MEET THE RIDERS AND THEIR RIDES: Kailey Skelton-America’s 2021 Downhill National Champion
It’s hard to predict who the top stars in the sport will be in the next few years, but one of the fastest-rising downhill stars in America is 21-year-old Kailey Skelton of Orange County, California. She’s been tearing up the races in Bootleg Canyon, Nevada; Fontana, California; and even Costa Rica—combining her motocross and mountain biking skills to become one of the fastest-rising downhillers in America.
Name: Kailey Skelton
Birthdate: March 1, 2000
Birthplace: Mission Viejo, CA
Weight: 124 pounds
Shoe size: 7 1/2
Helmet size: Small
Marital status: None, dating Nikolas Nestoroff
Current home: Orange County
Car(s): 2017 Toyota Tacoma, full cab in early stages of becoming a pre-runner
Started racing or competing: 2019
Turned pro: 2019
Racing/riding specialty: Downhill
Favorite course or riding area (North America): Windrock, Tennessee
Favorite course or riding area (Europe): Haven’t been; will go this year, 2021.
Favorite food: Sushi
Goals: Become the fastest American female downhill racer and make my mark on a World Cup team
Heroes: My brother, Danny; my boyfriend, Nikolas Nestoroff; and my dad
Favorite recording artist: Pennywise
Favorite movie: Interstellar
Favorite hobbies: Surfing, riding moto and photography
Jobs held (other than racer): Surf coach/instructor, photographer
Most embarrassing moment: Race-wise, crashing in the last turn before the finish at national champs
Always takes on a trip: My camera
What you would be if you were not a racer: Pursuing a full-time career in action sports and lifestyle photography
INSIDE THE PROS’ BIKES—Keiley’s KHS DH 650 “mullet” setup
Frame: “I ride a large aluminum KHS DH 650 set up as a mullet with a 29er wheel up front and a 27.5 wheel in the rear that pulls in 200mm of travel.”
Shock and settings: “Fox shock set up with 400-pound coil.”
Fork: Fox 40 dual crown.
“I love how supple the fork is off the top yet ready to stiffen up and take a big hit at the same time.”
Tires: Kenda Pinners, 2.4-inch front and rear.
“I usually run 22 psi front and 25 rear. I love the variety of traction these tires have. They hold on from dry to wet and are ready for all elements.”
Inner tubes or sealant: OKO tire sealant.
Tire liner: Cushcore.
Rims: “I run FSA grid aluminum rims on my downhill bike.”
Spokes: “To be honest, I am not sure. They come on the FSA Grids.”
Hubs: Onyx, front and rear.
Brakes: “I run Shimano Saint brakes on my downhill bike with a 200mm Shimano rotor, front and rear. The grab is incredible, and they never fade away!”
Stem: FSA Gradient stem.
Handlebar: FSA Gradient bar.
Grips: ODI long-necks lock-ons.
“I love how squishy they are. I have little hands, so these help me grip better.”
Shifter: “My bike has a Shimano Saint shifter.”
Rear derailleur: “I run a Shimano Saint derailleur on the rear end of my bike.”
Pedals: “Shimano Saint clipless pedals. Fun fact: I just started riding clipped in one month ago, and I love it now!”
Cranks: Shimano Saint cranks, 170mm.
Chainring: “My front chainring is a Shimano 34-tooth.”
Chain: Shimano 10-speed chain.
Rear cassette: Shimano 10-speed cassette.
Saddle: “I run a WTB seat.”
Seatpost: “My bike runs an FSA seatpost.”
Cables and housings: “Shimano all the way around.”
Headset: “My bike has an FSA Orbit headset.”
Water bottle cage (if any): “Definitely not on the downhill bike [laughs].”
Bottom bracket: Shimano Saint bottom bracket.
Carbon or titanium bolts: “I use the titanium bolts that came with my bike.”
Extras: FSA chainguide, STFU chain silencer.
Head angle: 63 degrees
Bottom-bracket height: “I am not sure.”
