Over and Out: Women's Dirt Bike, Dual-Sport, and ADV Campout
Building community on and off the trails.
There’s something incredibly special about a stack of women on dirtbikes out in the wilds of Pennsylvania. Sunlight rippling down through the trees, the canopy above emitting a soft green glow that envelops the trails and gives a sense of absolute magic surrounding you as you rip down a trail chasing your friends, new and old alike. While it very much sounds like I’m describing a Disney version of dirtbike heaven – adorable wildlife included – for the women who attend Over and Out Moto in Tamaqua, PA this is very much a true-to-life experience.
For six years now, hundreds of women have flocked to the tiny town in mid-east Pennsylvania to attend this late-summer camping weekend, filled with guided rides, training classes and programming that really does remind you of your childhood summer camp. When the s’mores are sponsored by Fox Racing, and the flags of industry names like Beta and REV’IT! wave in the background, you know it’s going to be a little more exciting than camp songs and canoeing.
Founder Kelly McCaughey has been organizing this flagship event for seven years now, six of which have been headquartered on a privately owned property in Tamaqua. An expansive rolling dirtbike playground, including miles of trails ranging from an easy grass track to a hard-enduro style rocky route nicknamed ‘Devils Backbone’. While most are labeled ‘green’ trails, Kelly warns new attendees during the morning’s rider meeting that they’re not necessarily ‘easy’ but just a little more predictable and have less obstacles than the trails marked yellow for intermediate. Cute names like Roscoe’s Rip or Ralph’s Ramble adorn the trail map handed out from the Revzilla branded EZ-Up that serves as both command center and hangout for trail support – a team of riding-friends and spouses who generously dedicate a few weekends a year to mark trails, run sweep and fix bikes during the event. Affectionately called ‘Trail Dads’, this group of men are the only ones you’ll find at the women’s-only event, and once the trails close at 5pm, they’re off duty and out of sight for the rest of the evening’s activities.
Over and Out is so much more than just a location and trails though, it’s been the catalyst for many women to not only dip their toes into the world of off-road riding, but to do so in a supported and encouraging fashion. I’d argue that there isn’t another women-only off-road event where you can turn up as a complete newbie to dirt and find both accessible trails and someone willing to walk you through them at your desired pace. As someone who has turned up at many off-road focused events with a half-empty bag of riding skills, the feeling of being in a supportive environment is one that has stuck with me since my first trail ride in the hills of Tamaqua. I wholly credit the experience to almost every breakthrough I’ve had skill-wise in the dirt – and I know that I’m not the only one. Walking through camp in the evenings or sitting around the bonfire at night, you’ll hear other women recounting the day’s exploits on the trails, excitedly sharing how they finally made it up the hill at the end of the Upper Catwalk, or how they felt riding the ‘Dragon’s Back’ on Ralphs Ramble after only seeing videos of it on social media for the past year.
The skills classes offered from a number of training schools are varied and expansive. Four separate groups are onsite to offer sessions from absolute beginners, to novice riders who have been wanting to level up, and even intermediate to advanced riders who want to learn some party tricks like enduro skills or wheelies. Training sessions have always been a part of the program at O&O, so much so that the event has branched out to host targeted training events throughout the year with the likes of Rachel Gutish and Vicki Golden. You can find the Over and Out events calendar here.
New to this year was the Sedlak Off-Road Adventure School who offered two sessions of training: beginner ADV and intermediate ADV, the latter of which is what I signed myself up for. Way back in the early days of O&O, Dan Sedlak, owner and head coach of the namesake training school, had reached out to offer support to the brand-spanking-new women’s event on the east coast, even though Sedlak’s training school and resources were based in Southern California. Six years later, Kelly McCaughey had finally curated a space where Sedlak’s ADV training classes could be introduced to the O&O program. While Over and Out has always been a dual-sport event, with daily dual-sport outings led by either REV’IT! ambassadors or local dual-sport club, the Delaware Valley Trail Riders, this was the first year that attendees with larger ADV motorcycles would have access to training specific to their bikes.
Now, this section is going to get just a tiny bit personal, as I did spend my own hard earned dollars to participate in this class, so I feel like I absolutely had some skin in the game. I was determined to soak up as much advice as possible in the short time that we had together. Among the other riders with me in the Intermediate ADV course was a KTM 390 Adventure, a Kawasaki Versys-X 300, a vintage Yamaha 225 Serow, and my Kawasaki KLX230 S. Quite the range, and all told, each with their own flavor of dual-sport style. Coach Dan did an excellent job of covering the basics of body positioning and foot placement and I noticed that he took care to make sure each rider was in the right position for their specific bike. When I had a hard time getting back on the footpegs to drop my heels because of the passenger peg placement, we paused to just remove them completely. Just like that I could feel the difference in how the bike was responding to my shifts in weight around turns.
