Women travelling on motorcycles were, for a very long time not treated seriously – even today, it happens to be that females are not treated equally to their male companions or other motorcyclists which happen to be males. To celebrate Women’s History Month we would like to introduce you to 25 amazing characters which paved the way for modern, more equal opportunities to discover the world on two wheels as a female.
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Avis and Effie Hotchkiss
A mother and daughter duo who took an ultimate United States road trip from New York to San Francisco and back. These pioneering motorcyclists chose a Harley-Davidson with sidecar for their dream machine. Their whole trip was 9,000 miles (14,000 kilometers) long. In 1915, conditions on the road, availability and the technology available for motorcycle gear were quite different, which only adds more uniqueness to the challenge undertaken.
Another pioneering character, Dorothy started her motorcycle adventures in the middle of the 20th Century. She was one of the founders of Motor Maids, which was an organization for women motorcyclists. Her story of adventuring on two wheels goes back all the way to ber birth date – her mom was transported to the hospital by her father on a motorcycle with a sidecar. Her father was a sidecar designer, so she was exposed to a lot of motorcycles at a very young age.
An African-American, passionate motorcyclist born on the very beginning of the 20th century. She was a motorcycle dispatch rider during World War II for the US Army. Her skills were questioned many times only because of the color of her skin, but that did not put a shadow on her passion for motorcycles. Bravely breaking down barriers for women and African-American motorcyclists throughout her lifetime, finally, American Motorcyclist Association names “Superior Achievement by a Female Motorcyclist” in her honor. She was riding until the last day of her happy, over 80-year long life.
Vivian Bales was the first motorcycle cover girl with a few long-distance motorcycle road trips under her belt. Her first pocket money came from teaching dance and after a couple of months, it was enough to get a motorcycle – exploring long distances was within reach on a reliable machine and she always dreamt about it. On her most famous ride, that she took as a 20-year old covered 5,000 miles in 78 days. She has been voluntarily supported by Harley-Davidson dealerships along the way.
“Adventure just tingled in my blood”
Augusta and Adeline van Buren
Sisters travelling across the continental United States on one motorcycle each were respectively second and the third women who went across the whole continent on two wheels. By completing their signature road trip of 5,500 miles in 60 days they wanted to prove women can ride motorcycles and serve as military dispatch riders. Machines they picked for the challenge were 1000cc Indian Power Plus motorcycles. Amazingly, their trip was disrupted by numerous arrests for wearing men’s clothes which were more comfortable for riding.
Work as a journalist in Paris wasn’t fulfilling enough for this forward-thinking lady. One day she decided to leave her job and go around the world on a 125cc motorcycle, causing a sensation in France, even though it was 1972. Being used to journalism and writing, she kept her practice alive documenting her adventures. Her Parisian attitude wasn’t left behind, though – she had some pieces made to measure for her. Her outfits remained very stylish, with silk neck scarfs and long dresses, on rotation with leather dungarees and boots.
Originating from Slovenia, she is a well-travelled female who is known for visiting all 7 continents in one continuous, 5-year long trip. That adventure gained her a Guinness record for the longest motorcycle trip by a female. Apart from being a keen motorcyclist, she is also an author, photographer, activist and motivational speaker. Benka has got a website.
Cathy is the first blind woman to circumnavigate the world. She did it with the support of her husband acting as her eyes. Cathy lost her sight in her twenties. This unique accomplishment resulted in a book, which they have put together from journals they were keeping along the trip. Going to 31 countries across 5 continents is challenging enough for any motorcycle adventurist, so Cathy’s and Bernard’s story is giving it another dimension of trust, love, and desire to explore.
Harley-Davidson superstar, known for completing a long-distance motorcycle trip without male support. She was travelling with her 3 kids in a sidecar instead – what an ultimate challenge. With her husband, they owned Harley-Davidson dealerships and she was also acknowledged as one of the most accomplished motorcycle mechanics in the country.
Known as an architect from England currently, but Elspeth has been the first British female motorcyclist to circumnavigate the world during her training course to become an architect. This bold move was not acknowledged by media, so she decided to move on with her life. Between 1982, when she began her journey and her autobiography released in 2017, no one really knew about her incredible adventure. Her motorcycle adventure book is a great place to get inspired and take on the adventure.
One of a few inspiring women we follow on social media, this fellow Polish soul out on a big round-the-world trip on her beloved BMW F800 GS, she has been passionate about motorcycles since her teenage years. Her ever-growing desire for adventure and taking advantage of every chance to get on two wheels is a way she explored Australia, Europe and now she is on the biggest adventure to date with her bike, “Chillie”, updating thousands of her fans through her social media. On Her Bike website.
Multi-talented and very creative author and adventurer who completed her solo trip around the world, which took her almost 4 years to complete and covered over 74,000 miles on a 250cc motorcycle. She is currently working on a book capturing her adventures circumnavigating the world.
