Heroine: Annie Londonderry

Travelling with a change of clothes and a pearl-handled revolver, on June 25, 1894, Annie Londonderry became the first women to cycle around the world

Her ride was described by the New York World on October 20, 1895, as “the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman.” Londonderry claimed that it was set in motion by a novel wager by two club members in Boston – a claim made by other travellers during the “round the world” fad. Londonderry’s challenge was to circle the globe by bicycle in 15 months and to earn $5,000 .[1] The venture was a test of a woman’s ability to fend for herself. Despite having never ridden a bicycle, she pedalled out of Boston leaving her husband and young children .

Having travelled from New York to Chicago, she exchanged her skirts for bloomers, and her woman’s 42-pound Columbia bicycle for a 21-pound men’s Sterling. Possibly due to the winter, she switched her route from west to east and headed to Europe via New York City. She arrived in Le Havre, France on December 3, 1894. Despite bureaucratic difficulties, Londonderry said her trip through France was the highlight of her experience. She made Paris to Marseilles in two weeks to public acclaim. She steamed across the Mediterranean to Egypt, making short tours throughout Egypt, Jerusalem and modern-day Yemen, before sailing to Colombo and Singapore.

Returning to the United States at San Francisco on March 23, 1895 she cycled to Los Angeles, then El Paso, and north to Denver where she arrived on August 12, 1895. Along the way, she regaled audiences with fanciful tales of her journey, and seem to thrive in the lime-light. She arrived in Boston on September 24, 15 months after she had left. Despite criticism that she travelled more “with” a bicycle than on one, she proved a formidable cyclist at impromptu local races en route across America.

After the trip, Londonderry moved her family to New York, where under the by-line “The New Woman,” she wrote sensational features for several months for the New York World. Her first story was an account of her cycling adventure. “I am a journalist and ’a new woman,’” she wrote, ”if that term means that I believe I can do anything that any man can do.”


the first time

the first time i rode a bicycle it was a yellow bmx. it was my birthday. i was overjoyed. there were no stabilisers on it but i didn’t care. i took it outside and jumped on. i think i scooted a bit then pedalled. i remember going really fast down a big hill but then i came to a kerb. i didn’t know what to do, i was afraid. the front wheel hit it and i went flying into the air. loads of people in suits and dresses, on their way back from church or someplace, gathered around me. everything was blurry and red. then all i can remember was picking the gravel out of my hand before i jumped back on my bike.

vegan power (bar)

You need:

3 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp molassas
4 tbsp chopped nuts (i use mixed)
12 tbsp almond or soy milk
1 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp flax seed meal
4 tbsp Porridge Oats
1/2 teaspoon Oats
1 teaspoon vitamin c powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 heaping tbsp vanilla flavour protein powder

heat almond milk, peanut butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, and molassas in a small pan on the stovetop. slowly add the remaining ingredients into the pan.

pour the mixture into a shallow 9X6 pan lined with plastic wrap, smooth the mixture evenly by pressing down with another pice of plastic wrap. put in freezer for about 1.5 hours. cut into 5 or 6 bars.

You could also add bananas, raisins, apple sauce, or just about anything else you want.

the way the recipe is, you should get about this per bar:
fat: 6.4g
calories: 196
carbs: 23g
protein: 10g

high in fiber, low in cholesterol, saturated fats, sodium.

Heroine: Alfonsina Morini

Alfonsina Morini was the only women to ride in the men’s Giro d’Italia in 1924.

She competed in races against both men and women, and in 1911 broke the women’s speed record, previously set in 1905. Her record stood for 26 years at 37 kilometers per hour (23 mph) and she did it on a 44 pound single geared bike. The first major race that she competed in was the 1917 Giro di Lombardia, with a course of 204 Kilometers, with 74 entries and 32 finishers, Alfonsina finished 32th on the final GC. In 1938 she won the female speed record at Longchamp, riding 35.28 kph.

Her story:

“It was 1924, and there was serious doubt that the Giro d’Italia would happen. Most of the major sponsors were holding back because the economy in Italy was depressed. As a result, few riders signed up for the annual race. But one who did was a woman, signed up as Alfonsin Strada. Using her husband’s last name and her first name less the “a” on the end, it appeared that she was a man. When they found out, would she be allowed to participate in the ride?

