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The Motorcycle Women Who Are Breaking Barriers and Records

From the wind-swept highways to the twisting canyon roads, a fearless sisterhood of women motorcyclists has been shattering stereotypes and leaving their mark on the male-dominated world of riding. 

Whether blazing new trails as professional racers or traveling on cross-country journeys, these women have redefined what it means to be a motorcyclist. With each twist of the throttle and every mile conquered, they have inspired countless others to embrace their dreams, chase their passions, and fearlessly pursue the path less traveled.

Dorothy “Dot” Robinson

dorothy robinson on harley davidson
AMA Archives
Dorothy “Dot” Robinson (1912-1999) was an Australian-American motorcycling pioneer who competed in endurance races and events from the 1930s to 1950s, often as the only woman. In 1941, she co-founded the Motor Maids, an organization promoting women in motorcycling. Known for her signature pink riding gear, Dot defied stereotypes and proved women could ride motorcycles while maintaining femininity.

She became the first woman to win the Jack Pine National Endurance Championship in 1940 and 1946. Inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame in 1998, Dot left a lasting legacy for women’s participation in the male-dominated sport after riding an estimated 1.5 million miles in her lifetime.

Bessie Stringfield 

bessie stringfield standing near her motorcycle
Anne Ferrar

Known as the “Motorcycle Queen of Miami,” Stringfield was one of the first African American women to ride across the United States solo in the 1930s. She performed stunts and raced disguised as a man due to racial discrimination. 

During World War II she worked as civilian courier for the US Army. Her duties included carrying documents to various army bases which she did on her Harley Davidson. During this time she would cross the United States eight times. 

Louise Scherbyn

louise scherbyn on motorcycle

Louise Scherbyn was a pioneering Canadian motorcyclist who, after spending a decade as a passenger in sidecars, learned to ride solo in the 1930s and became an avid long-distance rider. She founded the Women’s International Motorcycle Association (WIMA) in 1953, creating a supportive community for women riders at a time when motorcycling was largely a male-dominated activity.

Scherbyn’s vision for WIMA was to connect women motorcyclists globally, promote riding skills and safety, and challenge gender stereotypes in the sport, paving the way for greater acceptance and participation of women in motorcycling. Her leadership and advocacy through WIMA, which continues today with thousands of members worldwide, cemented Scherbyn’s legacy as a trailblazer who empowered generations of women to pursue their passion for riding motorcycles.

Dorothy “Dot” Smith

dorothy "dot" smith on her motorcycle
AMA Archives

Dot Smith was a renowned motorcycle stunt rider in the 1930s and 1940s, performing daring jumps and stunts on her 1939 Harley-Davidson EL Knucklehead. She was a member of the Motor Maids women’s riding club, and helped unite and empower female motorcyclists at a time when it was highly unconventional. Smith paved the way for future generations of women to ride motorcycles while maintaining their femininity, proving “you can be a lady and still compete with the men.”

Valerie Thompson

valerie thompson with bub 7 team

Valerie Thompson is a 10x land speed record holder, but in 2018 she broke a new record at the Dry Lake Racers Australia Speed Week competition at Lake Gairdner. Riding the BUB 7 she set a new speed record of 328.467 mph to become Australia’s fastest female streamliner motorcycle racer.

Erin Sills

Erin sills on her motorcycle
PR Newswire

Twelve-time land speed record holder Erin Sills piloted Hunter Sills Racing’s BMW S1000 RR to 219.3 mph from a standing start on the Mojave Magnum 1.5 mile distance and to 210.1MPH over the Mojave Mile distance.

Vivian Bales

vivian bales on a harley davidson
Harley Davidson Forums

Vivian Bales, known as “The Enthusiast Girl,” made history in 1929 when she rode her Harley-Davidson Model D solo across the United States, covering 5,000 miles in 78 days from Albany, Georgia to Los Angeles, California. At just 19 years old, she became the first woman to ride a motorcycle across the continental United States.

Following her famous transcontinental ride, Bales continued motorcycling and performed stunt riding at motorcycle races in Tallahassee, Florida. Her daring journey and passion for motorcycling paved the way for future generations of women riders.

Augusta and Adeline Van Buren

augusta and adeline van buren with motorcycle
Springfield Museum

The Van Buren sisters, Augusta and Adeline, were pioneering American motorcyclists who in 1916 became the first women to ride across the continental United States on their own motorcycles.  Riding a pair of Indian Powerplus motorcycles, they completed an arduous 5,500-mile journey from Brooklyn to San Francisco over two months, facing numerous challenges including arrests for wearing pants and nearly running out of fuel in the desert.

Their daring transcontinental ride defied gender norms of the era and inspired future generations of women motorcyclists, leading to their induction into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame and Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame. 

Avis and Effie Hotchkiss

avis and effie hotchkiss on a harley with sidecar

In 1915, Avis Hotchkiss (age 52) and her daughter Effie (age 26) became the first women to ride a motorcycle across the United States, traveling 5,000 miles from Brooklyn, New York to San Francisco and back on their 3-speed Harley-Davidson with a sidecar. Their courageous cross-country journey, at a time when women riding motorcycles was highly unconventional, paved the way for future generations of female riders and inspired other women to pursue their own adventures on two wheels.

Effie had learned to ride at age 16 from her brother and dreamed of making the transcontinental trip, which they completed in two months while carrying tools, supplies, and even a jar of Atlantic Ocean water to pour into the Pacific. Their pioneering spirit and achievements made Avis and Effie Hotchkiss trailblazers in the history of women’s motorcycling.

Maria Costello

maria costello racing on bmw motorcycle

Maria Costello MBE is a pioneering British motorcycle racer who became the first woman to stand on the podium at the Isle of Man TT races when she took third place in the Ultra Lightweight category in 2005. She held the Guinness World Record for being the fastest woman to lap the Isle of Man TT course at an average speed of 114.73 mph until 2009.

Costello has been a trailblazer for women in motorcycle racing, inspiring and mentoring the next generation of female racers through initiatives like Faye Ho’s all-women racing squad. Her achievements on the track, as well as her work in journalism, television, and promoting road safety, have made her one of the most influential and impactful women in the motorcycle world.

We do our best to bring the most accurate information possible. If you find an error, please let us know so we can do additional research and make an amendment! 

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