Women may have been riding their own motorcycles since the inception of the motorized bike, but they have never really belonged to the boys club as “riders”, rather they are most often been historically relegated to the back seat––despite their equally competitive riding skills. For instance, 18-year-old Clara Wagner rode a four-horsepower motorcycle in a 365-mile endurance race from Chicago to Indianapolis in October 1910. Battling brutal roads and foul weather, Wagner finished with a perfect score, bettering most men in the race. The Federation of American Motorcyclist (today’s American Motorcycle Association’s predecessor), however, refused to acknowledge her perfect score, giving the trophy to a male rider instead.
And what about Effie Hotchkiss and her mother Avis? They became the first women on record in 1915 to ride round-trip, coast-to-coast, by motorcycle. They had a Harley with a sidecar. Or Bessie Stringfield, a young black mother who turned to motorcycling after the deaths of her children, saying, “I’d toss a penny over a map, and wherever it landed, I’d go.” Or stuntwoman Marcia Holly who rode a Kawasaki-based streamliner to set a land-speed record of 229.361 MPH, becoming the first woman to break into Bonneville’s 200 MPH Club.
My point is, women have been breaking barriers when it comes to motorcycling for years, and now a new group of women are taking up the challenge. The women of India have begun to swing their legs over the saddles of Royal Enfield Bullets. I wish I could have meet them when I was living and riding in India.
In a nation where women have lately been portrayed as weak and vulnerable to the attacks of men, these women are not to be messed with.
If you are looking for a motorcycle adventure led by a woman, check out Moksha Jetley. She runs Back-n-Beyond Travels, a motorcycle tour company that takes groups of riders into India’s mysterious mountains. I know her personally, but you can ask her how we met.