See the sights and sounds of Sturgis, from the motorcycles to the bikini competition and everything in between.
Trevor Hughes/USA TODAY
CLIFTON — You know you’ve made it when you get your own Wikipedia entry.
Clifton’s Gloria Tramontin Struck, 92, meets that standard, even if the first thing in her entry is wrong: Wikipedia has her as an original member of the Motor Maids. This kind of false claim bugs her.
Struck, a lifelong Clifton resident, was not an original member of the Motor Maids. The motorcycle club for women was founded in 1940. In 1940, she was only 15 years old and a year away from taking her first ride.
Struck said she gets annoyed when people get it wrong, because all too often, her peers in the motorcycle community think she’s embellishing her legacy — one that friends say needs no embroidering.
Wikipedia’s next entry, however, about how she belongs to the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame, is right on the money. She was inducted in 2011.
The Harley-riding grandma has figured out a way to set the record straight.
Her account, “Gloria: A Lifetime Motorcyclist, 75 Years on Two Wheels and Still Riding,” was recently published by Wolfgang Publications of Minnesota.
“I wrote it,” she said. “No one wrote it for me.”
Struck’s autobiography isn’t just for gearheads. Local historians might be interested her recollection of pre-war Clifton, and she also takes the reader through the golden years of biking.
Riding back and forth between coasts, making annual treks to rallies in South Dakota and Daytona, and doing a couple of grand tours of Europe with her son, she’s ridden the equivalent of a trip to the moon and back several times over.
“My daughter, when she was little, she thought everybody’s mother had a Harley,” said Struck.
Few walking around today can trace their lives back to the early days of American motorcycling; even fewer still ride. Perhaps it was fated for Struck, who was born in an apartment behind her father’s motorcycle shop in Clifton in 1925.
An early photograph shows Struck’s mother, pregnant with Gloria, smiling and standing next to a motorcycle sidecar.
The next photo in Struck’s thick album finds her at age 2½, tightening a loose nut on a motorcycle.
“I never forgot the feeling I had at that moment,” she told The Herald News in 2014. “I was so proud of myself.”
A few months later, her father, Ernest, died in a motorcycle accident. Her mom took over running the dealership.
As a child she never wanted to ride, not because of fear of what happened to her father, but because riding a motorcycle wasn’t for girls.
“I was very timid, very meek. And women didn’t ride back then,” Struck said.
Her older brother decided she should ride anyway, and so she started out on a 1941 Indian Bonneville Scout. Five years later, in 1946, she joined the Motor Maids.
Since then, she’s owned two more Indians and 11 Harleys.
Grand dame of motorcycles
To Harley lovers, Struck’s a rare living connection to the days when few people rode motorcycles cross-country, and women rode barely at all.
“Gloria is the matriarch of women riders,” said Kathy McKenzie, general sales manager of Chester’s, an enormous Harley-Davidson dealership in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“Women were supposed to stay home,” McKenzie told The Herald in 2014. In 1941, when Struck started riding at 16, “They sure weren’t supposed to get out and ride their own motorcycle and make their own path.”
She took her first ride to Daytona, Florida, in 1951 to watch men race motorcycles right on the beach.
The prevailing sentiment at the time was, only bad girls rode motorcycles. A gas station attendant refused to sell her gas along the way, and a motel would not let her stay the night.
“People thought women on motorcycles were tramps. I hadn’t even had my first date and I was called a tramp,” she said. “Women weren’t supposed to be doing this.”
Today more than 700,000 miles, and 76 years later, Struck is something of motorcycle legend, not just in her native Clifton, but through out the motorcycle world.
She gets thousands of friend requests on social media. She says she has a wait list she gets so many.
“I’ve ridden in every state in the U.S. many times over, except for Alaska and Hawaii, but not for lack of trying, she said.
She went to Maui with the Motor Maids a few years back and though they reserved Harley Heritages to rent, when they showed up, they were told none were available.
“Let me tell you, I was so mad,” said Struck. “I never got to ride in Hawaii. Maybe they saw a bunch of old ladies coming in with gray hair and they figured, hey, we don’t want them riding our bikes.”
More from the book
“Gloria” is chock full of accounts of her love of riding and her accomplishments, such as her October 2016 induction into the American Motocyclist Association Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
A few years before, she was inducted into the Sturgis Motocycle Museum and Hall of Fame, at the site of the famous Sturgis Motocycle Rally, now in its 78th year.
Nor is she ready to stop riding anytime soon. She said her goal is to make a cross country run when she is a 100 and on two wheels.
“I’m a solo rider, always, and it’s not the same. So I just say, well, the good Lord will tell me that’s the day to quit. But until then, I’m going to go as long as I can,” she said.
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