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The Ultimate List of Women In The History Of Motorcycle Travel

Update 2021

 

We really wanted to say huge thanks to everyone who got involved and shared more great women who pushed the envelope in the motorcycle world. We’ve decided to include all of them in our list and keep it growing.

Please carry on with submitting more inspiring stories, pictures and we’ll include it! A little hall of fame for all great people who share incredible love for this kind of travel and living. 

Cheers,

Lions.

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.

Table of Contents

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.

Dot Robinson

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.

Bessie Stringfield

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

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.

Anne-France Dautheville

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.

Benka Pulko

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 Birchall

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.

Susan Lang

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.

Elspeth Beard

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.

Kinga Tanajewska

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.

Steph Jeavons

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.

Claire Elsdon

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.

Lisa Thomas

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.

Danell Lynn

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.

Eglė Gerulaitytė

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 Furneaux

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.

Lois Pryce

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.

Tiffany Coates

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.

Laia Sanz

‘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.

Anna Grechishkina

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.

Nikki Misurelli

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.

Jo Rust

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 Lamphere

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 Radzikowska

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!

 

Noraly Shoenmaker aka "Itchy Boots"

One of the most likeable personalities on Youtube. Noraly is exploring the world on different motorcycles and shares her adventures, knowledge and great energy with almost 700k subscribers (8.3.2021) on her Youtube channel. 

Binge-worthy series take you through the undiscovered lands of India, Malaysia, Patagonia, Alaska and even Netherlands – back in the time when we all had to stop travelling. Currently Noraly started another adventure: destination unknown which will be the most improvised excursion in her career that we know of. 

https://www.itchyboots.com/

Mary McGee

Mary began to race motorcycles in 1960’s and were the first woman to hold a FIM racing license.

FIM 2018 legend, AMA Hall of Fame inductee 2019
Raced in the first 1000, Baja 500. 1st woman to street race against men at Laguna Seca.

Hayley Bell

The founder of Women Riders World Relay.

Ruth Blayne and Patricia Hilton

Overland from UK, Two up on a Lambretta Read more…

Mary Sievier

The first British woman to motorcycle around the world.  Read more…

Helen Upson

Helen rode around the world. She was away for 15 months and rode for 13 months, clocking up 80,000kms – see er Instagram.

Winifred Wells and Peggy Iris Thomas 

Theresa Wallach and Florence Blenkiron were the first motorbikers ever to cross the Sahara, and Africa after that, in 1935.  Read more…

Voni Glaves and Ardys Kellerman

In 2011, both were recognized for logging a documented 1,000,000 miles riding BMW motorcycles. Read the interview…

 

Anke-Eve Goldmann

She was a journalist for Cycle World, Das Motorrad in Germany, Moto Revue in France and other international motorcycle magazines. Goldman was a friend of author André Pieyre de Mandiargues and the inspiration for the main character, ‘Rebecca’, in his most popular book The Motorcycle.

Heather Ellis

Heather Ellis is an Australian motorcycle rider, adventurer, author and speaker who rode solo through Africa and Central Asia via the Silk Roads down to China. Author of two bestselling books, Ubuntu: One Woman’s Motorcycle Odyssey Across Africa and Timeless On The Silk Road: An Odyssey From London to Hanoi.

http://heather-ellis.com

Helen Lloyd

As Helen says about herself, “I love going on adventures and exploring the world. Whether I’m cycling, hiking, horse-riding, paddling down a river, riding my motorbike or living in my van, you’ll find me outdoors and on the move.”

http://helenstakeon.com

Michelle Harrison

Michelle quit her high-flying job in London, ordered a classic Indian Enfield Bullet motorbike and went off for a year on a 17,000 mile circuit of India.

She wants adventures, and as a solo traveller, has plenty of them. Follow her on her travels discovering an unknown world of motorbiking, wanderlust and Indian life. 

Buy Michelle’s book.

Rachel Lasham 

Rachel Lasham travelled the Americas on a Honda C90.
This wander made her live life in the fun lane from the far North of Alaska, East via the expanse of Canada during the winter, West again across the USA on the Trans-America Trail, and then South into Mexico.
If you’re on Couchsurfing, you might also host Rachel and become a part of her adventures!
 

Host Rachel

Lea Rieck

Lea Rieck, born in Munich in 1986, preferred playing with Matchbox cars to Barbies even in kindergarten. In 2013, she earned her Master’s degree in art history, business administration and law at Ludwig Maximilian University. After graduating, Lea worked for the publishing house Condé Nast as an editor and designed the digital presence of the AD Architectural Digest brand. In 2016, she left her previous daily routine behind and circumnavigated the globe on her motorcycle in 18 months. When not traveling the globe, Lea now works in Munich and Zurich as an author, keynote speaker, journalist and consultant in digital conception. Reports about her travels have already appeared in FAS, Welt, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Glamour.

