From Pioneers to Present Day…
A Trials Guru section dedicated to the female competitors who have taken part in the sport of Trials over the last 100 years.
Words: Trials Guru
Photographs: Various Photographers (see Credits)
(Where a green link is evident, click on the riders name to take you to a full article)
Briggs, Barbara; Briggs, Molly; Bennett, Renee; Bristow, Emma; Cook, Becky (Rebekah) (Talbot); Conway, Maria (Longden); Cottle, Marjorie; Draper, Irene (Smith); (Driver), Mary Buxton; Evans, Debbie (Leavitt); Foley, Edyth; Fox, Donna; Gómez, Sandra; Jones, Lisa; Kevelos, Olga; Krämer, Iris (Oelschlegel); Lermitte, Betty; Lock, Beverley (Hutty); (McLean), Louie Ball; Sanz, Laia; Savage, Jill (McBeath); Sunter, Katy (Thorpe); Taylour, Fay; (Westbrook), Joan Holloway; Wickham, Gwen (White).
We have attempted to feature as many women competitors who have taken part in the sport of trials over the years as is possible, from the early beginnings to the current day. It is impossible to feature every one, but it is really surprising just how many women have competed in the sport, and at high level, in their respective era.
It may come as a surprise, but as early as the 1900s, women have taken part in motorcycle trials, one only has to examine the entry lists of both the International and Scottish Six Days Trials which are now over 100 years old, to find evidence of ladies who had taken up riding motorcycles competitively.
The thought of a daughter taking up what was perceived to be a sport for males must have filled parents with dread, but given the strength of character and determination of the ladies we feature in this section of Trials Guru, they had nothing to fear. The women competed on equal terms with their male counterparts and gained the respect of fellow competitors. Many of the early pioneers of women’s trials were ‘all rounders’, taking part in trials, speed trials and racing events.
Not just ‘making up the numbers’:
Women taking part in motorcycle trials was certainly not a case of ‘making up the numbers’. Ladies took their sport seriously, they were competing on equal terms with their male contemporaries.
Few remember that the International Six Days Trial ‘Silver Vase’ was won by a team of three British women in 1927. One of the toughest motorcycle events in the world.
In modern times, the number of women competitors and girls in youth sport has been encouraged, but we discover it is not actually new, especially when looking at the entry lists of major events like the International Six Days Trial, which was renamed ‘International Six Days Enduro’ in 1980, this was done by the FIM to distinguish the ‘International’ being a timed event, which differed from ‘observed trials’ and brought the description of the annual event up to date. It was an event that was regarded as the ‘Olympics’ of motorcycle sport and of course women were allowed to compete in the event. The Scottish Six Days Trial was similar with female competitors having entered right from the start in 1911.
It may surprise the reader to learn that a female rider signing for a factory to compete on their machines is not a new phenomenon, manufacturers signed women riders as far back as the early 1920s.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for women in a male dominated sport. The Auto-Cycle Union in 1925 banned women completely from motorcycle racing, fearing that any publicity generated by a woman being seriously injured, or worse, would create too much bad publicity for the Union and the sport. This ban did not however extend to trials, hence the reason why trials entered by women became so popular.
Even although the Scottish Six Days Trial historically permitted female competitors, they didn’t actually allow women officials until 1954. In fact the decision to permit ladies to work as observers came about by accident. Two Edinburgh girls who were keen on trials, applied to be observers for the 1954 SSDT, but instead of filling in their application forms correctly using their first names, they just used their initials and surnames! The two women were Margaret Redpath and Ruth Wylie (now Miller) and both had ridden in local trials events in the Edinburgh area and members of the Edinburgh Southern MC and were more than competent observers. Their application was accepted by the SSDT committee and only noticed when they came to sign on as officials for the week, it was too late to say no!
By way of encouragement, many large national trials had trophies for the Best Lady Competitor, which also included the annual Scottish Six Days. Many of these awards were won by some of the women featured in this section over the years.
Nowadays, of course, there is a Women’s Trials World Championship series, which commenced in 2000, twenty-five years after the FIM first ran the World Trials series in 1975. The Women’s Trial World series is run throughout the world with professional riders taking part. The 2020 rankings were: 1. Emma Bristow (GBR); 2. Sandra Gómez (ESP); 3. Berta Abellan (ESP). A full podium of the Woman’s Trial is detailed at the end of this section.
Emma Bristow – (GBR):
Born in Boston, Lincolnshire, England in 1990, Emma Bristow started riding motorcycles at the tender age of four years of age. She was the first British winner of the Women’s World Trial Championship in 2014. Emma has ridden for Gas Gas, Ossa and Sherco factories.
She has accumulated seven world titles all on Sherco Motorcycles from 2014 to 2020, having been runner up three times on Ossa in 2011 and 2012 and Sherco in 2013.
Championships Detail – Emma Bristow:
British Women’s Trials Champion: 2014; 2015; 2016; 2017; 2018.
British Women’s Indoor Trials Champion: 2014; 2015; 2016; 2017; 2018.
European Women’s Trials Champion: 2013; 2017.
FIM World Women’s Trials Champion: 2014; 2015; 2016; 2017; 2018; 2019;2020.
Laia Sanz – (ESP):
Born in Barcelona in December 1985, Laia Sanz Pla-Giribert started very young in the sport, being able to ride a motorcycle from the age of four years old.
Laia at the age of seven entered the Catalan Junior Championship round that was taking place in her village Corbera de Llobregat. She finished in last position, but she was inspired and wanted to ride more competitions. The following year in 1993 she took part in the full championship. There were no other female riders in the series at that time.
By 1997 at twelve years old Laia Sanz won her first event. In 1998, she took part in inaugrial Women’s Trial European Championship, unofficial at the time, and won outright. This attracted factory attention in Spain.
From then on she went on to collect thirteen titles in the World series and competed in numerous international trials, including the Scottish Six Days.
