Once upon a time, in a world of myth induced machismo – when men were men and lady bikers were as rare as rocking horse shit, a gallant few defied culture, convention, society and discrimination to pave the way for increasing numbers of lady bikers through the generations
Those early pioneers include local, national, and international legends whose exploits have been recorded for posterity.
Agnes Muriel Hind – who found notoriety in 1902 by owning and riding a 2hp Singer Motor Bicycle. She later went on compete in national motorcycle trials and races with great success, often over-shadowing many of her male competitors.
Lily Stevens, who in 1913 rode the first Stevens Motorcycle (latterly AJS) on Wolverhampton’s roads becoming the town’s first lady motorcyclist.
Mother and daughter -Avis and Effie Hotchkiss, who became the first ladies to ride across America, from New York to San Francisco in 1915. “We merely wanted to see America and considered that the Three-Speed Harley-Davidson for myself and sidecar for mother and the luggage best suited for the job.” On reaching their destination, they dipped their wheels in the Pacific, turned round, and rode home again, having crossed deserts, mountain passes and used rolled up blanket as a substitute inner tube….(Note to Ewan and Charley – and all this without massive sponsorship from a motorcycle company or a support crew!)
Dorothy “Dot” Robinson (1912-1999). Endurance racer, motorcycle courier and first president of the Motor Maids Inc, is reputed to have clock up over 1.5 million miles during her life time (averaging 50,000 a year), promoting the Motorcycle Maids Inc, and motorcycling in general. Earning her the nickname “The First Lady of Motorcycling”, which I’d gently suggest she still owns!
Beryl Swain – the first woman solo rider to compete and complete in the TT in 1962. Although at the time this greatly upset her male counterparts and her international license was suspended on the grounds that motorcycle racing was too dangerous for ladies, Beryl set the precedent for future competitors including Hilary Musson, Francesca Giordano, Sandra Barnett and Kate Parkinson.
Of course there are many other names that could be added to this list, and countless of others whose names will never be known outside of the keepers of their family history. Nevertheless, we must look to the past and raise a fist of defiance in salute to all these glorious creatures. For it is they who have laid the foundations for the female biking community today.
And what a community we are! A report from the Motorcycle Industry Association (Dec 2010) states that “Government statistics show that 14% of people taking their motorcycle test are women.”
And female interest in motorcycling is growing, evidenced by the report that 60% of the ‘Get On’ Free Riders at the 2010 Motorcycle Live Event were women.
On an average weekend at Squires, the ratio of female riders to male riders seems to have visibly grown over the 4 years during which it has counted as one of my regular haunts, and I would be very surprised if that is not reflected at other biker haunts, race meets, track days and club runs up and down the country.
There is also rising demand for ladies only motorcycle clubs resulting in the recent formation of Lippy Ladies motorcycle Club - A Yorkshire based bike club with a fast growing membership.
We have one further factor to thank for the rise in the number of lady bikers – the Motorcycle industry itself. No longer are motorcycles built like agricultural machinery (Harleys excepted… but then why change a cash cow when it sells on image alone).
Technological advances have enabled the production of smaller, lighter, slimmer machines more suited to the female form. Controls are becoming lighter and adjustable, and in general girls provide a better power to weight ratio, which could – Goddess forbid, actually make us faster!. One could almost believe the manufacturers are now designing with women in (a small portion of) mind………well I did start this off with the traditional fairy tale opening line!
Fact is, lady bikers are here, and here to stay. That’s what I call “good progress”!!