Mar./Apr. 2015 California Bountiful magazine
Story by Joyce Mansfield
Photos by Matt Salvo
Dairy farmer speeds ahead as professional motorcycle racer
More online: Photos, video and behind-the-scenes with Shelina Moreda
Shelina Moreda is a fifth-generation dairy farmer in Sonoma County and an international professional motorcycle racer.
Not many people can boast reaching a speed of 186 mph on two wheels, or being the first woman to race a motorcycle on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, or representing the U.S. on an international racing team in Qatar.
But Shelina Moreda isn't like many people: She's a farmer's daughter who adeptly moves between life working on the family's Moreda Valley Dairy in Sonoma County and her global career as a professional motorcycle racer; a former dairy princess and beauty pageant finalist who regularly dons leathers as the fastest female on a road-race Harley-Davidson; and a tomboy who embraces her femininity both on the ranch and on the track.
"Racing isn't a typical thing for a farming family to do. I went to college and got my associate's degree in ag business and then one day I was like, 'I'm pretty good at riding motorcycles and I really love it,'" she said, adding with a laugh, "I decided to go for it; I'm just crazy enough."
Actually, Moreda learned—and liked—the feel of wheels beneath her at a young age.
Moreda credits her agricultural background and parents, Deborah and Donny Moreda, for her work ethic, drive and determination.
"I used to bring the cows in with the ranch quad (all-terrain vehicle). It was for work; it wasn't for fun. My dad put us to work and he didn't know what he was starting," she said. "For me, that turned into a love of motorcycles."
Donny Moreda said he had always told his three children—eldest Shelina, middle Travis and youngest Stephanie, now all in their 20s—that with hard work and determination they could do whatever they desired. But racing powerful, heavy motorcycles at speeds averaging almost 100 mph on street-hard surfaces?
"I wasn't so up on that in the beginning," Donny Moreda said of his daughter's career choice. "I grew up racing (dirt bikes and cars) and my father used to race cars, so racing is kind of in the family, but at the same time, street-bike racing was a little bit foreign to me."
"I was against it," added mom Deborah, explaining how her daughter wanted a street bike as a teenager. "I had told her, 'No, no, no, that's not going to happen. You can't do that until you're 18 years old." She did get one when she turned 18, and Mom said she was "ready to take the tractor and bash it."
Moreda says that working on the family dairy and growing up without gender boundaries helps her compete in the male-dominated sport of professional motorcycle racing.
"My mom doesn't even know how to drive a tractor," Shelina Moreda laughed.
Her parents' sentiments changed as they watched their daughter ride. Not only was she a natural, but she was responsible and followed the rules.
"So that made me, as a mom, realize that she was OK," Deborah Moreda continued. "I have to watch her grow and as I listen in the background, I can hear the maturity—and that she's doing something she really loves."
Shelina Moreda credits her agricultural background for instilling that responsibility and for the work ethic that she brings to this male-dominated sport.
"You've got to work twice as hard. I'm fine with that," she said. "As a country girl, that's something that's put in front of us a lot of times anyway: Working on the ranch isn't a typical female thing to do either, so I wasn't raised with (gender) boundaries and I was expected to do things and accomplish things."
Her many achievements reflect her ability to learn quickly and to approach endeavors wholeheartedly—characteristics that her parents noted early in their daughter's life.
"Shelina's always learned everything promptly and did it with a passion," Deborah Moreda said, describing her daughter's previous involvement in FFA and 4-H, and showing horses. "She would ride like she was born to ride."
"I wanted to be a jockey but I grew too tall, so now I'm a motorcycle jockey," Shelina Moreda said with a grin. "As a farm kid, you're brought up doing all those ranch chores that make you strong, so you're predetermined to be athletic."
Moreda entered her first race six years ago, acquired her racing license her first time at the track and earned professional status about a year and a half after she started racing. For most, this process takes several years.
Today, Moreda holds title as the first female motorcycle racer on the Indianapolis track and the first female to race an electric motorcycle internationally. She's gained worldwide attention, not just because of her gender, but as an on-the-track competitor and professional racer with many top finishes.
Moreda was selected in 2014 as one of four females, each from a different country, to compete once a month in fall and winter against male racers in Qatar. She took first place in early 2015, making her the first female to win at the international level. Also, she's raced for various teams and sponsors in Japan, Italy, Spain and France.
In addition to worldwide competition and special racing events, Moreda contends for titles on raceways in multiple states April through October in MotoAmerica, the former American Motorcyclist Association Pro Superbike Series.
"I want to race everywhere that I can, on as top-level bikes as possible," she said. "There's no limit to how much you can do, so I just keep pushing to do more and see where it takes me—literally."
When Moreda launched her professional racing career, she also started her own team and business, She'z Racing. It includes a group of women who promote Moreda's career at events and serve as umbrella girls, shading riders waiting to race.
Moreda, however, "spices it up" by using umbrella boys before she hits the track.
Also as part of She'z Racing, Moreda holds Girlz MotoCamps to teach motorcycle skills to females of all ages, using smaller motorcycles on a dirt course.
Moreda, right, has gained worldwide attention as an on-the-track competitor with many top finishes. Photo courtesy of Tuned Racing.
"We've had ages 6 to 62—in the same camp," she said. "I've got some power-hitter, female racers who instruct with me, and we join forces to get girls pumped up on riding."
It's the only camp organized, instructed and attended by females in this "guys' world," Moreda said, adding that Girlz MotoCamps are now offered in other states.
The camps are just one of many highlights in this young woman's accelerating career: She cites specific races, sponsors and countries where she's received acclaim or captured a title.
"But it's not one event," Moreda said. "To me, being able to inspire people is the biggest highlight. I never knew that I would be able to inspire people by chasing my own dreams, but this shows it can be done."
In addition to her professional motorcycle racing career and She'z Racing business, Shelina Moreda is a fifth-generation dairy farmer in Sonoma County. Her family's Moreda Valley Dairy is one of 1,500 family dairies in California, and the Moredas' herd of 500 cows is part of the state's 1.77 million milk cows.
- California is the nation's leading dairy state.
- Approximately one out of every five dairy cows in the U.S. lives here.
- Ninety-nine percent of California dairy farms are family owned.
- About 43 percent of the state's milk is used to make cheese.