the group small and close-knit, Gouldthread said there will be events to reach out and involve nonmembers.

Additionally, the group aims to make things easier for female racers by constructing a step-by-step tip sheet for those in the local riding district. With information on registering for races and obtaining AMA and district cards, the club is establishing itself as a resource to make things easier for new female racers.

“It’s kind of an overwhelming process if you’re new, so we walk people through that so they feel less intimidated,” Gouldthread said. “We don’t want them to feel overwhelmed. We want them to feel like it’s something they can do.”

In the same vein as helping new riders, the group also has five junior members — which include Gouldthread’s daughters, ages 10 and 14.

“It’s been really fun for them, because they’ve already made new friends that they can ride with,” Gouldthread said.

Although a new club, the Women’s Dirt Bike Racing Association is prepared to make an impact early in its existence. The group is set to promote the GP race at Prairie City SVRA in September 2022, marking the first time a race in District 36 will be run by a women’s motorcycle club.

Reflecting on the positive experiences and friendships she has gained through the club, Gouldthread, who was motivated to begin racing by a friend, reflected on the importance of more clubs like the Women’s Dirt Bike Racing Association popping up throughout the country.

“I would hope that somewhere in the United States there are other ladies thinking they want to do the same thing even if it seems overwhelming. Just take it one step at a time and go for it because if nobody takes the initiative, our sport’s never going to grow,” Gouldthread said.

Women’s Dirt Bike Racing Association
Selena Larson racing in the District 36 Hare Scramble — Lilliputian in Rancho Cordova, Calif.