For years, I scoured the Net for a certain type of bicycle book. I was eager to find others who biked the way I biked, to dig in to stories about people who used their bicycles for getting around. I had keyword terms for my somewhat obsessive searches: city biking
, city cyclist
, cycle chic
, women on wheels
Before 2014, manuals for road cyclists abounded, but that wasn’t me. Periodically there would be a book here or there that appealed, classics that may not have been exactly on topic but were important to start my bike-book library. The Chainbreaker Bike Book
, for example, appeared back in 2007. It’s a quintessential DIY bike repair manual, somewhat gritty yet still important for a skirt-and-sunglasses, fair weather cyclist like myself.
Eben Weiss’s first Bike Snob
book debuted in 2010, and even though it satirized cyclists like me as “The Beautiful Godzilla,” at least we were represented. Bike Snob
decisively divided cyclists into tribes, which probably didn’t do cycling all that much good. Yet the Bike Snob
book’s popularity was a clue — an upsurge of bicycle books was on its way.
By 2014, the surge was serious and so much fun. Mikael Colville-Andersen’s Cycle Chic
is a compilation of his best snapshots from his blog. Though it might suffer a bit from "male gaze" limitations, his encyclopedic documenting of Copenhagen cyclists still presents us with an ideal — all weather, all outfits, and all types of cargo on bikes, every single day of the year.
Other pleasurable titles for me from the surge include Heels on Wheels
by Katie Dailey, The Girls’ Bicycle Handbook
by Caz Nicklin, and Anna Brones’s lovely Hello, Bicycle
. Also in 2014, a jargon-free guide for beginners (and advanced and returning cyclists) joined the library: Tori Bortman's The Bicycling Big Book of Cycling for Beginners
. Finding all of these books was key to expanding my range and abilities as a person who bikes.
Yet as in bicycle history, so in bicycle literature — diverse female and nonbinary points of view are underrepresented. Elly Blue’s Taking the Lane
series of bike zines is a good corrective starting point. And even if science fiction has never been my preferred genre, Trans-Galactic Bike Ride: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories of Transgender and Nonbinary Adventurers
, edited by Lydia Rogue and Elly Blue, is a thought-provoking romp. Jools Walker’s Back in the Frame
explores her transformation from chic cyclist to roadie and being a woman of color in the bike world.
The surge subsided. The market got its fill of the women cyclist/urban cycling subgenre of bike books. That’s okay. But at the same time, the history of women and cycling deserves more books. With a lot of digging, I found individual stories of women cyclists going all the way back to bicycling’s birth and throughout the early years of biking — counter to the traditional narrative. That’s why I wrote Women on Wheels: The Scandalous Untold Histories of Women in Bicycling
I was inspired by two Sues: Sue Stauffacher’s book Tillie the Terrible Swede: How One Woman, a Sewing Needle, and a Bicycle Changed History
and Sue Macy’s Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom
. More recently, Ann M. Hall’s book Muscle on Wheels: Louise Armaindo and the High-Wheel Racers of Nineteenth-Century America
was a thrill to read.
But narratives about bicycling heroes and heroines of both the past and present are few. Barriers to women cyclists still exist — we need more thrilling tales of how different people have or are overcoming the hurdles. There is a new generation of cyclists of all stripes getting out there and I want to hear their stories. Let’s get riding, reading, and writing.
÷ ÷ ÷
writes and bikes from Portland, Oregon. Her career has included five years as correspondent for Sweden, Norway, and the Baltic nations for Windpower Monthly
magazine, two years as managing editor for Sustainable Industries
magazine, and many years as correspondent of Tomorrow
magazine. She's also on twitter at @womenonwheeels
. Women on Wheels
is her latest book.