Factory support came from the Italian manufacturer, Beta from 2000 until switching to the Spanish built Montesa riding in the official factory team in 2004, mentored by factory development rider, 1996 Spanish national Champion, Amos Bilbao.
More recently, Laia has been racing in enduros and the Dakar Rallyes.
Championships detail – Laia Sanz:
FIM World Women’s Trials Champion: 2000; 2001; 2002; 2003 (all Beta); 2004; 2005; 2006; 2007; 2008; 2009; 2010 (All Montesa); 2011 (GasGas); 2012 (Montesa).
Woman’s European Trials Champion: 2002; 2003 (All Beta); 2004; 2005; 2006; 2007; 2008; 2009; 2010 (All Montesa).
Woman’s Trial Spanish National Championship: 2003 (all Beta); 2004; 2005; 2006; 2007; 2008; 2009; 2010 (All Montesa).
Woman’s Trial De Nations: 6 wins as member of Team Spain.
Sandra Gómez Cantero – (ESP)
Born in Cercedilla, Madrid, Spain, January 1993, Sandra Gómez Cantero is the daughter of former trials rider, Mariano Gómez and Maria Luisa Cantero Munoz. She has an older brother, Alfredo who was Junior World Trial Champion for Montesa in 2009 and now rides enduro at International level.
Sandra was keen to take up the sport as a child and motorcycles were always in her parent’s garage.
Having rode her first trial at aged six on a hand-me-down 50cc Merlin, Sandra’s first major competition was the Spanish National championships in 2003, when she finished in an admiral fourth position.
Ten years later, Sandra signed for Ossa on the TR280i, which she rode in that years’ SSDT. Switching to the Scorpa brand the following year due to the demise of Ossa.
In 2017 Gómez switched almost exclusively to enduro racing with Husqvarna.
More on Sandra Gómez HERE
Championship detail – Sandra Gómez:
Spanish National Women’s A: 2011 (GasGas); 2014 (Ossa)
FIM World Women’s Trials Championship: Runner Up: 2016; 2017; 2018 (All GasGas)
Woman’s Trial De Nations: 5 wins as member of Team Spain.
Katy Sunter (Thorpe) – (GBR):
Katy was born in 1984 and grew up on the edge of the infamous Scott Trial Grouse Moor in Swaledale, North Yorkshire. Katy’s father Richard Sunter was a supported rider for Montesa and factory rider for Kawasaki and competed in British and World Trials from the late 1960s to the late 1970s until her two older brothers were born.
Trial sport runs in the Sunter blood and from an early age John, Mark and Katy were taught to ride on the family farm, often getting to practice alongside four times Scott Trial Winner, their uncle, Philip Alderson who rode for Yamaha.
In her early years Katy did not ride very often and embraced the assistant secretarial role alongside her Mum, Angela for the Richmond Motor Club. Assisting with taking entries, preparing observer cards, and producing results of Richmond MC Trials for many years from 1990 to 2006. One event which was successful was the Youth Training Days held each summer. From the ages of twelve to seventeen, Katy participated as a student each year, being coached by Martin and Dougie Lampkin. After leaving the youth ranks, Katy took on the role to organise the Youth Training sessions from 2004 to 2012 each summer and became an official ACU Trials Coach. Katy also ran several ACU Ladies only training days attracting up to forty women participants from all over the UK.
At eleven years of age, she rode in club trials on her Yamaha TY80, but normally had to go and watch her Dad and brothers competing in major events. It was not until her early teens that Katy decided trials riding was for her and attempted events her Dad and Brothers competed.
In 1998 Katy travelled to Wales to compete in the first ever Women’s British Championship trial, this started an eighteen-year stint of traveling Britain and then Europe to get to the top level of Women’s Trial. After notable success in the British Championship, finishing in runner up position, Katy finally won her one and only British Championship event in 2004 on home ground at Richmond. European adventures started at the age of nineteen for Katy when in 2003 she travelled to France to compete in her first European Championship event with brother John. Unfortunately this turned out as a memorable experience for the Sunter family when John broke his leg during the event and had to stay for several days in hospital in Paris before being flown home. Luckily, her close friend and rival Donna Fox and family brought Katy home, whilst her parents stayed on with John in France. Later that year Katy was invited to represent Great Britain at the Trials Des Nations in Lavarone, Italy where the team which included Maria Conway and Donna Fox finished second to Germany. In 2003 Katy met multi-national trials winner Dan Thorpe and with his help and inspiration Katy started taking trials more seriously.
For the next thirteen years, Katy, Dan and her parents travelled all over Europe to compete in the Women’s Trials World Championship. Katy remembers these years fondly and made life long memories and friends from all over the world. Success in these events was a slow burner for Katy and it was not until her final three years of competition that she broke into the top five in the World standings, when in 2013 she had her best results and finished fifth. That year the top five comprised four British women: Emma Bristow; Becky Cook; Donna Fox and Katy and the Spanish rider, Sandra Gomez.
The technical standard required at British and World Championships never suited Katy’s traditional natural style of riding and it was always the one lap nationals and traditional events such as the SSDT and Scott Trial that she really loved and excelled. As soon as she was able, Katy passed her road bike test and competed in her first national events, the Wainwright, and White Rose, she fell in love with the natural sections and format of these events.
Growing up on the Scott course and assisting with the organisation, Katy had the 2002 Scott Trial firmly set in her sights. The Scott Trial is a family affair with Dad Richie holds fifteen coveted Scott ‘silver spoons’, her brother John having set standard time on two occasions with husband Dan winning four gold and sixteen silver spoons .
Only a handful of women had competed in the event and Katy wanted to make history. Riding with her Dad in 2002 and 2003 Katy didn’t have the strength, stamina or skill level required to complete the course, but she learned what it would take.