In 1891 Alfonsina Morini, the second of 8 children was born to a family in northern Italy . Alfonsina’s family were essentially peasants with the father a day laborer and sharing a hovel with 24 occupants. The children grew up with little structure or advantages. This was during the time that many people from that part of the country were dying from pellagra, a kind of malnutrition. Alfonsina spent most of her time caring for her younger siblings and running errands for her mother who was usually pregnant. One day, when she was ten, her father came home upon a most amazing machine. He had traded some chickens to a local doctor in exchange for an old bicycle. Alfonsina was captivated. She got on it and in a short amount of time was propelling herself up and down the fields, between the beets and the cabbages. She had discovered freedom. Of all the children in her family, she had the greatest ambition to leave her family’s poverty and squalor. And she did it on a bike.

If Alfonsina had been born in 1980 and was competing in the Giro d’Italia today, it would be sensational news and in every one’s living room thanks to mass media. But this happened in 1924, when it was still considered scandalous for a woman’s ankle to be revealed from beneath her skirts. People believed in those days that excessive exercise was not good for women, and as the weaker sex, it would be preposterous to even consider that a woman could compete against men in any kind of physical competition. Imagine the reception that Alfonsina received as a young woman straddling a bike and pedaling down the road. People teased her and called her names. Men made unwanted advances and others treated her like she was insane. Her family was outraged and tried to prohibit her from riding, so she’d tell her mother that she was going to church, while actually she was going to a neighboring town where there was a bike race.

In the early 1900’s there were a few European women who were bicyclists, but their skill was seen as more like a circus act, and people believed that they were possessed by the devil, or considered to be amoral and certainly were not normal wholesome women.

Somehow in her backwater town, Alfonsina had heard about them, and at the age of 13 she declared that she would become a famous bicyclist someday. It wouldn’t be enough to be faster than the boys in her town and it didn’t matter that everyone said she was crazy, she was going to become world famous.

Her “mania” continued to grow as she began to win prizes. One time she won a live pig. She competed in races against both men and women, and in 1911 broke the women’s speed record, previously set in 1905. Her record stood for 26 years at 37 kilometers per hour (23 mph) and she did it on a 44 pound single geared bike. But her fame and prize winnings did not soften her family’s stance against this scandalous behavior; they wanted her to settle down and be a seamstress. They were tired of being the laughingstock of the town.

So when a young suitor appeared, they insisted that she marry, settle down and forget all this bicycle nonsense and in 1915, at 24 years of age, Alfonsina married Luigi Strada, a metal plater and inventor. He was an intelligent, modern man who, instead of obstructing the passion of his bride, approved of it and gave her his full backing. To her parents’ dismay, her new husband gave her a shiny new bicycle as a wedding present. The following year they moved to Milan and Alfonsina began to train regularly under the guidance of her husband.

The first major race that she competed in was the 1917 Giro di Lombardia. World War I was still raging, and many important riders were soldiers so there were not many entrants. This worked to Alfonsina’s advantage, as the organizers were eager to have as many riders as possible to bolster the morale of the people during this terrible war and there were no rules that specifically forbade a woman from participating in the race.

The course was 204 Kilometers, with 74 entrants and 32 finishers, Alfonsina finished 32 nd , 1 hour and 34 minutes after Philippe Thys from Belgium , who finished in 6 hours 58 minutes and 2 seconds.

In 1924 Emilio Colombo , director of the “Gazzetta dello Sport,” a newspaper, admitted Alfonsina to the Giro d’Italia. It was a success that Alfonsina gained during the race, not because of how she placed, but because she was able to prove that women were capable of sustaining the intense workout needed to finish a race. Alfonsina, who was less than 5’2″ tall, rode on her men’s bike, wearing black shorts and matching black socks which showed off her muscular legs. On top of all this she wore a sweater with her name on it. She wore her hair in a fashionable but short bob cut and with a smiling and good natured face she began the Giro, the first to this day, the only female athlete to ever participate in this men’s only event.

She completed the first 4 stages, the Milano-Genova, where she arrived one hour after the winner, but ahead of many rivals; the Genova-Firenze, in which she was 50 th of 65 competitors, the Firenze-Roma, only 45 minutes behind the first and ahead of a big group of competitors, and the Roma-Napoli where she really proved that she was worthy of her competition.

The Foggia-L’Aquila – 7th stage was 304 km, which was bad enough because the southern Italian roads at this time were nearly impassible. They were not paved, and were rocky and icy too. The mountain pass was so terrible that the riders could not get their bikes through the mire and mess on their own and almost all of the participants were towed partway by motorcycles and cars. Alfonsina suffered terribly on this stage. She fell on a descent and had to ride many more hours using her bruised, scraped and swollen knee.

