Four Brave Women in the Motorcycling World

They inspired generations of riders. They stand for bravery and the will to fight misconceptions

Even from the beginning of motorcycling, some brave women appeared on the scene and played a huge role in the two-wheeled world. They were tougher than men and ready to stand their ground when everybody else considered them some extraterestrial beings wearing motorcycle boots. And that was the best scenario. 

Dot Robinson – “The First Lady of Motorcycling”

Ama Enduro Championship, co-founder of Motor Maids and a pioneer among women riders, Dot Robinson got here place in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. A regular competitor in endurance runs n the 30s, 40s, and 50s, Dot Robinson was the one who opened the doors for women riders in competitions.

She won her first trophy in 1930 at Flint 100 Endurance, a 160 km race. In 1934, Dot entered her first Jack Pine National Endurance Championship, and by 1940 she won the competition in the sidecar class, becoming the first woman to win in AMA national competition. She repeated in 1946. 

She met her future husband – Earl Robinson – in high school. They teamed-up for a long-lasting partnership with Harley-Davidson. 

Alongside Linda Dungeau, she founded Motor Maids in 1940 – it was the first women motorcycle club in America. The organization was convincing women to try motorcycling. Then it had about 50 members. Now it has more than 1,200. 

Dot kept traveling in a motorcycle's sidecar until of 1998 at the age of 85 when knee replacement surgery made it too difficult to get on and off her sidecar rig. She figured she had totaled a million and a half miles in her years of riding. Dorothy Robinson passed away on October 8, 1999. She was 87 years old.

Dot Robinson

Anne-France Deautheville – first woman to motorcycle solo around the world

"Anne-France Dautheville is 28 in 1972, astride a Moto Guzzi 750 motorcycle on the way to Tehran, traveling alone cross-continent. She’s flagged down by a car, and three children get out to ask Dautheville about herself, her life and her eye makeup. (“I always made up my eyes,” she recalls.) “Then they start driving faster than me. Ten kilometers later, they stop on the side of the road, and they stop me again. I ask, ‘Is there something you forgot?’ And they say, ‘Well, we were wondering, are you a girl or are you a boy?’ ” Dautheville throws back her head and roars with laughter – this is how the “New York Times” begins Anne-France Dautheville’s story. 

‘There had always been traveling women but they had been exceptional women. I am a normal woman. I am not exceptional at all."

Deautheville covered 12,500 miles over three continents riding a 125 cc Kawasaki motorcycle. During this time, she was a freelance journalist, and she supported herself by writing about her travels. She traveled the world until 1981. 

Anne France Dautheville

Elspeth Beard – the first English woman to ride a motorcycle around the world

Elspeth Beard is both an architect and motorcyclist. She began her round the world journey in 1982, at 24 years old, using a second hand BMW R60/6 motorcycle. The three years, 48,000 miles (77,000 km) journey took her to America, Australia, Asia, Pakistan, Turkey and Europe. 

When in Sydney (she stayed there for seven months), she fabricated her own lockable, topcase and panniers out of folded and riveted sheet aluminum. It was long before Touratech started building this kind of panniers. 

In Thailand, she collided with a dog, and recuperated staying with a local family; the family fed her the remains of the dog that she had crashed into.

In Singapore, all her valuables were stolen, including her passport with all her visas. 

Elspeth repeatedly repaired her motorcycle without any help. “I took the cylinder off, straightened the bent studs as best I could and packed the cylinder base with gaskets and goo to get enough compression back” – motorcyclistonline.com – you can read her full story over here.

When she got back, she completely rebuilt her motorcycle. She still has the bike in running order today. 

Elspeth Beard 3

Behnaz Shafiei – Iran’s women rights motorcycle fighter

Women are banned from motorcycle riding in Iran. However, Benhaz Shafiei managed to get a concession from Iran’s sports ministry to stage the country’s first ever all-female race. Although men were banned from the race, the event was still a huge success. "This event is being handled only by women, from the organizers to the spectators to the racers," said Behnaz, down the phone from the track in Karaj, "and God willing, tomorrow it will take place,” said Benhaz Shafiei in a bbc.com interview. 

Iran is a country where women are arrested for riding a motorcycle. When Behnaz returns home from the track, she won’t be allowed to ride her bike on the streets. But she doesn't back down. "You know, in Iran, women's driving skills are always ridiculed. But these same men who claim to be excellent drivers would be too scared to even watch the things I can do on my motorbike.”

You can read her story on bbc.com

Behnaz Shafie

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