There is something to be said about practicing drills in a short course over and over until they start to become a habit. You start to remember how the bike reacts with just a bit more speed here, or a touch more weight on one side. Practicing in an environment like this also gives you a safe space to push the limits of a bike as I found out when applying a bit more throttle than necessary through a turn while weighting the inside footpeg. The back end began to break loose in the damp grass of the track and I needed to work just a tiny bit to correct it to get back on course. On the trail, that may have had some more consequences, but in our practice loop, I could recreate it without panic and feel what it was like to push to that point and recover without skipping a beat.
After a solid few hours of drills in both directions, we moved on to a different section of the property to what was absolutely my favorite bit of riding: steep rocky hill climbs. While this specific hill climb wasn’t very technical or harrowing, it was a perfect example to demonstrate choosing the correct line, and gave each rider a chance to power up the long sweeping left line, or charge up the more direct and more technical right line. I gave both a few passes and doubled back to try the hard line one last time while I still had some adrenaline left in the tank. Being able to hone in a new skill and then directly apply it to use on the trails is something that should be standard in all classes, though having a small class size with direct feedback on every lap or climb was also invaluable.
A brief break for lunch and our little band of riders made the on-road hop over to Famous Reading Outdoors, just a short 25 minutes away from Tamaqua, with the goal to put our skills to practice on trails with a bit more rocks and sand. Famous Reading is a reclaimed coal mine riddled with hundreds of miles of trails. It’s open year round and welcomes any and all off-road enthusiasts. We started out with the worst thing I could imagine: a long, chunky, rocky descent that seemingly never ended. Somehow, it seems, all off-road parks have the worst part first. Nevertheless, the trail gave way to sweeping graded trails and we chose a handful of offshoots to explore the area. Most ADV riders enter the sport with a goal in mind, yours truly jumped in feet first with the aim to someday try to do a Backcountry Discovery Route, and eventually turn my cross country on-road tours into cross-country off-road adventures. Real-time trail exploring in a guided and supported group like this is the best way to prepare for an eventual BDR.
As our entire group found out in a few technical sections, sometimes the best thing to do is take it slow and tackle each obstacle piece by piece. Now, I don’t want to give away all of Sedlak’s training tips, but I do have to say I had a breakthrough on descents during the afternoon portion of the session. I finally felt things click into place after literally years of jamming on brakes and hoping for the best when pointed downhill.
Meanwhile back at Over and Out...
Returning back to camp in the late afternoon, I managed to convince one of my fellow classmates to hit some of the trails while they were still open. The KLX230 S that I was borrowing for the weekend had yet to see the trails I was familiar with there, and I was eager to see how it stacked up in comparison with the bikes I had ridden the previous two years. Year one I was on my own 2021 Yamaha TW200, and year two I had borrowed a friend’s Yamaha TTR125. I had reviewed the 2023 Kawasaki KLX230 S earlier in the year at a press intro, but our SoCal test loop hadn’t really taken us on any trails worth mentioning. Here in the woods of PA though, it would certainly be tested!
To save you from a full off-road review here, I’ll sum it up succinctly: If the KLX230 S had been my first bike instead of a TW200, I would be a much better rider three years in. It soaked up almost everything I threw at it, never ran out of power charging up a loose rocky trail, and was completely forgiving when I was in the wrong gear or applied a little too much brake. I’d like to send a completely heartfelt thanks to the local dealer Scott Powersports for not only trusting me with a brand new motorcycle from his showroom floor, but also for not being too mad when I broke both levers and crunched some plastics.
Maybe it’s the magic of east coast hospitality, or maybe it’s the stark contrast to other dirt-flavored experiences I’ve had, but I’m not exaggerating when I say this is the best riding weekend of the year for me. I’ve never been able to track so much progress in my riding ability in such a short amount of time. And I know from talking to other riders year after year, that they’ve had the same experience I have.
Events like Over and Out, ones that see the need for safe learning environments and who are willing to do the heavy lifting to curate the perfect conditions to foster growth and community in the riders that attend, are the key to preserving off-road riding as a pillar in the motorcycle community as a whole. There’s a reason why there are so many women on the starting lines for the enduros and hare scrambles in the east coast racing associations. The conditions to thrive as a new rider are as ripe as they’ve ever been and, in my very humble, squarely intermediate opinion, they’re only going to get better from here. I can see why women with less than three years of dirtbiking under their belt are on the podium in their first year of racing. The lines that connect these dots are strewn with events like Over and Out, with women who help lift others up, and support from brands who take women seriously as riders.
More by Cait Maher