Columbia mom empowers women through motorcycle racing

For The Baltimore Sun
She's a mom and a college administrator with a Ph.D., but in her free time, she's a dirt-bike racer.

She’s a mother of three, a Girl Scout leader and a college administrator with a Ph.D., but her hobby is taking an unusual sport by storm. 

In her spare time, Columbia resident Amanda Knapp, 36, changes from her dress clothes to her jumpsuit, donning a helmet and jumping on her dirt bike to compete against the best of the best on the East Coast and making the cover of American Motorcyclist magazine. 

“Most people didn’t know that I rode until I came into work one day with a broken toe and I had to give an explanation,” Knapp says. “Most people can’t believe I know anything about the sport, let alone ride.”

She started when she was a little girl, learning the ropes from her dad in rural West Virginia. Now she spends her time from May to November in a pack of more than 200 riders navigating hazardous terrain in two-hour races as part of the East Coast Enduro Association Hare Scramble Series, taking third place in her first season of competitive racing. 

But she didn’t get her start in competitive racing until two years ago, and now it’s a family affair. Knapp’s daughter and mother are involved in the sport; all three generations hit the track together for practice time. 

“I wish I would have started this when I was younger, but we never could afford it,” Knapp says. “It is an expensive sport.” 

Her dreams came true when she graduated from her doctoral program at the University of Maryland and her family bought her a bike as a graduation gift. The rest is history. 

She just got her first sponsorship from Dunlop Tires, which allows her to continue the sport she’s been watching for years. 

But for Knapp, it’s more than just the thrill of the ride. She’s hoping her participation in the sport inspires other women to defy the odds and break barriers. 

“Registering for a race which can be scary is much like applying to college and accepting admission,” Knapp says. “You can’t earn a degree if you can’t get yourself started, which can be the hardest part.”  

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