Finally in 2005 her dream came true and she completed the course, all but a few painstaking minutes over the time limit. The same year Maria Conway became the first woman in modern trials to complete the Scott Trial and receive a finisher’s certificate. Observing Maria’s strength and determination, this inspired Katy further, and from 2006 to 2015 Katy achieved official Scott Trial finishes for ten consecutive years, something that many men Scott competitors can only dream of. Emma Bristow is the only other woman rider to have achieved ten Scott Trial finishes, and not only that but she has two Scott Silver Spoons too.
After the Scott Trial, Katy’s other passion is the Scottish Six Days Trial and Katy has ridden the event since 2004 along with husband Dan, brothers John and Mark and Uncle Philip. A couple of years out due to injury means Katy’s SSDT tally is thirteen finishes, but she hopes to keep riding this event as long as possible and add a few more to that total.
Rebekah ‘Becky’ Cook – (GBR)
Born in 1986 on the Isle of Wight, Rebekah ‘Becky’ Cook started riding motorcycles when she was nine years old.
In 1999, she competed in her first Women’s British Championship Trial, however it wasn’t until 2004 that she made a return to the championship going on to take her first of eight Women’s British Championship titles.
Her international career commenced in 2004 competing in the Women’s World Championship right through until the end of the 2016 season taking three round wins and five overall runner-up positions along the way.
Becky also competed in the Women’s European Championship culminating in taking the overall win in 2012.
She represented Great Britain thirteen times in the Woman’s Trial Des Nations with seven victories.
One of her favourite events was the Scottish Six Days Trial which she rode eight times and “would love to go back and compete”.
Championships Detail: Becky Cook:
FIM Women’s World Trial Championship: Runner-up 2008; 2009; 2010; 2014; 2015.
Women’s European Trial Championship: Winner: 2012
Women’s British Trial Champion: 2004; 2005; 2006; 2007; 2008; 2009; 2011; 2012.
FIM Women’s Trial Des Nations: 7 wins with Team GB.
Mary Driver – (GBR):
Born Mary Buxton in North London, Mary Driver was to become a well known trials rider in the early 1960s, having taken up competitive riding after sampling motorcycling by riding pillion on her boyfriend’s Dennis’s BSA Golden Flash in 1953. The following year Mary attended the RAC/ACU training scheme and purchased a 197cc James and that led to her taking up a secretarial position at the ACU headquarters in London’s Pall Mall. She married Dennis Driver in 1958.
Mary earned the support of the Greeves factory, they supplied her with one-day trials machines up to 1964, but she also received support from London dealers, Slocombes on a 250cc BSA C15T for her first attempt at the ISDT in 1961 in Wales, where she gained a silver medal and later the SSDT. Mary also competed in many scrambles events to sharpen up her ISDT special test skills, which included the 100 mile event at Pirbright, organised by the Twickenham club, in preparation for the 1964 ISDT held at Erfurt in East Germany.
Mary Driver’s first attempt at the Scottish was in 1960 and she rode it seven times.
Her own competitive career ended when she took over the job of Assistant Secretary of the Isle of Man TT Races, a weighty task.
By 1966, Mary was appointed to the role of ‘Competitions Manager’ at the Auto-Cycle Union, a position she held until 1975.
Irene Draper (Smith) – (GBR):
Farmer’s daughter, sister of Norton, BSA and Cotton works rider, John Draper and to become the bride of World Motocross Champion Jeff Smith in 1957, Irene Draper rode in trials from 1953-1958.
Irene Smith told Trials Guru: “I started riding trials in 1953 and stopped in 1958 after getting a puncture on the Bantam as well as being pregnant! Jeff decided not to mend the puncture and this stopped me riding in trials. He eventually sold my daytime BSA Bantam to our friend, Arthur Lampkin for younger brother ‘Sid’ to start his career, then the trials 175cc bike which Jeff had built for me, sold again to Arthur for Martin to begin, so both bikes went to good homes! I rode mainly in local Western Centre trials and a few nationals in the local area, the Cotswold cup, Stroud and Kickham trials.”
Irene was born December 9, 1934 to Harold and Nellie Draper, farmers at Lower Hill Farm, Prestbury who had three children, John, Irene and Mavis. She only rode BSA Bantams including one which was obtained from the BSA factory by her brother. Now living in Wausau, Wisconsin.
Donna Fox – (GBR):
Born in October 1984, Donna Fox hails from Doncaster, England and has been riding trials since the age of ten years old. Donna has had five podium finishes in the ACU Women’s British Trials Championships and a third place in the FIM Women’s World Trials Championship in 2015.
She also competed in Bike Trials for five years, becoming British National champion three times. In 2006, 2008 and again in 2015, she was part of the winning British team at the Women’s Trial De Nations. At fifteen years of age, Donna was ACU British Youth B Class Trials champion.
In 2004 Fox won the coveted Sunbeam MCC ‘Pinhard Prize’. The winners list of the Pinhard Prize includes some of the best motorcycle riders since 1950, including John Surtees, several of the Lampkins and a host of others who have gone on to be national and international household names.
In more recent times, Donna commenced riding in classic trials on a TL125 Honda and a Drayton BSA Bantam.
Championship detail – Donna Fox:
FIM World Women’s Trials Championships: Third: 2015 (Sherco).
Woman’s Trial De Nations: 3 wins as member of Team Britain – 2006; 2007; 2015.
Maria Conway (Longden) – (GBR):
Born in South Oxfordshire 1984, Maria was one of four children, with three brothers so anything girlie was definitely off the cards. Maria first rode a TY80 when she was ten years old, after her two older brothers turned to motorbikes. All the Conway family would travel around the country competing at national level. Maria’s first British Championship forray was when she was fourteen in 1999. Maria finished second overall in the adult category.
In 2000 Maria was chosen to represent Great Britain in the very first Woman’s Trial Des Nation in Seva, Spain, she teamed up with Rachael Buckley, the GB women finished third behind Germany and Spain.
