Book reviews / History

Book review: Women on Wheels

So almost immediately after writing this review, I went and bought two books about women cycling. I started with Women on Wheels as it felt a bit more chronological than the second (which seems to be about individuals, but we’ll find out when I read it).

It was a really quick read and gives short descriptions of different women, throughout the whole life of the bicycle. It’s definitely not an in-depth history, and that is really it’s main fault. I wanted to know so much more than the one or two women every few decades who did something interesting.

Regardless, it was a really engaging and fun read, and I definitely know a bit more than I knew before picking it up. It was also mostly focussed on the USA and so it’d be great to get one that was based in the UK or Europe as well. My favourite thing was all the descriptions of the different ways women had to dress to cycle and be ‘graceful’ (codeword for being proper). Not going to lie, I’ve been watching a lot of Bernadette Banner and I can only describe the look as “an aesthetic.” It definitely looks cool but would I wear that instead of my Lycra….naahhhh mate.

Still, I think I’m going to find some nice photos and make them into prints. Because aside from the tossers who didn’t want women to bike (a lot of them), loads of women still did get on the latest bicycle model and just bike. Some of them raced, some of them did long distance feats which put my best efforts to shame, some of them just went for jaunts for the weekend. I just loved all the daring-do alongside just going for a pedal. I particularly enjoyed the bit near the end of the book about Katherine Hepburn who was always on a bike, and there are just some great pictures of here (do a Google, but this is one of my favs).

The book also had a really good message: as long as there were bikes, there were women who were cycling. It’s just that social convention, dress convention and all that bullshit has hindered women over the decades from being on equal footing as men (in the case of the League of American Wheelman, actively barring venues from hosting men’s cycling events if they allowed women’s races!) I still find it ridiculous that some of the top cycling events are only men’s events. Though, there is finally going to be a women’s Tour de France in 2022 and I’m tempted to try and get tickets!

Anyway, maybe this will be enough to get me out on a autumn/winter pedal this weekend.

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