The one-piece, zip-up leather racing suit has been the legal minimum standard for protective competition gear for over 60 years, but the question of who invented it has long been subject to debate.  Movie-star handsome Geoff Duke made the outfit famous in 1951, racing and winning for Norton, after his local tailor, Frank Barker, sewed one up to Duke’s instruction.   He’d already been wearing a one-piece fabric undergarment beneath his two-piece leathers, made up by a ballet specialist in London, which caused a few “ribald comments” from his team-mates. I’ll grant nobody else wore a ballet onesie while racing in 1949, but the Director of Veloce Ltd, Bertie Goodman, had been wearing his own one-piece leather suit a few years prior, while racing his family’s product – a Velocette KTT – at venues like the Ulster GP.  Duke certainly knew who Bertie was, as a rare factory Director who actually raced motorcycles, so the idea was around, as they say.

A young Geoff Duke flat out aboard Norton’s new featherbed frame Manx racer in 1951, famously wearing his one-piece racing leathers. Duke was movie-star handsome and very popular with the press, and photos of his one-piece racing leathers led to their rapid adoption by the motorcycle racing scene. [The Vintagent Archive]
Nobody thought to ask who the first female rider to wear a one-piece might have been, but we certainly know who, like Duke, made it famous.  Anke-Eve Goldmann was riding and competing on motorcycles (always BMWs) from the early 1950s onwards, and had a series of custom leather outfits made for her, to suit every weather condition.  She was fond of the mid-winter Elephant Rally, and had elephantine shearling-lined leather riding suits made for touring in extreme cold. For competition, she had the idea of a one-piece leather suit with a diagonal zipper across the chest, which made getting in and out much easier for a woman.  She contracted the German leather firm Harro to make up her racing suit, and images of AEG banked over on her BMW R69 made a global impact.  She was writing for magazines about racing at the time, especially women’s racing, and her articles can be found in print around the world in the early 1960s, in mags from Sweden to Tokyo, and in the USA in Cycle World.

Anke-Eve Goldmann with her one-piece racing leathers, designed by her and made by Harro. Here she is with the 2nd production BMW R69, looking very happy with her new machine. [The Vintagent Archive]
Anke-Eve was a full two metres tall, utterly charming, beautiful, and a fierce competitor on the track.  She loved racing above all, and endured abuse both from her family and racing men in the early 1950s, because a woman racing in post-war Germany was unthinkable.  Attitudes towards her softened as she was ‘legitimatized’ by press attention and her own journalistic output.  Still, she was denied a racing license in Europe because she was female, and was relegated to ‘women’s races’ and regularity events. She was a feminist and founding supporter of WIMA, the Women’s International Motorcycle Association, and very much her own person, pursuing her own goals.  She had a great many famous friends and admirers, with whom she corresponded regularly.

A betrayal of friendship? André Pieyre de Mandiargues clearly based his novella ‘La Motociclette’ on Anke-Eve Goldman. This is the first edition in English, published as ‘The Motorcycle’ in 1966, and the fabulous cover art gives an accurate impression of the contents. [The Vintagent Archive]
One of those correspondents was French writer André Pieyre de Mandiargues, who won the Prix Goncourt with his 1967 novel ‘La Marge’, made into a film in ’68 by future pornographer Walerian Borowczyk, called The Margin.  Borowczyk also made a film featuring Mandiargues’ collection of vintage erotic toys (‘Une Collection Particuliure’ – 1972), which gives us a picture of the writer’s interests.  These were already on full display in his 1963 novel ‘La Motociclette’, about a beautiful young woman (Rebecca) who rides her Harley-Davidson from Strasbourg to Heidelberg for a tryst with a former lover, leaving her sleeping husband in bed on her dawn escapade.  Rebecca’s ride becomes an erotic frenzy as the vibration from her big twin brings her to orgasm, and in her distraction she crashes and dies.   She wears nothing beneath her one-piece leather riding suit, famously ‘naked under leather’, which was the European title of the film made from the book in 1968, also known as ‘Girl on a Motorcycle’, directed by Jack Cardiff, and starring Marianne Faithfull.

Marianne Faithfull in ‘Girl on a Motorcycle’ (1968), directed by Jack Cardiff and fairly true to the novel. Ms. Faithfull’s riding suit was made by Lanvin, and was lined in fleece, with a knit yoke in front, a chunky silver sipper with ring pull, and was accompanied by a soft vinyl helmet with leather trim and knit earpieces. She also wore a motorcycle helmet in the riding scenes. [The Vintagent Archive]
It’s abundantly clear Anke-Eve Goldmann was the model for Rebecca in ‘La Motociclette’.  AEG was not interested in being a sexual icon, and the eroticization of her image was galling: could a woman not be respected for her work without sexualization? She soon dropped journalism, and effectively disappeared.  She even switched brands, finding the new-generation BMW /5 series aesthetically disappointing, and instead rode a super-hot MV Agusta 750S.  She was lost to history until 2009, when her photos appeared on an obscure Flikr account, which shot around the ‘Net – the original ‘who is she?’  I wondered too, and dug hard to discover Anke-Eve Goldmann’s story, which led to a meeting in Germany with her ex-husband Hans, who gave me permission to use his photos of AEG as I wished.  But AEG refused to be interviewed; she’d felt burned by the film in ’68, and all over again in 2009, when her photos began appearing in leather-fetish websites.  While the cat(suit) is out of the bag, we can still tell AEG’s story, and discover the woman in these remarkable photos.

Some say it was Bertie Goodman who invented the one-piece leather racing suit: he was certainly seen wearing one before Geoff Duke, as noted in the motoring press of the day. [The Vintagent Archive]
To read more about the remarkable Anke-Eve Goldmann, follow this link. [The Vintagent Archive]


Paul d’Orléans is the founder of He is an author, photographer, filmmaker, museum curator, event organizer, and public speaker. Check out his Author Page, Instagram, and Facebook.


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