Alfonsina did not finish the next stage, L’Aquila-Perugia, (296km) within the time allowed. Although every day each participant was given ¼ of a roast chicken, 250 grams of meat, 2 prosciutto and butter sandwiches, two jelly sandwiches, 3 raw eggs, 2 bananas, 100 grams of biscuits and 50 grams of chocolate, oranges and apples; she was still suffering from the damaged knee and was visibly thinner and stressed. She was also fighting an inner battle, she just wasn’t sure she could do it, and was tired and miserable. That day the weather was terrible. The wind blew and a bitter rain fell. The mantles that the riders wore did little to protect them. At a certain point on the ride, Alfonsina’s handlebars broke. She wasted a lot of time looking for something to repair them with. She met a housewife who had a great idea. The woman broke her broomhandle in half, and gave it to Alfonsina, who finished the stage with a wooden handlebar. Arriving out of time, she was put out of the race. There was a heated controversy since some of the judges felt they should show clemency because of her particular circumstances. She had been victim to some falls and several flats. At the end the opposition won out. But Emilio Colombo, who understood how good the publicity would be to sponsor the first woman cyclist in history; decided to let her finish the course (unofficially of course), paying out of his pocket for her room and board and masseuse.

The next stop was Fiume , where Alfonsina arrived 25 minutes late, but not a single spectator left until she arrived, as everyone wanted to see this exceptional woman. That day she had fallen again and was hurt. She arrived crying from pain and exhaustion. The excited crowd tore her from her bike, cheering her as if she had been the winner. Heartened by this reception, she continued on the race up to Milan , observing the same schedule and rules as the rest of the competitors. The ride had 12 stages for a total of 3610 kilometers and concluded with the victory of Giuseppe Enrici after an exciting duel with Federico Gay. When they left Milan , there were 90 participants, and at the end there were only 30 finishers including Alfonsina.

In successive years, she was not allowed to compete in the Giro, but she followed it anyway, winning the friendship and esteem of Cougnet, Giardini, Emilio Colombo, Cattaneo, Lattuarda, Girardengo, as well as of many journalists and competitors. In an attempt to earn money doing what she loved, Alfonsina tried to exploit her abilities, participating in exhibitions riding her bike on rollers and in circles. She went to Spain , France and Luxembourg . In 1937, in Paris , she defeated the French champion, Robin. The following year, in Longchamp, she won the female speed record of 35.28 kph.

Her husband died after a long confinement in 1946. She remarried in 1950 to an retired bicyclist who had won many prizes on the track, the giant Carlo Messori. With his help, she continued with her activities until she finally decided to quit competing but did not stop bicycling. She continued to use her bike as a means of transportation. She remained in the biking world because Carlo opened a bike shop with a repair annex. He died in 1957 and Alfonsina continued to care for the house and the repair shop in Milan on Via Varesina where they lived. Every day, to go to work, she rode her old race bike wearing a long pants dress. When she began to feel the advance of age she bought a 500 cc Moto Guzzi. To buy this red motorcycle, she had to sell some of her medals and trophies.

In her later years, she lived with her Siamese cats in 2 dark rooms, and she told people that she had a married daughter in Bologna . But it wasn’t true. She wanted to believe she was not alone in the world. (She still has relatives living at Idice di San Lazzaro di Savena ) She died in 1959 at the age of 68.

The day she died, she had left home very early with her motorcycle to watch the famous “Three Varese Valleys Ride” then returned in the evening. To the concierge of the house she said “I had so much fun, It was really a beautiful day. Now I will push my motorcycle to the store and I will return on a bicycle.” And she left. She was actually rather bitter and disappointed that day because no one noticed her. It added to her great feelings of loneliness. After she exited the house, the concierge heard her trying to start the motorcycle unsuccessfully. She looked outside to see Alfonsina pushing angrily on the start pedal. After a bit, the motorcycle slipped out of her hands, and she fell on top of it as if she wanted to hug it. People rushed to her help, putting her into a car and carrying her to the hospital, where upon arrival, she was already dead, her heart had stopped.

After Alfonsina’s death in 1959 it was believed that the story of women cyclists was finished. Instead, the times soon changed and since then cycling has become a real alternative for competitive female athletes. Alfonsina Morini would certainly be happy to know about it.”

Source: http://www.radiomarconi.com

Female cyclists health and nutrition

(From Peak Performance)

Female cyclists health and nutrition: A guide to the proper care and feeding of female cyclists.

