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Pleasure Pedaling, Honor your Foremothers and Go for a Ride!

Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride. ~John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy was right when he said that riding a bike is a simple pleasure. If everything on your bicycle is in working order then all you need is a little air in your tires and off you go! It is that simple to enjoy a breezy bike ride to your favorite coffee shop. Bicycles give us the freedom to explore our neighborhoods and parks while giving our bodies a boost with the exercise from pedaling.

Happy senior couple going for a bike ride on a sunny day

Speaking of freedom, is there anything more symbolic of freedom than a bicycle? After all, it was the choice ride of Alice Hawkins as she rolled through Leicester, England to promote the women’s rights movement.

And, just as the bicycle-powered Hawkins and her message around Leicester it also became a tool for independence and emancipation. Take Annie Kopchovsky, a 23-year-old mother of three who wanted to disprove the challenge (which carried a monetary prize) that women weren’t physically capable of riding a bicycle around the world.

Gorgeous happy blonde on a bike ride at the beach on a sunny day

On June 27, 1894, having only learned to ride a bicycle two days before, Kopchovsky left Boston behind, spinning the pedals of a 42-pound Columbia bicycle while wearing full skirts. But, by the time she made it to Chicago on September 24th, she was 20 pounds lighter and ready to give up. She only decided to continue when given the opportunity to trade in her heavy Columbia for a much lighter bicycle. Gone were the bloomers, too, and by boldly and smartly selling advertising space on her bicycle, she was able to self-fund the entire trip!  Fifteen months later, Kopchovsky returned to Boston a full fourteen days under the allowed time securing the $10,000 prize. Her published account in the New York World was described as the “most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman”.

Blonde female with city bicycle with baby in bicycle chair

A year later in 1896, another woman grabbed the handlebars to encourage more ladies to ride bicycles. Maria Ward’s guide to cycling for women, “Bicycling for Ladies,” was written specifically to give women the knowledge about buying, riding, and maintaining their own bicycles without the help of a man. In her introduction to the chapter “Women and Tools”, Ward writes, “I hold that any woman who is able to use a needle or scissors can use other tools equally well. It is a very important matter for a bicyclist to be acquainted with all parts of the bicycle, their uses, and adjustment.”

Ward’s book came at a time when there was a lot of controversy on the merits of cycling for women. Some thought that a woman on two wheels would lose her morality and sexual innocence, as well as allow her to roll into questionable contact with men. Doctors also argued that there would be gynecological consequences and wrote journal articles about the “Harmful Effects of the Bicycle Upon the Girl’s Pelvis.”  However, one newspaper writer wrote in women’s defense “When a woman wants to learn anything or do anything useful or even have any fun there is always someone to solemnly warn her that it is her duty to keep well.  Meanwhile, in many states, she can work in factories ten hours a day, stand behind counters in badly ventilated stores from eight o’clock to six, bend over the sewing machine for about five cents an hour and no one cares enough to protest.”

cycling for ladies

We’ve come so far, haven’t we? Thank you to our foremothers for paving the way for so many things including giving us the right to the simple pleasure of a bicycle ride.  Take some time this waning summer season and get out and spin those pedals, you won’t be disappointed!  If you haven’t been on a bicycle in a long time, it’s time to get re-acquainted, the road is calling you.

Deb Fries is a freelance designer and writer and has worked at Julianna Rae in graphics and customer service, she currently writes lifestyle pieces for the blog at