Maria also rode for Giant MTB DownHill team 2004, 2005 and 2006 competing in as many British and World championships as she could without clashing with her Trials competitions.
Maria married British MTB Downhill competitor, Will Longden in 2012.
Championship detail – Maria Conway:
FIM Women’s World Trials Championship: 2000: 9th; 2001: 4th; 2002: 5th; 2003: 3rd; 2005: 5th; 2006: 7th (missed a round due to competing at a World MTB DH cup championships); 2007: 5th; 2008: 5th.
European Championships: 2001: 5th; 2002: 9th; 2003:3rd; 2004: 7th; 2005: 4th.
Woman’s Trial Des Nations: Team member for a number of years member of winning Team GB in 2006 and 2007.
ACU Women’s British Trials Champion: 2002.
Competed in Scottish Six Days Trial: 2003; 2004; 2006.
Scott Trial: In 2003, (then 2005) Maria was the first female official finisher since Mary Driver.
Iris Krämer (Oelschlegel) – (GER):
Iris Krämer was born in Darmstadt, Germany in June 1981, her father, Willi Krämer was a motocross rider who competed at international level. Iris and her mother Christine went to watch at every opportunity. When her sister Ute was born in 1983, Willi made the decision to quit racing, but he also decided to take up trials to keep his interest in motorcycle sport.
A Yamaha PW50 was bought for Iris and her sister to share, which was followed by a more purposeful Mecatechno 80cc. It was this machine that forced Iris to take trials more seriously.
Her first trial competition was in at Kerzenheim in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany in 1993. This event inspired her to practice more often at the family home.
Iris read a report about a women’s only trial at Torro Pellice, Italy in 1996. The following year she travelled to Italy with her parents and won the event at her first attempt. This was the moment when her international career started. She won the first ever FIM Women´s Trial European Championship back in 1999-2001. And at the first ever FIM Women´s Trial World Championship in 2000, she was runner up to Laia Sanz.
In 2003 Iris was a member of the winning team at the FIM Women´s Trial des Nations, together with her sister Ute and Rosita Leotta as they represented Team Germany. Again in 2005, she and her German team mates won the FIM Women´s Trial des Nations, which is still her favourite competition.
Also, one of Iris´s favourite events has always been the Scottish Six Days Trial, where she competed six times consecutively from 2002 to 2007. She is very proud that she always finished the SSDT and was accompanied in the early years in the trial by her father Willi.
After many, many years of being runner-up in the FIM Women´s Trial World Championship, Iris finally won the title in 2007 on the Isle of Man. Still now she can´t believe that she finally won the World Championship, which was her goal, or should she call it a ‘dream’, since the championship was established by the FIM in 2000.
After a serious elbow injury, where she broke her elbow in five places back in 2004 and after six operations, Iris decided to stop competing at World Championship level as daily practice was no longer possible. In 2009 her last FIM Women´s Trial World Championship event was in Darfo Boario Therme. Iris was crying when she rode her last section together with her farther minding for her, and her mother, who always played a big role behind the scenes was also present.
After retiring from top level trials, Iris has taken on the role as the FIM Section Advisor for the Women´s Trial World Championships, now married, her husband Robert Oelschlegel looks after their two children when she travels overseas. Iris has also been a member of the FIM – Women in Motorcycling Commission since its establishment in 2006 and also organises training camps for children and women riders to plough back into the sport that has given herself so much enjoyment from an early age.
Championship detail – Iris Krämer:
FIM Women’s World Trial Championship: Winner – 2007 – Runner Up: 2000; 2001; 2002; 2003; 2005; 2006. Third place: 2008; 2009
FIM Women’s Trial De Nations: 2 times winner as member of Team Germany – 2003; 2005
European Women’s Championship: Winner: 1999; 2000; 2001 – Runner Up: 2002; 2003; 2005; 2006; 2007; 2008. Third Place: 2004; 2009.
German National Women’s Trials Championship: Winner: 2002; 2003; 2004; 2005; 2006; 2007.
Lisa Jones – (GBR):
Born 1963 in Sutton, Surrey, England, Lisa Jones took up trials at the age of fourteen as a member of the Surrey Schoolboys Trials Club on a TY175 Yamaha.
She rode predominantly in open-to-centre trials in the south east of England. Lisa rose to the ranks of an expert in 1980. She was so inspired by American Debbie Evan’s SSDT ride in 1978, that she trained hard and entered the 1981 Scottish on a special 200cc SWM prepared by her father Derek.
She competed in the Scottish Six Days from 1981 to 1983. Lisa was invited by the SSDT committee to write the foreword for the 1981 official programme.
She was invited by the USA Fantic importer, Chuck West to compete in the American national trials championships in 1982. Her best placing was 7th at Butte Montana in the novice class. Jones had to compete as a ‘guest rider’ being a non American citizen.
Lisa Jones: “I spent a year there competing and won a few local events in Colorado. In 1983 I competed in the Women’s World arena trials championships in Genoa, which I won.”
Jones gained a second class award at the 1981 SSDT, riding an SWM 200, specially built for her by her father who traded as PECO.
Marjorie Cottle (1900-1987) – (GBR):
Born in Wallasey, Cheshire, Marjorie Cottle was probably the most successful lady trials rider of her era. She competed in numerous SSDT and ISDT events and was supported by the Raleigh, BSA, Triumph and Sunbeam factories in her highly successful competition career. Much was written about Marjorie during her lifetime and was selected to represent Great Britain as a member of the GB Silver Vase team on numerous occasions in the 1920s through to 1939. Marjorie was a keen publicist of the sport and motorcycling in general, taking part in a long distance promotional ride in 1926, covering 1,400 miles on a 174cc Raleigh. It is safe to say that Marjorie Cottle was the most successful woman competitor of her era.
