Women Riders: The Pioneers

Women riders have achieved outstanding things throughout history. It’s easy to forget we once lived in a society which was extremely adverse to women motorcyclists; it was unheard of for females to have a bike licence, to race or even join a motorcycle club.

Sometimes you need to look back through history to really see how far lady riders have come, the barriers they have broken down and the stereotypes overcome.

We Buy Any Bike put together a list of 6 women riders from the past, who really made an impact on us:

1. Bessie Stringfield

What a lady.. Bessie Stringfield was an African-American who at just 19 began adventuring on her motorbike. Bessie tossed a penny over a map and rode to wherever it landed, covering 48 of the USA’s lower states.

In World War II Bessie worked as a civilian motorcycle dispatch rider for the army, she was the only lady in the unit. In the 1950’s Bessie bought a house in Miami and founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club, she became well known as the “The Motorcycle Queen of Miami”. She was noted saying:

“Years ago the doctor wanted to stop me from riding,” due to her enlarged heart. “I told him if I don’t ride, I won’t live long. And so I never did quit.”

Bessie Stringfield2. Theresa Wallach

Theresa was born in 1909 in London, where she grew up close to big motorcycle manufacturing factories such as Norton, BSA, and Triumph. She made good friends with a lot of the factory workers, which included the test riders and racers.

Growing up with these friends meant Theresa was riding bikes from a young age, and riding well! After being rejected from the local motorbike club solely because of her gender, Theresa entered all the local races (after some conflict) and quickly began collecting trophies.

After proving herself Theresa then served in the Army in World War II as a mechanic and also the first ever woman motorcycle dispatch rider. She moved to Chicago in 1952 and opened her own motorcycle dealership. She was quoted in Road Rider Magazine saying:

“When I first saw a motorcycle, I got a message from it. It was a feeling – the kind of thing that makes a person burst into tears hearing a piece of music or standing awestruck in front of a fine work of art.

Motorcycling is a tool with which you can accomplish something meaningful in your life. It is an art.”

3. Louise Scherbyn

Louise loved motorcycles from a young age. In the 1930s after a decade as a passenger in a sidecar, she decided to take the rider’s seat. After learning how to ride she became the proud owner of an Indian Scout motorcycle. Louise was reportedly the first American lady ever to reach the far north of Canada on a motorbike.

At this time it was unheard of for women to be motorcycle club members. But Louise didn’t take no for an answer! She became active in AMA, the Canadian Motorcycle Association and the British Pathfinders Club.

Perhaps one of Louise’s biggest legacies was being a founder of the Women’s International Motorcycle Association in the 1950s. This association is still going today and is ever-growing.

Louise Scherbyn

4. Dorothy “Dot” Robinson

Dorothy was born to ride. She was literally nearly born in a sidecar as her mother was in labour on the way to the hospital in 1912! She grew up riding bikes as her family ran a motorcycle shop so it was second nature.

Dot won her first trophy at Flint 100 mile endurance race. Receiving a perfect score. She met her husband Earl at school and together they were unstoppable. The couple set off in 1935 to break the transcontinental sidecar record, which they did.

Five years later Dot set another record. As the first woman to win an American Motorcycling Association competition.

Dot and Earl owned a Harley-Davidson dealership for many years. They sold up in 1971 to travel on their motorcycles together. The couple passed away in the late 90s just a couple of years apart. Their legacy lives on in American Motorcycle Association’s Hall of Fame.

5. Adeline & Augusta Van Buren

These two sisters were determined to prove that women could be used to despatch riders in the war. In 1916 they decided to ride across the USA which was completely unheard of at the time. They wanted to prove that women had the skill and ability to handle motorcycles long distance. Paving the way for future ladies. They went through Chicago, Colorado and Utah. Facing difficult conditions and many challenges along the way.

The sisters made their way into the Hall of Fame. Becoming the first women to summit the 14,000 tall Pikes Peak hill climb.  Adeline’s application to join the military after this was still rejected. Their point had been made nevertheless and still isn’t forgotten to this day.  

 Adeline & Augusta Van Buren

6. Kerry Kleid 

Kerry was the first women to be issued with an AMA professional racing license. At just 21 years old Kerry applied for the licence in this all men competition in the early 70’s.

When Kerry first went to use her licence on her local New York track. They confiscated it explaining there had been a mistake. The association thought ‘Kerry’ was a males name. She filed a lawsuit at once. Before it could get to the next stage, the licence was returned to her.

Kerry Kleid 

These are just our top 6 ladies who amazed us; there are many more women that achieved incredible things. At a time when females were definitely not considered as men’s equal. Especially in the motorbike community.

They paved the way for women riders and women’s rights in general. It took huge amounts of courage, bravery and determination to accomplish these things this time period…

New Ambitions

Women riders have continued to strive and push boundaries in the motorcycle world. Here are  a few ladies We Buy Any Bike love to hear about:

Patsy Quick

Pasty was the first British women to ever complete one of the hardest racers in the world – The Dakar Rally.

Patsy Quick

Ana Carrasco Gabarrón

A Spanish Grand Prix racer, Ana was the first female to score points in the Moto3 class.

Laia Sanz

Thirteen times Womens Trials World Champion. Laia is also a member of the Spanish Female Team in the Trial Des Nations – assuring the team 5 wins. She also just competed in the world famous Dakar race 2017.

Emma Bristow

International Trials rider, she was the first British rider to win the Women’s FIM Trial World Championship in 2014.

Jennifer Rosanne Tinmouth

Current female record holder in the Isle of Man TT for lap timing. Tinmouth is also the first and only women to participate in the British Superbike Championship.

Katy Bullock

Katy became the National and European Champion of Motorcycle Trials at the age of 15. She has now built an impressive reputation. Being one of the best off-road female motorcycles in the off-road scene.

Elena Rosell

Elena was the first female rider to in the Moto2 class, she made history after joining the QMMF Racing Team. Becoming the first female rider to race full time in the Moto2 World Championship 2012.

Jane Daniels 

Daniels is one of the UK’s top enduro riders. Taking 2nd place in the Women’s Enduro World Cup in 2013. She then went on to winning the final race in France.

Maria Costello

Maria is a British motorcycle racer. Who held the Guinness World Record for being the fastest women to do the Isle of Man TT lap. At an average speed of 114.73. Maria is now a big name in racing. She received the Outstanding Achievement Award twice from the EMRA in 2002 and also 2004.

These women, past and present shatter preconceptions that were once pushed on the genders… Massive respect to you ladies!


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