It takes courage to leave a job for one of the most prestigious banks in the city, to go on a motorcycle adventure. That is most likely the secret dream of all of us fellow bikers. Claire not only felt the need to leave the office desk and monthly payslip behind but also to make the world a better place. That’s why she founded Pikilily – an organization training Tanzanian motorcyclists about road safety and maintenance. They also empower African women to get on a bike and become more independent. Check her website.
Being named ‘most travelled female motorcyclist in the world’ is well deserved after conquering 80 countries across six continents and clocking up over half a milion miles in a single journey. Originating from England, Lisa’s childhood was filled with adventure and road trips – starting as young as 5 years old travelling with her parents. She is internationally renowned speaker and a cook – with incredible experience of cooking on the road, mixing local ingredients with flavours she knows from back home. Check Lisa’s website.
Having motorcycle adventure weaved into her DNA, Danell was first travelling as a pillion and then polished her skills on pre-owned Yamaha Virago. After feeling confident enough she was ready to purchase her ultimate motorcycle – a dreamy Triumph Bonneville named Amelia. Her goal was to set a world record for the longest single motorcycle trip by a female, when she found out that woman-specific category will not be added. That motivated her to carry on and break the existing record regardless the driver gender. Danell has got her website.
Incredible blonde dreadlocks and unfulfilled desire to discover all unique places in the world, Eglė is on a mission and is currently living on the road. She runs an inspiring travel blog where she shares her stories, insights and what she is currently up to. Her time is split between riding, inspiring other women to explore the fun of ADV motorcycle riding and writing a book. Check Eglė on the road.
Jacqui took her time with the setting off on her first serious motorcycle adventure. She bought her ultimate bike (Royal Enfield Bullet) for her 50th birthday. She always loved travelling and at this point in her life, decided to combine all of her favourite activities into one great adventure. Her ultimate road trip took 7 years while she covered 20 countries. It was not planned at all. Explore Jacqui’s website to find her book and more information.
Another example that a comfortable job in the city and a passion for adventure on a motorcycle doesn’t go together very well – at least for not too long. Her excursions resulted in multiple travel adventure books. She is also a founder of the Adventure Travel Film Festival. Lois found her calling to be a writer by getting enough interesting stories to share – and that seems to be very common amongst motorcycle travellers.
After two months after passing her motorcycle driving license tests, she set off on an incredible adventure from the UK to India. The initial plan of her and her friend’s adventure was to stay on the road for nine months, but in the end, it turned out to be two and a half years of unstoppable exploration of four continents overland. Now she also shares her experience as a freelance guide for motorcycle expeditions. See more.
‘The Toughest Woman in Motorsport’. She took part in Dakar rally multiple times and finished every single edition, even though sometimes she was struggling with dizziness and fever. Being the best female Dakar competitor is a unique accomplishment putting her on a pedestal of our list.
This Ukrainian female motorcycle traveller is exploring the world solo since 2013, where she left with a $1,000 in her pocket and it was enough to get the attention of sponsors and enthusiastic supporters. Before she realized, she was living on the road instead of just travelling long-term. She circumnavigated the world once and now is on her second lap. Check Anna’s blog.
Known as ‘Alaska Moto Girl’, she is motorcycling across the Americas and around Europe, staying on the road since 2015. She ventured out on a solo adventure once her boyfriend (currently ex-boyfriend) told her that it is too dangerous for a woman. Before venturing out she has sold all her possessions and used the money and worked part-time in various locations to sustain herself on the road.
The first woman to circumnavigate Africa on a motorcycle, Jo was always driven by a desire to go further, deeper and more bravely. That led her to become one of the four accredited female off-road instructors in the world. She is promoting motorcycle travel in South Africa and offers motorcycle training and tours there. If you want to find out more about her amazing expeditions, check Jo Rust Adventures.
Michelle is on a mission to change how the world perceives women on motorcycles. She went for a two-year-long adventure with her partner. She spends more than 20 years working for a hotel company in her hometown and climbed the career ladder when she felt that’s not fulfilling enough. After handing her notice, selling her house and putting all remaining belongings in the storage, she was ready for adventure. The adventure turned out to be an incredible time she took with her boyfriend. Numbers? 40,000 miles and 20 countries in just under two years.
Zofia is a digital nomad – working online during her adventures keeps her financially stable on the road. She started her travel adventures on a bicycle couple of years ago and upgraded herself to a motorcycle to travel faster and more comfortably, not relying only on the strength of her muscles. She enjoys getting to know other cultures and spending time with local people. Follow Just a Journey Blog as the adventure is still happening!
Women’s History Month is always a unique opportunity to highlight brave, inspirational women who are full of adventure and character. Because we love motorcycles, we are aware of how challenging it might get at times. Travelling solo, decades ago or even currently, comes with additional struggles. Completing those amazing road trips must have been a unique and life-changing experience – no matter the gender and time in history.