Cottle rode in fourteen ISDT events from 1925 to 1939 inclusive, winning eight gold, three silver and one bronze, finishing in eleven of the events. In 1927, Marjorie married TT and trials rider, Jack Watson-Bourne who finished second in the 1920 Junior TT and she also formed part of the victorious three-female GB Silver Vase team with Louie McLean and Edyth Foley. The same year, Marjorie competed in the Scott Trial and completed the course.
Marjorie switched camps in 1930 when Raleigh ceased production of motorcycles and she moved to ride for BSA Motorcycles.
During her riding career she was always referred in the motor-cycle press as her maiden name of Cottle. In the 1935 event, Marjorie’s BSA had a habit of the carburettor catching fire when the bike spat back, she overcame this by putting the flames out with her bonnet. That was until an over-zealous marshal tried to extinguish the flames by throwing concrete dust into the bell-mouth and thus the machine would not restart. Marjorie was furious as she clearly had matters under control and was robbed of yet another finish and perhaps a medal.
The Great Escape:
Marjorie supplied with a 249cc Triumph, took part in the notorious 1939 ISDT in Austria, the country had been annexed under the Third Reich earlier that same year. It was in this ISDT that the British riders had to flee the event mid-trial as war had been declared. Marjorie escaped, riding under orders from the British Army who could not guarantee the rider’s safety. Had the riders not escaped during their daily run on the Friday, they would have no doubt been made prisoners of war.
By 1940, Marjorie was using her competition Triumph to good effect as a Home Guard Despatch rider in Wales. She became a group officer in charge of the National Fire Service Despatch Rider training at Prestatyn in North Wales. Her husband Jack, did not survive the war however.
After the cessation of the Second World War, Marjorie took up employment with BSA as a Sales Representative. In her later years, Marjorie became a celebrity and made appearances at various shows and motorcycle events. She was reunited with her 1939 ISDT Triumph in 1972 at the Isle of Man and took it for a short run. Her last motorcycle ride was in 1980 on a Gilera on private land on the Isle of Man.
Upon her death in 1987, her extensive trophy collection was bequeathed to a close friend, however on the subsequent death of her friend, Marjorie’s entire collection was then sold by Bonhams Auctioneers in 2010 for the sum of £1,995.
Marjorie had continued to ride motorcycles into her eighties and no doubt was seen as just a little old lady on a bike, by those who had no realisation that Marjorie Cottle was the greatest sporting motorcyclist of her time.
Betty Lermitte – (GBR):
A seasoned competitor, way back in 1927 Miss Betty Lermitte formed part of the Royal Enfield factory trials team with W. F. ‘Fred’ Bicknell and L. A. Welch. The trio won the Gloucester Trophy in the London to Gloucester trial. Collecting a silver cup each for their efforts. Betty Lermitte also made the best performance for a female competitor in the Woolwich and District MC’s Matchless Cup Trial.
A year later in 1928 Betty, who rode a 350cc Royal Enfield and Fred Bicknell were the only British riders who participated in the Majpokalen Two-Day Trial in Sweden, a very hard reliability trial run by the Svenska Motor Klubben. The route covered some 1,300 miles over very sandy roads. The event started at 1:00am on Whit-Saturday in Gothenberg and finished in Stockholm at 9:45pm on Whit-Monday.
In the 1929 Scottish Six Days Trial, Betty Lermitte along with five other Royal Enfield competitors took part. The Enfield riders on 346cc models were: L.A. Welch, Campbell Spiers a Scotsman who later became part of the organising committee, Fred Bicknell and Betty Lermitte, with J. O. Stewart Junior on a 488cc model and G. Patrick on a 488cc sidecar outfit. Except the last two all finished the course. Miss Lermitte won a silver medal and Campbell Spiers and Fred Bicknell a silver cup. Later, in the August, at the International Six Days Trial, the eleventh edition, the event was based in ‘Mid Europe’, Starting from Munich, Bavaria and finishing in Geneva, Switzerland, it passed through Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France. Lermitte was entered as a privateer along with speedway rider, Miss Fay Taylour, Miss Elizabeth Sturt (Matchless), Miss Margaret Newton (Douglas) and Miss C. Webster but there was a three women Great Britain Vase team, comprising of Marjorie Cottle, Edyth Foley and Louie MacLean. It was during this event that Betty carried out her legendary towing incident where she towed a fellow British rider some 80 miles. Great Britain took the World Trophy at the end of this event. Betty Lermitte finished the course gaining a silver medal for her efforts. The following year in France, Betty formed part of the Vase team, this time riding a 500cc Rudge, taking home a gold medal.
Fay Taylour (1904-1983) – (IRL):
Fay Taylour from County Offaly, Ireland was herself an interesting character. Nick-named ‘Flying Fay’, she cut her teeth in trials and then took up speedway racing in the 1920s, beating many male counterparts, until women were banned from the sport of motorcycle racing in 1925. Fay was an extremely popular figure with spectators and was used in advertising material to promote speedway racing events.
After speedway racing, she took up motor racing in 1931 and was the only lady driver to recommence racing, following the cessasion of the second world war. Sadly, her popularity wained after it became known that she was a supporter of the fascist movement and made her political views known. A factory Douglas rider, Fay’s story is told in ‘Fay Taylour: Queen of Speedway’ by Brian Belton (Panther Publishing).
Gwen Wickham (White) (1931-2018) – (GBR):
Born 1931 in North London, Gwen Wickham’s family moved to Southampton when she was a teenager, her interest in motorcycling began in 1946 by watching speedway racing at Wembley. Her first competitive trial was in 1950 at the Sunbeam MCC Novice Trial, riding a 125cc Royal Enfield after some coaching by her boyfriend Jack White who was to become her husband in 1958. Pre-war, Jack White was third in the 1934 SSDT on his 248cc Ariel Colt and won the 250cc cup at the Scott Trial seven times. He was 24 years older than Gwen. The Royal Enfield belonged to Jack and then he built a 125cc BSA Bantam for Gwen to compete on.