In March 2019, her first book, “Sag dem Abenteuer, ich komme” (“Tell the Adventure I’m Coming”) was published by Kiepenheuer & Witsch, which spent 10 weeks on the Spiegel bestseller list and with which she is currently on a major reading tour. Lea Rieck speaks at conferences, workshops, and summits and loves to talk about dreams, the right moments to dare something new, and the obstacles that can arise in any implementation (and how to get them out of the way).

http://www.learieck.de/

Weronika Kwapisz

Weronika is a rider, traveler, and author of the book “Everything Starts With a Dream”. Thanks to her grandmother, who had run a motorcycle shop till the age of 94, there is gasoline flowing through her veins. Weronika inherited the love for two-wheels in her genes, which sparked the courageous two journeys through Europe in 2011 & 2015. This petite and modest young woman rode 17,700 miles alone on a small 125cc motorcycle, arousing great interest in the media.

https://www.instagram.com/weronika.kwapisz/ 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkyFj1zW1mQ

Margot Flügel-Anhallt 

Chantal Simons

Adventurer, life coach, author and  speaker.

Chantal Simons was born and raised in the Netherlands, at the age of 26 decided to go on an adventure. Having seen enough of everyday life, she makes the bold decision to take to the roads of the vast Australian continent on her 250CC motorbike, lovingly known as the ‘Chook Chaser’.

Starting her travels in Perth, Chantal heads east in the company of her father. After crossing the Nullarbor together the pair split up and Chantal continues her odyssey alone, riding all the way to Queensland where she temporarily settles down to a life of sun and surf on the Sunshine Coast. After a spell of teaching at a Brisbane university, she again heads off, in the company of a friend, into the red heart of Australia on a journey that will ultimately lead the pair all the way to Darwin.

Author of a book “She’ll Be Right” – get on Amazon

https://womenadvriders.com/2017/11/30/chantal-simons-shell-beright

Candida Louis 

This 28 years old woman from Hubli, South India is a wanderlust spirit and a craving for adventure is something she was born. She started as a pillion rider but she always knew she wanted to be on the front seat. Her dad gifted her a motorcycle on one of her birthdays and from then onwards, it’s been an incredible journey. She always had a passion for riding motorcycles, because it gave her the freedom and independence to go anywhere.

https://candidalouis.com

Elisa Wirkala

An outdoor adventure enthusiast with a background in teaching and geography, Elisa returned home to Seattle in 2018 after a 6-year around the world motorcycle journey that gave her a deep appreciation for creating a space that felt like home. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqMB_f-Xs7c

Cindy Servranckx 

Tamela Rich

Tamela is exploring highways and byways by motorcycle. That’s where she encounter people, places, and adventures to inspire her life and work. She is an author, traveller and a tour coach.

https://tamelarich.com

Conclusion

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.

21 thoughts on “The Ultimate List of Women In The History Of Motorcycle Travel”

    1. Deb Shiell

      Mary McGee- FIM 2018 legend, AMA Hall of Fame inductee 2019
      Raced in the first 1000, Baja 500. 1st woman to street race against men at Laguna Seca.
      A true legend and amazing woman! She should be on this list!

    2. Some good names you have added to the list Roger..
      I am proud to say I met Juvena and Trui in London for the Women Riders World Relay Finale
      Joanna

  1. Steven R Naylor

    It is great to see more Women coming into Motorcycling. Not only the Adventure riders but, everyday city commuters , to all sorts of Racing . Great

  2. Bruce Scholten

    Our Seattle area friend Karen T crossed USA with a Women’s group a few years ago. That’s just one of her accomplishments running Iron Butts, moto tours – and school buses full of Millennials. Brave woman!

  3. Michelle Lamphere

    Thank you, Marta! I’m so honored to have been included in this list. What a beautiful tribute to women motorcycle riders, travelers and adventurers so perfectly timed for International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month!

  4. Check out Helen Upson ride around the world … away 15 months rode 13 months clocked up 80000kms
    Instagram vmaxvsworld

  5. Thank you so much Marta for including me in the inexhaustible list of women motorcycle travellers. We are fortunate that many have gone before us to show us the way. Theresa Wallach, Winifred Wells and Peggy Iris Thomas for starters. Here’s a salute to them!

  6. Thank you, Marta! I’m really honored to be included in this list. It’s also great to see so many other female riders that I know now personally and have become good friends. Let’s hope this list just continues to grow and grow!

  7. “Missed one – Hayley Bell, England, 2019 Women Riders World Relay.” — as Helen wrote indeed……. :)))))))
    Missed these too: Theresa Wallach and Florence Blenkiron who were the first motorbikers EVER, women or men, to cross the Sahara, and Africa after that, in 1935. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresa_Wallach

    Yet a GREAT list to have ! Well done. Thank you, Marta Maleta.

  8. Wow. Thank you so much for including me on your list Marta. I’m super honored and so proud to see many names I know and love on here. How far we’ve come. Simply amazing.

  9. Two more interesting women to include are Voni Glaves and Ardys Kellerman (1932-2013). In 2011, both were recognized for logging a documented 1,000,000 miles riding BMW motorcycles.

  10. What a fantastic list! Very inspiring.

    Maybe we need to add Sara Alison Fisher Pederson (CA). The last 6 years she has done 84 countrie and 259,953 kms on her BMW partnering with her husband Dan. http://www.worldwideride.ca

    Also Erin Doherty-Ratay (US) Guiness Record holder for the longest team motorcycle ride as she did 163.061 km’s through 50 countries and 6 continents on her BMW next to her husband Chris.
    http://www.ultimatejourney.com

    And Annette Birkmann, solo motorcycle rider and writer, who did 53.000 km’s on her BMW through South and North America. Her book about the adventure and her inner journey is lovely “The journey to me” http://www.openroad.dk

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