By Joe Carrel, Buffalo Exchange Tempe
This is Dot Robinson (shown atop her ’39 Harley-Davidson EL Knucklehead). She won her first motorcycle race at age 18 and later would become the first woman to win an American Motorcyclists Association (AMA) national competition.
In 1935, back before U.S. highways were completely paved, Dot and her husband rode from Los Angeles to New York in under 90 hours, setting a transcontinental record.
After winning both Michigan’s and Ohio’s state motorcycle championships, Dot planned to compete in the National Endurance Run. The AMA director took the position that women shouldn’t compete in such a grueling race. Dot responded by marching into the director’s office and emptying a large carton of signed petitions on him. The two would later become friends. Dot said, “He told me that nobody ever raised as much hell all over the country. I turned motorcycling upside down, and I intended to!”
In 1939, Dot rode all over the U.S. looking for women who owned and rode their own motorcycles. She found 51 ladies who became the charter members of the Motor Maids of America—an organization that’s still going strong today.
Dot continued to compete in endurance runs into the ‘50s. After one particularly harsh race, a rider commented, “I chased that woman for two days, through mud and trees and never caught her. At the end of the race, all the guys tramped into the local bar, but not Dot. She went into her room and got cleaned up first. I’ll never forget the picture: Dot walking into the bar in a black sheath dress and a pill box hat.”
“The First Lady of Motorcycling” is one of only two women in the AMA Hall of Fame.
Dot’s favorite ride was a 6,000 mile jaunt that she and her husband took across Australia while they were in their sixties. She would continue to ride her pink Harley (with a built-in lipstick holder) until she was 85, racking up a million and a half miles in the process.
Back when Dot’s mother was in labor with her, she was brought to the hospital via motorcycle, riding in a sidecar that her husband had designed.
You might say that Dot was born to ride.
clothing courtesy of Tempe Buffalo Exchange