Gwen progressed to a 197cc Francis Barnett in 1952, which she entered the SSDT that same year with some support from the factory.
It was during this event that Gwen met the four other women competitors, Molly Briggs, Joan Slack, Leslie Blackburn and Barbara Briggs. Gwen finished the trial but her boyfriend Jack’s ignition expired on day three, forcing him to retire.
Gwen won first class awards at the Highland Two-Day Trial at Inverness and the Meech Cup Trial organised by the Weymouth and South Dorset MCC. At the West of England national, she won the ‘Powder Puff’ award for best lady competitor.
Gwen rode the SSDT again in 1957, this time on a 197cc James Commando. Gwen was one of two women to finish and she was one place behind Molly Briggs at the finish at Blackford Hill, Edinburgh. She competed in many national and local trials which included the West of England, Welsh Two Days, Beggars Roost, Cotswold Cups Trial, the Hoad Trial, and the Perce Simon during her riding career. She was a laboratory technician in Southampton hospital.
Gwen White never lost her interest in trials and both before and after her husband died in 1977, she made the annual trip up to Fort William to spectate at the SSDT, latterly in company with fellow Southampton club member Mike Jackson, former Greeves and Norton Villiers sales manager. Gwen was guest of honour at the 1998 Pre’65 Scottish Trial, invited by the then Secretary, Andy Johnston.
Following her death in 2018, the organisers of the annual Perce Simon Reunion dedicated their event in her honour, in recognition of her contribution to the reunion’s success over the years. As a mark of respect, the organisers of the Moidart Road Run dedicated the 2018 event in Gwen’s memory and Jack White’s third place SSDT works 250cc Ariel was ridden round the route by friend Ivan Haskell, much to the delight of Gwen’s daughters who were also in attendence.
Molly Briggs – (GBR):
Much has been written over the years in motorcycle magazines and papers about Molly Briggs from Derby, England and her husband, Alf Briggs who was himself an accomplished road racer and worked for Honda UK.
One of the best known sporting motorcyclists of the 1950s, Molly was another one of those ladies who was regarded as an ‘all-rounder’, having competed in observed trials, the ISDT, scrambles and road racing, sometimes on the same machine.
Molly rode a variety of machines, from Trophy Triumph, DMW, DOT to Triumph Tiger Cub.
A life-long member of the Pathfinders & Derby MCC, she regularly raced at the local Osmaston Manor circuit, not far from her home in Derby. She was great friends with international road racer, John Cooper and ace photographer, Don Morley, both hailed from Derby.
She competed in several SSDT and ISDT events from 1949. In the 1949 ISDT at Llandrindod Wells, Wales, Molly was the only female to finish the event, with Olga Kevelos (Birmingham), Anita Newell (Dublin) and Patricia Hughes (Southampton) all sustaining injuries after crashing during the event.
After ceasing her own riding career, Molly became a regular observer at the Scottish Six Days Trial.
Jill Savage (McBeath) – (GBR):
Daughter of the motorcycle dealer, Len Savage of Farnborough, Hampshire, Jill Savage was born in Guildford, Surrey in 1938.
She made her name in off-road motorcycle sport from 1954, riding Greeves machinery in trials and scrambles and even the ISDT, before switching to the Gloucester built Cotton marque in late 1960.
In the 1961 ISDT, Jill formed part of the CSMA (Civil Service) B Team with Scotsman, Jimmy Ballantyne and H.J. Marriott.
She travelled to Australia in 1961 to race in scrambles and promote the Cotton brand of off-road machines. She stayed with the family of Australian scrambler, Allan McBeath, whom she later married and they made their home back in England. Jill stayed three months in Australia setting up franchises for the Cotton concern. She gave up competitive riding in 1964.
Jill later became a Vice-President of the Association of Pioneer Motorcyclists.
Louie Ball (McLean) (1900-1932) – (GBR):
Born in 1900, Louie Ball was the daughter of a cycle and motorcycle agent in Birmingham, England. By the age of 15, she was featured in an article in the motorcycle press about her father’s business which held an agency for Scott motorcycles.
Young Louie became a proficient mechanic and took up trials riding a two-speed Scott two-stroke, her first event being the 1919 ACU Stock Machine Trial. In 1923 she was admitted to the Scott factory trials team. The following year, she was signed to ride for the local James Motorcycle Company to ride their 500cc Vee-twin machines, which she did for two years.
At the age of 25, Louie took part in the ISDT. The following year she caught the attention of BSA and signed for the Small Heath manufacturer. It was at BSAs that she met her husband, George McLean who was a factory supported trials rider. George later opened a motorcycle business at Craig Pier, Riverside Drive on the banks of the River Tay in Dundee, Scotland. The McLeans spent their honeymoon competing at the 1926 ISDT, with Louie part of the three woman Silver Vase team of Marjorie Cottle (Raleigh) and Edyth Foley (Triumph). The McLeans moved to Dundee in 1930 to join George’s father who in partnership bought out the business of Mann & Scott.
In 1927, Louie switched manufacturers to join the Douglas company and was again chosen for the all women Silver Vase competition in the August at the ISDT, which was held in the English Lake District, she teamed with Cottle and Foley. McLean rode a 350cc EW Sport model in the event, the team was victorious. Louie was one of only nine riders to finish with no marks lost. In the 1931 SSDT, Louie won the award for the Best Lady Competitor on a 348cc Douglas.
Sadly Louie died in child-birth in 1932, giving birth to her daughter.
Olga Kevelos (1923-2009) – (GBR):
Born on November 6, 1923 in Edgbaston, Birmingham, England, Olga Valerie Kevelos was the daughter of a Greek-born restauranteur and a British mother, she became an all-round sporting motorcycle competitor who rode in trials and speed events from 1947 to 1970.
