Hailwood, Fogarty, Sheene, Dunlop and Rossi. You don’t need to share a passion for motorsports or motorcycle racing to recognise these names. While the men of the motorcycling world get well-deserved recognition, the same cannot always be said for the women.

There are many legendary female motorcyclists across the globe that deserve to be celebrated, so to rectify this injustice, this article looks at some of the best female British bikers of all time.

1. Marjorie Cottle

It would only feel right to begin this list of legendary female bikers with Marjorie Cottle - one of Britain’s best known female motorcyclists. Born in 1900, Cottle rose to fame in 1924 when she undertook a 3,000-mile endurance ride, travelling Britain's entire coastline on a 2.75hp Raleigh motorcycle.

A couple of years later, Cottle represented Raleigh once again and tackled a challenging 1,370 mile route through Britain’s winding country roads. Riding one of the company’s 174cc models, the journey took 11 days to complete.

But it was in 1927 when Cottle truly made her mark in motorcycling history. Alongside a determined team of female racers, she went on to compete in the International Six Days Trial - an off-road motorcycling event held in the Lake District. Competing against 100 other riders, Cottle and her team triumphed over all the other competitors and won the International Silver Vase.

After accomplishing so much, Cottle became a well-loved and respected racing icon. So when the ACU (Auto-Cycle Union) didn’t select her to ride in the ISDT team again in 1930, the nation swiftly swarmed to Cottle’s defense.

She did, however, continue to compete in many ISDT events throughout the years, including the 1939 Trials which were held in Austria - just days before the outbreak of World War II. Both civilian and military teams raced for Britain, and by the fifth day of the competition, the civilian team was ordered to return home. Cottle refused and competed alongside the military team anyway, riding their motorcycles all the way to neutral Switzerland. With legendary riders like Marjorie Cottle setting the standard during a time where women were banned from road racing by the ACU, the future appeared bright for the following generation of fearsome female racers.

2. Beryl Swain

In 1962, Beryl Swain became the first female solo rider in history to compete in the Isle of Man TT race. Riding a 50cc Italian Itom, Swain came 22nd of 25 riders to complete the notorious race. While she may not have won, she proved her worth on a track that has claimed many lives and inflicted

severe injuries over the years. Nevertheless, the following year, the FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme) deemed the Isle of Man TT too dangerous for solo women and revoked Swain’s international licence. Even though she fought for many years for this ban to be lifted, Swain was forced to put an end to her dreams of competing internationally.

As a rising star in the motorcycle racing community, Swain’s racing career would have surely soared if it wasn’t for the ban. All was not lost though, as the ban was finally lifted in 1978 and women were seen racing on the TT track once again. Even though Swain was unable to tear down barriers herself, her pioneering efforts and talent helped pave the way for future generations, and because of this, she will never be forgotten.

3. Maria Costello

If you don’t recognise this name, then you definitely will after hearing all about her brilliantly bad-ass accomplishments. Maria Costello is most notably known for being the first female solo racer to claim a podium on the Isle of Man TT in 2005. But her incredible achievements don’t stop there. Costello’s shining career began in 1995 when she achieved her first win during her debut season racing at Mallory Park.

Since then, she has won a series of inspiring awards and races, including an MBE, which she received from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace in 2009. In fact, Costello is the only female motorcycle racer ever to be awarded an MBE. In 2004, Costello set a Guinness World Record for being the fastest woman to lap the Isle of Man TT at an eye-watering average speed of 114.73 mph.

More recently, Costello has been unveiled as the first female president for the TT Riders Association in its 67-year history. Still racing, competing and conquering, Costello’s career will continue to blossom until she eventually throws in the towel… which hopefully won’t be any time soon!

4. Patsy Quick

With a passion for adventure and motorbikes, Patsy Quick is one of Britain’s most legendary enduro riders. After winning the invigorating Rallye Optic Tunisie in 1998, she was determined to compete in the Dakar - a dangerous rally which has claimed many lives over the years, and is known as being one of the most challenging races in the world. And she did.

In fact, in 2003, Quick came to be the first British woman to compete in the Dakar. Unfortunately, she was unable to finish the race after a serious crash which left her temporarily blind and unable to walk. Luckily, she was found by a media helicopter which transported her to a hospital in Cairo where she underwent life-saving surgery.

Despite this setback, Quick returned to compete in the Dakar in 2004, only to be beaten by appalling weather and again in 2005 by a mechanical fault, meaning she had to be towed for eight gruelling hours. However, these unfortunate experiences still didn’t put her off. In 2006, she returned to the Dakar more determined than ever and ended up becoming the first British woman to finish.

As well as competing in four demanding Dakar’s, Quick has been British Women’s Enduro Champion, European Women’s Champion and competed in many international rallies. After a truly successful career in off-road and enduro motorbiking, Quick continues to pursue her passion and is currently running an academy called ‘Desert Rose Adventure Riding Academy’, to help other like-minded adventurers pursue their passion.

5. Jenny Tinmouth

Another record-breaker, Jenny Tinmouth is most famous for being the first and only female to have raced in the British Superbike Championship. She is also the first female to lead and score points in a British Championship race, riding her Honda RS125 at Brands Hatch in 2004. Tinmouth also became the first British female to race in World Supersport.

Her accomplishments don’t stop there. In 2009, Tinmouth competed in the Isle of Man TT for the first time ever and became the fastest woman to lap the Isle of Man TT - taking the title from Costello. In 2010, Tinmouth competed again and broke her own record with an average speed of 119.45mph - the current Guinness World Record. Overall, Jenny has earned 36 podiums including 16 wins during her incredible racing career to date.

Due to the combined efforts of iconic female motorcyclists like Marjorie Cottle and Beryl Swain, the motorcycling community has become far more inclusive for future generations of women who are passionate about motorcycle sport.

Thanks to the growing popularity of female-only biker clubs, events, and the increase in women owning, buying and insuring motorbikes, it’s clear the female motorcycling community as a whole is expanding and thriving.


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