History of Womens Motocross

Extreme sports and women do not historically go in the same sentence, but lately women are closing the gender gap when it comes to these sports—especially in the case of women’s motocross.

This motorcycle sport has grown by three hundred percent over the past ten years. Forty percent of that growth can be contributed to women. Because women are quickly gravitating towards motocross racing, competition classes, events, gear and products are all being targeted specifically towards women’s motocross.

Motocross: A Long History

WMX racer Kristine Wright charges uphillWomen’s Motocross goes as far back as 1906 from motorcycle trials competitions that took place in the United Kingdom.

These competitions were later referred to as scrambles as the goal changed to be the fastest rider and win the race. As these scrambles started becoming more popular, the term “motocross” became synonymous with the sport. It was a clever combination of the French word for motorcycle (motocyclette, moto for short) with cross country.

The first scramble race was held in 1924 and the sport really started to take off in 1930s Britain, where racing teams began to organize. Due to the rough terrain that these races were held on, the bikes themselves started to transform and improve so they would be better at navigating the rough roads. The motorcycles continued to see upgrades and modifications as more riders were entering the sport.

In 1966, motocross had crossed the pond, into the United States, where it saw tremendous growth at a speedy rate. The first motocross event in a stadium took place in 1972 in Los Angeles.

Women’s Motocross: Where It All Started

Women began entering onto the modern motocross scene in 1974 with a National Championship. This was the first time a woman was eligible to win a national title. Nancy Payne was the first to claim it. The race was later renamed to Women’s Motocross Nationals to give it more legitimacy and sound more professional.

Through the years, the Women’s Motocross Nationals has operated under several different names like the International Women’s MX Association (IWMA), Women’s Motorsport Association (WMSA) and U.S. Women’s Motorcycle League (WML).

In 1996, a series of women motocross races devoted to women riders, as opposed to single events, began through the WML. In 2004, the Women’s Motocross Association (WMA) was established only to be renamed in 2009 to the Women’s Motocross (WMX) Championship when MX Sports took over the brand. Miki Keller played a huge roll in progressing the WMA which became the WMX series.

Women are now part of the AMA Pro Motocross Championship races using the same rules, practice, and tracks as the men. This legitimized women in the sport of motocross and saw an explosion of growth and acceptance, which now includes sponsorships and big payouts for winning titles.

Women and Motocross Today

wmx racing battle in cornerEven with the acceptance of women’s motocross, these ladies are still competing for equal sponsorship, equal pay and equal exposure. The sisterhood of motocross racers is strong and these women are as committed to each other as they are to the sport. Through sponsors, conferences, autograph signings and photo ops, the women of motocross are certainly entering an arena where once only men participated and got media exposure.

Through the popularity of women in motocross, the marketing of motocross gear tailored specifically for women, like pants, boots, helmets and apparel has exploded. Among the typical black, blue and green apparel there is now pink, purple and aqua. Women riders are forming their own local groups, like WMN Racing, and organizing their own events and conferences in hopes that they will further their cause, in getting more widely recognized.

Today’s famous women’s motocross riders include Steffi Laier from Germany and Katherine Prumm from New Zealand. From the United States there is Ashley Fiolek, Jessica Patterson, Tara Geiger, Jacqueline Strong, Heather Lockwood, Alexah Pearson, and many others. There were well over 50 WMX racers registered to compete in the 2012 racing season. The 2012 WMX season long points battle came down to the last moto of the last race of the year before it was decided with Ashley Fiolek getting the number one plate when Jessica Patterson was injured and could not contest the final moto. These two ladies have kept the number 1 trophy between the 2 of them for the past several years and they always seem to have some great battles on the track.

Women and Other Motorcycle Events

In addition to motocross women have participated in many other motorcycle based events such as pioneers Lynn Wilson and Mary McGee who finished the Baja 500 in the late 1960s. Later on, McGee paired up with Cherry Stockton to finish in Las Vegas’ Mint 400.

After them, some women went the daredevil route like Teri Kezar and Debbie “Flying Angel” Lawler, who jumped over cars and through rings of fire with their motorcycles. But it was not as popular until Marcia Holley set a land speed record for riding a single-engine streamliner motorcycle, and became the first woman to get into Bonneville’s 200 miles per hour club.

Across the ocean, when the Powder Puff National Championship was being held in 1974 in the United States, three hundred women’s motocross pros were competing. Nancy Payne took home the title and was also one of the first women from the United States to race women’s motocross in Europe.

The history of women competing in motorcycle events is still being written and each season brings new competitors, new teams and more excitement and fun for all.

If you would like to contribute stories or comments about the history of women in motorcycle sports, please post your comments or contact us if you want to share an article and we will be happy to post your story for others to enjoy here on this site.


  1. I was wondering how much do women now days get payed to race. And how many sponsors do most get?

    • womensmxadmin says:

      Hello Shelton,

      Most professionals do not disclose how much they are being paid. In general, the pay given out for participating in women’s motocross is not very high at this time. It peeked a few years ago when the women got to race at several of the major outdoor mx races in the USA. It has declined since then since the women do not get to compete as often any more and they are no longer part of a TV package.

      The number of sponsors is totally up to the individual racer. The harder they work and the more contacts they make, the more sponsors they can get aboard their team. Once a sponsor is earned it is very important to promote that sponsor in a positive fashion as often as possible. If the sponsor increased their business as a result of helping a racer, they are more likely to continue to support that racer.

      Best of luck with your racing, ride safe and have fun!

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