Olga competed in many ISDT events and excelled at speed events.
Olga also benefitted from sponsorship from Birmingham motorcycle dealers, Vale-Onslow who supplied her with machines and spares.
Having ridden her 347cc AJS to San Remo in Italy for the 1949 ISDT, she crashed mid event and broke her wrist and ankle in the fall. Olga then retired from the event but rode back to Britain on the AJS. She also rode a variety of machines during her riding career including an Italian Moto-Parilla in the 1952 ISDT, which she crashed heavily with during the event, losing two teeth in the process.
Scottish author Colin Turbett, published his book in 2017 entitled ‘Playing with the Boys‘ which tells the life story of Olga. It is a very detailed publication which charts Olga’s life and is a very interesting read.
Olga also tried her hand at single-seater car racing in the early 1950s, driving a Wolverhampton built 500cc Kieft/JAP.
Joan Holloway (Westbrook) (GBR):
Born in June 1943, in Lewisham, South East London. Joan Holloway had access to a strip of bombed out riverbank near her home, where she and friends would play, first on pushbikes, then onto motorcycles, until the local Police interviened. Her first bike was a BSA Bantam, that the family bought her for her 16th Birthday.
The deal was that she rode it and “kept off her brother Mike’s bike” She didn’t know they knew she had been sneaking out on his machine. Joan learned to ride on an NSU Quickly around the back garden of the family home, then brother Mike Holloway’s bikes when no one was looking.
Joan’s first proper trials machine was a Triumph Tiger Cub, Brother Mike used to take her out learning to ride off road on it.
At 18 years old, she entered her first event with her brother, as Mike’s passenger at the Ilford Motor Cycle & Light Car Club’s ‘MacDonald Cup’ trial starting at the Woodlands Cafe at Stapleford Abbots. Joan is still a member. Mike eventually went sidecar scrambling, but being passenger didn’t suit Joan, so she decided to go solo, buying an elderly Greeves ‘Scottish’. Her first solo ride was at Pirbright.
The Scottish was eventually replaced by a brand new Greeves ‘Anglian’, then a new 250cc Bultaco Sherpa. Pete Westbrook, a sidecar scrambler met Joan and they married in 1972. They still managed to do their respective sporting activities, but being newly weds, weren’t exactly flushed with money.
The Bultaco was getting on in years, and her competitive riding was starting to suffer, so she bought a new TY175 Yamaha. This was trialled for 8 years, by then it was showing signs of age. A friend was selling his very little abused 1986 Fantic 241, so this was purchased, and Joan started having good local results again. She decided to buy a new Fantic 243 in 1989.
The Fantic 243 didn’t suit her at all: “It was a complete disaster for me. I nearly gave up trials riding there and then. Brother Mike, who by then was also riding pre’65 trials, asked me to come and ride with him at a pre’65 trial on one of his B40 BSAs. The Fantic 243 was quickly disposed of, and a B40 was sought. A BSA C15 turned up instead. Mike and husband Pete rapidly modified it for me. My first ride on that was at The Eastern Thumpers in 1989. We had entered the South West Classic Trials Association ‘Exmoor 3 Day’ trial and Dartmoor 2 Day in 1990. Also, the Exmoor and Dartmoor two day in 1991, where I met a character who was laughing at me enjoying myself on ‘Ruby’s Rocks’. He said why didn’t I enter the Pre’65 Scottish, he said the sections were no harder than what I had been riding during that weekend. He did forget to tell me about the little bits in between the sections though.”
“Pete had been allocated the first week in May 1992 for his annual 2 week leave. When was the Pre65 I asked? Ooh, shall we enter I asked him. No! was his immediate answer. I then sulked! Gordon Davis of the Erith & District MCC, of which I also am a member, told Pete that Scotland was a great week. I won the battle of the sulks, Pete relented and I entered just as a ‘one off’. The following year, I couldn’t resist the urge to do it ‘just one more time’. Then 1994 to 1997. In the 1997 trial, I slipped on a rock whilst walking a section, and down I went, breaking my wrist. Mike was riding that year too, and he taped my wrist up for me with Duct tape. Nothing broken Sis, just sprained! The wrist was OK whilst riding downhill, but was agony going uphill, as it kept parting company with the rest of my arm. Finished the trial though, sporting a nice backslab after my visit to the Belford Hospital in Fort William.”
“In 1998 I was sidelined from starting, as had broken my ribs whilst tackling the streams at Shallowford on the Exmoor. A new C15 was in creation for me, being built by Mike and Pete and built around me from scratch. I rode the Pre’65 Scottish from 1999 – 2004 and decided that 2005 was going to be my last Pre’65 Scottish, and it was the worst weather we had for all the years previous that I had been riding. It turned out that was the absolute best Pre’65 Scottish that I had ridden out of all of them. It was an amazing event to finish on and as Colin Dommett remarked, I was ‘no spring chicken’. I wasn’t even thinking of retiring from trialling though, just riding locally and Devon.”
“In 2013 and was riding the Exmoor and discovered a lump which proved to be Lymphoma, I spent the rest of 2013 having chemo for the cancer. I did enter the Jack Thompson trial that year, as had ridden all of them since its inception and nothing was going to stop me. I finished that event on my knees, but only with the help of many club members, helping me walk the sections. 2014 was a better year bikewise, having the few ‘offs’ that one expected to happen. Sadly, 2015 was the year we lost my brother Mike to Pancreatic cancer.”
