The language surrounding cycling has always been rich and colourful. The joy experienced by travelling independently on two wheels has provoked witticisms from the likes of everyone from Earnest Hemmingway to Hellen Keller. These memorable catchphrases and wise observations have been collected over the years and cycling-related quotations now constitute a fun linguistic tapestry celebrating the sport we all love.
Although many of the top cycling quotation lists are largely dominated by men, women have also played an important role in crafting the language we use to talk about cycling—coming up with insightful and touching ways to describe what it feels like to ride. As more women discover the joy of riding a bike and the women’s peloton continues to outdo itself, here is a tribute to cycling through the words of some of the women who played an important role in making it what it is today.
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel… the picture of freedom, untrammelled.” – Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony was an important leader of the women’s suffrage movement who believed that like men, women should be entitled to enjoy sports, education and to cultivate a career if they so choose. Her apt description of the sheer freedom provided by the bicycle continues to ring true today and it is thanks to women like her that the bike has become such an important symbol of equality.
“The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community.” – Ann Strong
Meant to be taken tongue in cheek, Ann Strong’s quip from the 1895 Minneapolis Tribune is another ode to the freedom cycling provided women. Although the humour is a bit outdated, it shows just how revolutionary the bike truly was in opening up new possibilities and ways of thinking.
“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.” – Iris Murdoch
Especially relevant today, as many major cities struggle to become less centred around cars, Iris Murdoch’s insight from the mid-twentieth century goes a long way to showing the intuitive response so many people had to cycling as a means of transportation. Although the bikes themselves have certainly come a long way, the beauty and simplicity they represent remains the same.
“Next to a leisurely walk, I enjoy a spin on my tandem bicycle. It is splendid to feel the wind blowing in my face and the springy motion of my iron steed. The rapid rush through the air gives me a delicious sense of strength and buoyancy, and the exercise makes my pulse dance and my heart sing.” – Hellen Keller
This beautiful quote from a woman who was both blind and deaf is an elegant description of the visceral freedom the bicycle provides. Accessible and so full of pleasure, cycling has brought a smile to the faces of so many the world over.
“As long as there’s someone who sees what I see and feels what I feel, then the fire inside me lives on in the numerous cyclists: boys, girls, men and women.” – Alfonsina Strada
Known for her quick wit and disruptive attitude, in 1924 Alfonsina Strada decided she was going to ride the Giro d’Italia. Despite the fact that women at the time weren’t even allowed to show their knees, let alone wear cycling shorts, Alfonsina decided she was going to race with the men. Registered under the gender-ambiguous name Alfonsin Strada and fooling organizers, her boldness paid off and she remains the only woman to have ridden the Giro d’Italia.
“This was a perfect day, I love this sport. Please watch more women’s cycling.” – Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig
In one of the most profound and touching moments of last year’s racing calendar, following La Course, Cecilie Ludwig made a sincere and honest appeal to fans around the world to give women’s cycling more of the attention and airtime it deserves. A true ambassador for the sport, Ludwig is representative of the next generation of women on bikes.
“I want to be motivational and inspirational for everybody: my big aim is more women on bicycles.” – Marianne Vos
From a woman who has proven time and time again that she is a force to be reckoned with in the world of cycling, Marianne Vos’s statement is simple yet profound. In wishing that other women can enjoy the same sport that has played such a big role in her life, she demonstrates her faith in the truly transformative power of cycling.