Shelina Moreda's goal is simple.
"I wanna be Danica Patrick on two wheels," the 27-year-old said. "And I'm making my way there!"
Moreda is one of three women in the Pro American Motorcycle Association SuperSport circuit, cycling's equivalent of NASCAR. She races a Yamaha R6, an electric bike and a Harley-Davidson. Training for all three keeps her busy.
"The Harley is a big, burly bike that you have to throw around," explained Moreda, who is 5-foot-7 and 125 pounds. "The electric bike is smaller and sleeker; it's about keeping up momentum. But on both you use a lot of core strength. So I'll do flat track because it gets your whole body in tune and in shape and your muscles ready. I'll spice it up with cross-fit, ride road bikes and go mountain biking."
Moreda started racing professionally a little more than three years ago and has already made history. She was the first woman to race an electric bike at the international level, the first woman to race in the AMA Vance & Hines XR1200 series, and last August, she became the first woman to race a motorcycle at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. She finished 38th in wet conditions at BigM Weekend in Tooele, Utah, last weekend. After being hit by another rider, she came close to crashing but fought back nearly 10 positions.
Moreda started by riding four-wheelers on her parents' dairy farm, learning out of necessity. Pushing cattle didn't satisfy Moreda's need for speed, so she got her first dirt bike at 12 and a Kawasaki street bike at 18.
The transition from riding up and down the California coast with her buddies to racing on a track has been fairly seamless.
"I always watched the races on TV and at our local track," Moreda said. "I just wanted to be out there racing with those guys. Eventually, it was like, 'All right, let's see if I can really do this.'"
Moreda had a pretty good source of inspiration in her father, Don Jr., who raced cars and dirt bikes and still races bikes on the District 36 circuit. But when she approached him about racing professionally, he resisted.
"He was not thrilled," Moreda said. "My mom's comment was, 'Can't you just do ballet' and my dad was nervous because I'm his little girl. Besides just the danger is the money. It's really expensive to get into racing and they wanted me to be putting my money into something more conventional. But now that they see I'm doing something with it, they're super supportive."
Moreda has provided her parents with plenty of scares in three years. She has broken her collarbone, knocked herself out and survived one particularly scary crash at the Laguna Seca track in Salinas, Calif.
"I crashed at Laguna Seca going 130 miles an hour," she said. "Slid all the way from Turn 1 to Turn 2. It shook me up a little bit, but we wear really good protective gear. Instead of getting hurt, I just slid and slid and slid and slid, and when I stopped, I hopped up, I picked up the bike on my own, dusted it off a little bit and rode it hard home. ... Every [crash] teaches me where my limits are and what I can and can't do."
Moreda's model good looks and friendly, easygoing nature have helped her score sponsors like GoPro cameras and Brammo bikes. A former District 3 Dairy Princess, Moreda said she welcomes comparisons with Patrick, the most famous beauty in racing.
"I think Danica Patrick rocks," she said. "I like that she's a tough girl. She's out there doing what the boys do regardless of what anybody says. Everyone's got their opinions, positive or negative, and she deals with them really well."
Like Patrick, Moreda understands the power of marketability.
"I think that with either one of us, we're working with what we have. What we have to offer outside of our finishing is that we're marketable. As an athlete, racer or otherwise, what you need to realize is that you're out there to promote your sponsors, to market for your sponsors. That doesn't come from finishes alone, they wanna see you connecting with the public and getting their name out there.
"It's part of my job. Fortunately for me, I love that end of it."
Never one to turn down a photo or an autograph (she's been known to sign: "Ride it like you stole it"), Moreda said she's driven by the support and encouragement of fans.
"When I get emails that tell me I'm inspirational, I think about those things on race day and I feel special and privileged and lucky that people are acknowledging me for it."
She's encountered a few haters on Twitter and Facebook, but said most of the guys she races against are very supportive.
"Any guy that's got a good sense of sportsmanship is gonna be cool with it," Moreda said. "If you can actually hack it, if you can hang with them, then they're all for it.
"I tuck my ponytails in and don't show off that I'm a girl on the track. I'm not out to prove anything for the girls, but it's definitely icing on the cake when you get those surprised looks. The look on
a guy's face when he realizes he just got passed by a girl is priceless."
Moreda said she hopes to pass a lot more guys this year in 10 national and a handful of local races. Her goal is to be top 10 in SuperSport in the AMA, and she would love a shot at the Daytona SportBike class in 2013.