“Mike asked me to quit trialling just before he died, but told him I wasn’t able to do that. I continued competing, but by now feeling my age which was catching up with me, only riding the easiest sections available. Still enjoying my outings though. In 2019 more health problems precluded my trials riding. My last event on my beloved C15 being in June of 2019. I do intend getting back on the BSA, just as soon as possible. I will have been wobbling around on trials bikes for over 60 years now and have loved every minute of our sport. I do intend to carry on riding until I’m 80, then we shall see. My husband, Pete has bought me a 260cc Montesa 4RT so I can wobble around on that ‘when I get old’ it doesn’t do what I tell it to do though, unlike my C15. The pedals are on the wrong side too!“
Regional Women Competitors UK:
Barbara Briggs, Sunderland, North East of England
Beverley Lock (Hutty) – Camberley, Surrey
Beverley Lock started at 10 years of age with the Surrey Schoolboys Trials Club and competed regularly over a 10 year period, she married the late Len Hutty.
There will be more Trials Ladies added to this section of Trials Guru when more information is received or researched.
FIM Woman’s World Trial Championship Podiums:
2000 – 1 Laia Sanz (ESP – Beta) – 2 Iris Kramer (Oelschlegel) (GER – Gas Gas) – 3 Claire Bertrand (FRA – Montesa).
2001 – 1 Laia Sanz (ESP – Beta) – 2 Iris Kramer (Oelschlegel) (GER – Gas Gas) – 3 Claire Bertrand (FRA – Montesa)
2002 – 1 Laia Sanz (ESP – Beta) – 2 Iris Kramer (Oelschlegel) (GER – Gas Gas) – 3 Claire Bertrand (FRA – Gas Gas)
2003 – 1 Laia Sanz (ESP -Beta) – 2 Iris Kramer(Oelschlegel) (GER – Gas Gas) – 3 Maria Conway (GBR – Beta)
2004 – 1 Laia Sanz (ESP – Montesa) – 2 Claire Bertrand (FRA – Gas Gas) – 3 Rosita Leotta (GER – Gas Gas)
2005 – 1 Laia Sanz (ESP – Montesa) – 2 Iris Kramer (Oelschlegel) (GER – Gas Gas) – 3 Rosita Leotta (GER – Gas Gas)
2006 – 1 Laia Sanz (ESP – Montesa) – 2 Iris Kramer (Oelschlegel) (GER – Gas Gas) – 3 Rebekah Cook (GBR – Gas Gas)
2007 – 1 Iris Kramer (Oelschlegel) (GER – Scorpa) – 2 Laia Sanz (ESP -Montesa) – 3 Rebekah Cook (GBR – Gas Gas)
2008 – 1 Laia Sanz (ESP – Montesa) – 2 Rebekah Cook (GBR – Gas Gas) – 3 Iris Kramer (Oelschlegel) (GER – Scorpa)
2009 – 1 Laia Sanz (ESP – Montesa) – 2 Rebekah Cook (GBR – Gas Gas) – 3 Iris Kramer (Oelschlegel) (GER – Scorpa)
2010 – 1 Laia Sanz (ESP – Montesa) – 2 Rebekah Cook (GBR – Sherco) – 3 Joanne Coles (GBR – Gas Gas)
2011 – 1 Laia Sanz (ESP – Montesa) – 2 Emma Bristow (GBR – Ossa) – 3 Rebekah Cook (GBR – Sherco)
2012 – 1 Laia Sanz (ESP – Gas Gas) – 2 Emma Bristow (GBR – Ossa) – 3 Sandra Gómez (ESP – Gas Gas)
2013 – 1 Laia Sanz (ESP – Montesa) – 2 Emma Bristow (GBR – Sherco) – 3 Rebekah Cook (GBR – Beta)
2014 – 1 Emma Bristow (GBR – Sherco) – 2 Rebekah Cook (GBR – Beta) – 3 Sandra Gómez (ESP – Ossa)
2015 – 1 Emma Bristow (GBR – Sherco) – 2 Rebekah Cook (GBR – Beta) – 3 Donna Fox (GBR – Sherco)
2016 – 1 Emma Bristow (GBR – Sherco) – 2 Sandra Gómez (ESP – Gas Gas) – 3 Rebekah Cook (GBR – TRRS)
2017 – 1 Emma Bristow (GBR – Sherco) – 2 Sandra Gómez (ESP – Gas Gas) – 3 Theresa Bauml (GER – Beta)
2018 – 1 Emma Bristow (GBR – Sherco) – 2 Berta Abellán (ESP – Vértigo) – 3 Sandra Gómez (ESP – Gas Gas)
2019 – 1 Emma Bristow (GBR – Sherco) – 2 Berta Abellán (ESP – Vértigo) – 3 Sandra Gómez (ESP -TRRS)
2020 – 1 Emma Bristow (GBR – Sherco) – 2 Berta Abellán (ESP – Vértigo) – 3 Sandra Gómez (ESP – TRRS)
Sunbeam MCC – Pinhard Prize, Women Trials Winners (since 1950)
1952 – Maureen Towler, London Ladies Club.
2004 – Donna Fox
2020 – Alicia Robinson
Credits & Acknowledgement:
All text copyright: Trials Guru/John Moffat 2021
Technischen Museum, Vienna.
Nigel Pearson Photography.
Geoff Charles Collection/National Library of Wales.
Eric Kitchen, Cumbria, England.
Derek Jones, Surrey, England
Kim Ferguson/Kimages, Fort William, Scotland.
John Hulme, Trial Magazine.
Mike Davies, Wales.
Eric Miles, Cannock, Staffs.
Heath Brindley, Bristol, England
Ray Biddle, Birmingham, England
Mike Naish, Exeter, Devon, England.
Jen Brown, Los Angeles, USA
Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven, Scotland.
Colin Turbett, Shiskine, Scotland.
Ron Aitchieson, Northumberland.
If any photograph which appears on this section is not credited to its rightful owner, please contact Trials Guru via the ‘Contact‘ page, so that we may correct it.
FIM World Trials Information: Charly Demathieu and Trial Online website: trialonline.org
Additional Research/Information on International Six Days Trial from: speedtracktales.com