Weight of complete bike: 34 pounds
Estimated price (or value) of bike: $7000.
MBA: Where did you grow up?
Kailey: I grew up in Orange County, California. I spent, and still spend, most of my time in Mission Viejo and various beach cities, like San Clemente and Laguna Beach.
MBA: What kind of work do (or did) your father and mother do?
Kailey: [Laughs] This is funny, but both of my parents were managers of big grocery-store chains. My mom was the manager of Albertsons, and my dad is the manager of all Stater Bros. meat departments.
MBA: When did you first start riding a bicycle?
Kailey: When I was 2–3 years old. I started racing BMX and motocross at four years old, thanks to my brother, who inspired the daredevil in me at a young age. I raced BMX until I was 10 years old and picked up mountain biking at, I believe, age 12, when I got one for Christmas. Before then, I just rode my BMX bike. I never stopped riding motocross.
MBA: What were your best competition results on those kinds of bikes?
Kailey: I got a handful of first places in BMX and motocross in my younger leagues. My biggest accomplishment before mountain bikes was an overall 1st place season winner at the age of 5 when I was racing BMX. I got to stand in the middle of the track holding a trophy taller than me in the spotlight. I still remember it vividly.
MBA: When did you first start competing on mountain bikes?
Kailey: I first started competing in 2019.
MBA: How did you do in your first mountain bike event?
Kailey: I competed in my first race as a pro. I petitioned and somehow got in. I ended up backing the Pro category I petitioned for with a second-place finish, less than half a second off of first, at Crafts N Cranks in Big Bear, California. From there, I was hooked.
MBA: What have been your best national and international results on mountain bikes?
Kailey: I have gotten a couple first places at some national races and newly just landed a first place at my first UCI race in Costa Rica.
MBA:: What major races and titles have you won (or come close to winning)? What years did you do that?
Kailey: 2019 Crafts and Cranks, my first race, second place; 2021 Costa Rica UCI Open, first place; 2020, first place at a few national races.
MBA: Where did you go to school?
Kailey: I went to school at Trabuco Hills High School until freshman year. After that, I home-schooled to travel for photography and to teach surfing. Becoming a professional downhill racer was honestly the last thing I would have thought I’d be doing as a career! My boyfriend, Nik Nestoroff, who was already a pro downhill racer, inspired me to start racing—and now look where we are! Thank you, Nikki!
MBA: What about college?
Kailey: I am attending college to become a personal trainer and nutritionist. I chose these professions to be able to benefit myself and others while in the off-season and still give myself an option to race when season is in session. I am attending an online college to balance school and travel. I will continue a career in personal training and nutrition on the side of my racing. I will also continue my side job/career in photography for as long as I live!
MBA: Did you earn any awards in sports or academics while in school?
Kailey: Yes, I was able to make honor roll a few times and won the “most athletic” award in middle school PE [laughs].
MBA: What other sports do you do besides mountain biking?
Kailey: I am an avid surfer, motocross rider and skateboarder. All of this helps with my training towards mountain biking, and I have loads of fun participating in these activities, which makes me love them even more.
I have won a few races in motocross while competing in the Open Women’s class and Amateur class. While competing in surfing, I have only competed a few times and landed some top-three positions. To be honest, I personally am not a fan of competing in surfing because it’s my way of relaxing. The ocean is my home away from home. Also, I feel a wave should be surfed how you want to surf it and not in a specific way for a score.
MBA: If possible, please tell us something interesting or unusual about yourself or your family that is not widely known.
Kailey: I wouldn’t normally share this, but I feel it will motivate a lot of people. My mom recently got diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, and it has wired my mind to go above and beyond for her, to do my best for her and always put my best foot forward. We create and complete goals together and have new ones ready to go when she is ready. I want her to be motivated by her daughter to fight as hard as she can. With the help of us both, and my family, she is doing just that.
I feel I shouldn’t be afraid to share this information, but instead I want to share proudly that my mom is working her hardest to win her battle with cancer. Hopefully, this brings awareness to everyone out there who is battling.