Dare-devil stunt riders, resplendent in leather body suits sporting the logo's of their sponsors, doing amazing and jaw-dropping feats on sport bikes or big gleaming cruisers, have always been associated with a dangerous sort of sexy.
Typically in these scenarios, the gorgeous women are on the sidelines, holding a fight card or waving a checkered flag, or maybe pouring Gatorade over the head of whichever guy performed the fastest/coolest/most breathtaking stunt.
But that's not always been the case. We've spotlighted ten of the best women stunt riders throughout the ages. Every one of them was stunning and broke stereotypes of more than one kind.
We start with Margaret Gast, who started her riding career on bicycles in the early 1900's and soon moved on to "motorbikes", as the term was in that day. Before long she was riding the phenomenally dangerous Motordrome – what is now known as the Wall of Death.
With her big brown eyes and her flapper haircut, she seemed all too feminine and sweet, but when she peaked the Drome you knew she meant business.
In the 20's we found Lillian La France, escaping life in Kansas to join the traveling Motordrome and thrilling the hearts of the masses with her lustrous curly dark hair, her curvaceous figure and her blood red lipstick. Lillian was famous for keeping that big fearless smile on her face at all times.
Said Lillian: "It was the thrill of risking my life that made me to take to drome riding. I was the girl who flirts with death. From childhood I was inspired by wanderlust. I was always alone, dreaming of adventures– how to ride a pony out West, to follow my calling to fame. This was my secret. I shared it with no one."
Next is Bessie Stringfield, a strong, beautiful African American woman who started riding a the age of 16 in the deep South. Bessie didn't ride sport bikes with her knees on the handlebars, but she did serve as a US Army dispatch rider and completed eight solo cross-country rides. She most often rode Harley.
Bessie sported a bad-ass multi-buckle black kidney belt against a white body suit and a white captain's hat. She wore her hair long and always had a mischievous smile. Bessie's biggest stunt was being a black woman who rode frequently and alone through racially divided Southern States in the 30's and 40's.
The 50's and 60's were confusing times for women, as we struggled with our places as domestic icons, relegated to the home when our men returned from the war and took our factory jobs and our independence away. A few years later, everything turned upside-down and women rebelled in ways their parents could never have imagined.
During that time Cookie Ayers-Crum blossomed into her place as one of history's greatest motorcycle stunt-riders, riding the Motordrome with no helmet, wearing tight black jeans, a pristine white sweater, her blonde hair spilling over her shoulders in waves and her lipstick just so.
Cookie learned to ride at the tender age of fourteen and by the time she was seventeen in 1949 she had responded to a newspaper ad that read: "Opportunity to travel with show and learn thrilling, well-paying profession. Will teach personable girl with nerve and courage to become motorcycle exhibition rider in Motordrome. Pay while learning. This is a highly regarded profession and a rare opportunity." This sounded good to Cookie and before long she was touring with Barnum & Bailey's Circus as a stunt rider.
In the 70's women were living larger than ever, as exemplified by Tyne Daley starring alongside Clint Eastwood as a gun-toting, bad-guy-chasing cop in one of the Dirty Harry movies, in a role that was ground-breaking.
That same era saw Kerry Kleid become the first woman to hold an AMA Professional Racing License. She was only twenty-one.
The 80's gave us enormous hair and shoulder-pads, Devo and Cyndi Lauper. Despite all of that, it also gave us Debbie Evans Leavitt, one of the most fearless female trail stunt riders around.
Debbie was a pioneer in Observed Trials competition, a sport that requires the ability to quickly and accurately master narrow, marked courses.
Debbie was the first woman to compete in the FIM World Championship Trials and she was honored with the title of "Queen of Trials". She was the first woman to successfully ride in the United States Trials during the late 1970's and into the 80's.
In 2010 there are female stunt-riders galore. While it may have been enough in the past just to be a woman on a motorcycle, now it rests on the shoulders of the lovely ladies who stunt-ride to prove that they can do anything the boys can.
We have riders such as Tena Colbert, "Stunt Blondie", billed as one of fewer than a dozen female free-style stunt riders in the world. Luckily for us, Tena graduated from riding quads to two-wheelers in the not-too distant past.
She now expects to compete in the 2011 XDL Sartso Womens Cup Series, after she gives birth to her first child in August 2010.
Next up on our list of modern-day, smokin' hot stunt-riding ladies is Jessica Maine, from Albequerque, New Mexico. Jessica started riding at the age of 17 when she fell in love with a Yamaha YZF600R. Only two years later she started stunt riding. Jessica stands a mere 5'2" and weighs 113 lbs. This little lady breaks the size barrier, the gender barrier, and the beauty barrier. Jessica commands her bikes like a lion-tamer with big cats.
With tattoos and screaming fast sport bikes, Jessica represents the modern age of female stunt riders quite nicely.
We also have Joleen "JoJo" Farmer, Las Vegas resident who is one of the stars of Las Vegas Extremes and has been called the "hottest female stunt rider ever", a title that has created as much debate as agreement. JoJo is another gorgeous blonde with the face and body of a supermodel. She rides like a beast, performing stunts such as the Christ Air (standing upright on the tank of her bike while moving).
Last but certainly not least we come to Suzanne "Gixxie" Hamilton, a girl who knows how to self-promote as well as she knows how to ride – which is fast, effectively, and with a certain ruthless demeanor. Gixxie can stunt-ride as well as any man and is, true to the present form, a stunning blonde with a rock-hard body.
Gixxie got her start as a spokesmodel for Micron Exhaust. It wasn't until she tired of staring at gorgeous motorcycles all day long that she decided to ride one herself. She had learned to ride on the farm in Ohio at the age of five, but it was stunts she wanted to do, and stunts she did.
So where does this leave us? At the turn of the last century women were performing incredible stunts of bravery and sometimes death-defying resilience just by daring to ride. Now, it seems the best and most attention is captured by the women who are the most beautiful, the slimmest, sometimes surgically enhanced, and typically bleached blonde. Who are these women, and have they truly inherited the mantle of their fore-mothers? For those of us who wonder, let us just remember not to try these stunts at home.