The motorcycle industry is becoming increasingly accessible for women, with the volume of female bikers continuing to grow more than ever before.
There’s been an exponential increase in the amount of women purchasing, owning and insuring motorbikes. The female competitive motorcyclist community as a whole also continues to thrive. Despite this, it’s often the men of the motorbiking world who still seem to get most of the recognition.
Female motorcycle racers is a series that will be taking a look at strong and successful female figures of the industry, who’ve steered their way into the history books over the years. Starting with Marjorie Cottle, a truly inspirational rider who helped pave the way for future female record breakers.
A Leading Sports And Promotional Rider
Born in 1900, Marjorie Cottle is one of Britain’s most recognised and remembered female motorcyclists. She regularly competed in races and trials during the 1920s and 30s – and was celebrated as one of the best riders in the country at the time.
Her fame rose in 1924, when she took on an impressive endurance challenge, riding over 3,000 miles around the coast of mainland Britain.
Due to her already established reputation as a leading sports rider and the fact that the challenge was going to be well-publicised – the Raleigh Bicycle Company, provided her with one of their 2.75hp lightweight bikes to undertake the journey on.
A couple of years later she would gain further publicity and nationwide recognition for the motorsport bicycle manufacturer – taking on another tough 1,370 mile route along Britain’s meandering country roads. This time riding one of the company’s 174cc models, the journey took a total of 11 days to complete.
Marjorie Cottle was declared “…one of the trade’s most useful propagandists.’ By “The Garage & Motor Agent” – a leading industry motoring magazine and journal.
The Crowning Achievement
Even though she’s probably best remembered for Raleigh’s publicity stunt in 1924, Cottle’s greatest success was arguably her victory in the International Six Days Trial (ISDT) of 1927.
Two years prior in 1925, the Auto-Cycle Union had enforced a ban on female road racing, citing the potential for bad publicity if a woman was to crash and injure herself, as the reasoning behind it. The ban did not extend to all areas if motorcycle sport – in particular women were still free to compete in trials racing.
It was in this area that Cottle competed, alongside her fellow British, formidable female racers – including Edyth Foley and Louise MacLean.
An off-road motorcycling event with 100 racers taking part, The International Six Days Trial was held traditionally in the Lake District. Despite commentators at the time predicting them no chance of success – the Ladies Team managed to secure a tremendous victory, winning the International Silver Vase.
They beat Denmark into 2nd place and the male British team came in to finish 3rd.
Later Years And Legacy
Maria Costello had undoubtedly become one of the most famous and well respected riders of her day – causing a national outcry in 1930 when the ACU didn’t select her to again ride in the ISDT team.
However, she did go on to compete in many more ISDT events throughout the years, even riding in the infamous 1939 Trials held in Nazi-controlled Austria. The race took place mere days before war was declared between England and Germany. The event had both civilian and military teams racing for Britain.
By the fifth day of riding the civilian team had already been ordered to return home, but Cottle had refused and was still competing alongside the military team. That same day a recall telegram arrived from the War Office in London, Cottle and the Army riders rode their motorcycles, under escort, to neutral Switzerland.
After she eventually stopped competing, Cottle worked for BSA as a motorcycle sales representative – but was reportedly kept in the showrooms instead of out riding in events.
She was a strong, dynamic, compelling rider and her notable achievements helped break new ground for female motorcycle racing. Her legacy opened the roads for future female motorcycling talent, like Maria Costello and Ana Carrasco.