back to NEWS and STORIES 

"The Mile A Minute Girl".

Margaret Gast, long distance bicycle record holder and only lady board-track rider in the world. How a most remarkable woman on a Flying Merkel motorcycle made unforgettable history.Margaret Gast -   courtesy of www.nagengast.org

(With courtesy of www.nagengast.org ; The source of this material.
Much gratitude to the administrator, Jack Nagengast for his permission and support)

Born in a small Bavarian village, Miss Gast came to the United States in 1893 at the age of 16, together with her brother John. She started a career in bicycle racing, and became a top athlete in the years following. The list of her achievements includes many long distance bicycling records. It even includes beating the men's record on the 2000 miles distance in 1901. It can certainly be said that in those days, she was a celebrity of national importance. After her cycling career, Margaret turned to racing motorcycles where she would gain fame again and become an attraction at fairs and carnivals. She specialised in stunt driving and competing at races on portable board tracks (Amusement Saucers); In those days, perhaps the most dangerous form of professional racing.


Margaret Gast in the Wall of DeathDuring her professional racing career, miss Gast rode a Flying Merkel Special Racer. She was her own mechanic as was reported in the Motor Cycle Illustrated in 1914:
"Miss Gast has had the Flying Merkel on which she is shown on the photograph, for about a week. When interviewed she said that before starting her trip to Montreal, she would take it (the Merkel) all apart and   put it together again, and continue doing that at intervals...".
To join the Montreal event she planned to ride her Flying Merkel all the way from New York. She would have liked to compete in Flat Track events now and then, with her speedy new Merkel, if she would have been permitted to do so.

Margaret Gast -   courtesy of www.nagengast.org This was not an easy way to earn a living. In an interview to the Sunday New Yorker in 1949, she recollected:
"Those bicycle days were my best days. I worked hard and all that, but that was part of my life". "My hardest life was the eight years when I was doing motordome work. I was carried away in ambulances several times. My worst accident was in Palm Beach. They carried me out as gone".

Margaret Gast -   courtesy of   www.nagengast.org She did survive, but quit the dangerous work in 1920, after seeing so many of her fellow riders die:
“I don't know why I stayed in motordrome work so long. Year after year after year I wanted to quit. I saw some of the other rider killed, some of them crippled, some of them burned to death. I knew my time was limited, but they kept saying "Keep on. Keep on". Finally I got yellow. I felt like quitting and I quit".Margaret Gast -    courtesy of www.nagengast.org

She started her next career as a Health Expert in 1922 as she opened her own Health studio for women in NYC. The Health studio was destroyed by fire in 1931.



She opened an Inn in West Pawling under the name: "The Little Dutches Inn" where she served hamburgers to local clients and a large circle of friends coming from far and wide. Her guest list contained many well-known artist and performers. Margaret kept working till the age of 84 as a Massage Therapist. She died in 1972 and was honoured and inducted in the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame in 1993.

For more stories, documents en photos visit Margaret Gast’s website at :Margaret   Gast - Visit www.nagengast.org







http://www.nagengast.org/nagengast/Gast/index.html

A book dedicated to the role of woman in motorcycle history containes a 3 page story of her live : “The American Motorcycle Girls: A Photographic History Of Early Women Motorcyclists” by Cristine Sommer Simmons: http://www.vintagemotorcyclebooks.nl/american-motorcycle-girls-1900-1950-p-177.html

(All photos by courtesy by Jack Nagengast, www.nagengast.org)


                                                                                   back to NEWS and STORIES