The sex of skeletons can be determined from the shape of the forehead and the width of the pelvis and lower vertebrae. While the first does not affect athletic performance, the second certainly does. A girl’s gait and ability to run fast alters dramatically after puberty because of the widening of the pelvis and the change in orientation of the hip muscles. In cycling terms, this means women may require different saddles and a different angle of saddle tilt. Furthermore, the obvious anatomical differences in this area need appropriate consideration in terms of position and clothing.

Women tend to have relatively longer legs compared to their height than men, with the thigh often accounting for a greater percentage of leg length. These factors need to be taken into account when setting up a female cyclist’s position or ordering a frame. Long thigh bones mean the saddle will need to be further back and the seat angle shallow. However, women with short legs (relative to their height) will need a steeper frame angle and the seat further forward. Women also tend to have a shorter reach and weaker upper body than men of similar height. This means that they need a relatively smaller frame size to allow for a reasonable stem length to be fitted (8-10cm minimum). As women are naturally more flexible, a greater seat-to-bar height difference can usually be accommodated. Too many women cyclists are wrongly advised, buy too large a frame and are forced to compensate by pushing their saddle forward and using a short stem. Thus the handling of the bike and the potential power output are impaired.

Foot size is important
Women also tend to have smaller feet than men. As the foot forms part of the functional lever system when cycling, the ‘109% of inside-leg length’ rule for saddle height cannot be applied (Gregor and Rugg, 1986). Indeed, in one of the rare studies on female cyclists, the optimum saddle height was found to be 107% of pubic symphysis. This may not seem much, but computes to around 1.5cm for the ‘average ‘ female. This study (Nordeen-Synder, 1977) only looked at ten women and foot size was not recorded. A woman with a 28in inside leg and small feet would need the saddle considerably lower than a male with a similar leg length and size 10 feet! Very little work has been published on the role of foot size in cycling, but it certainly has an effect on rider position. Similarly, crank length may need to be adjusted for smaller women with little feet – they may benefit from 165mm cranks instead of the standard 170mm.

The key muscles involved in the flexion and extension of the ankle, and thus in transmitting force along the foot lever to the pedal interface, are the calf (gastrocnemius) and shin (tibialis anterior) muscles. The shorter the distance from the ankle to the pedal interface (ball of the foot), the greater the force required in these muscles. Thus the rider with larger feet has a mechanical advantage over the small-footed rider.

Because of this mechanical disadvantage, the fore and aft positioning of the saddle for female cyclists is even more critical. The saddle should be positioned so that maximum efficiency is attained in the transfer of muscle power from the knee extensor muscles (the quadricep group) to the pedal. Positioning the saddle so that a point just behind the patella (kneecap) is vertically above the pedal spindle has been shown to be the most effective. Similarly, a smooth pedalling action with minimum resistance applied to the up-pedal stroke is required.

Small riders score in the hills
Women tend to be physically smaller than men. Larger cyclists have a lower oxygen requirement relative to body height than smaller cyclists at a given speed, meaning that women are disadvantaged even in flat time trials (Swain et al, 1988). In the hills, percentage body fat and absolute body weight are more important, so most women are handicapped once again. Like their male counterparts, small, lightly built women are more suited to hilly courses than taller, heavier riders who tend to excel at events on level ground.

The key physiological differences between men and women relate to the fact that the male hormone testosterone is a much more potent anabolic agent than female oestrogen. Thus men tend to have larger, stronger muscles and less subcutaneous fat than women. On average, women are 7-10% fatter than men. Top female runners tend to have 12-20% body fat compared to 5-10% for their male counterparts, while the figure for elite female cyclists is 18-25% and 10-15% for elite males. This additional body fat is simply a consequence of being female, a fact which needs to be accepted by female athletes in general. In cycling body weight is supported, so fat doesn’t represent such a drawback as it does in running, but it does account for the greater differences between men and women in hilly events as compared to flatter ones.

Is the fat any use?
The extra body fat does not seem to offer any benefits to women in endurance events even though up to 50% of the energy requirements may be met through fat metabolism. The reason for this is that a woman’s additional body fat is stored in localized deposits or subcutaneously rather than intra-muscle. The difference between male and female world records in endurance running events is greater than in the speed events, although there have been instances where females have outperformed males. For example, in cross-channel swimming several of the records are held by women, while the late, great Beryl Burton OBE held the 12hr cycling record outright. In both these events, weight bearing is less than in running, and, in swimming, the higher body fat of women improves insulation and buoyancy and reduces drag. However, in general, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that body fat offers women any advantages in endurance events such as cycle racing.
Fatty tissue provides a site for steroid hormone inter-conversion, thus maintaining sufficient circulating levels of oestrogen. Early research suggested that low levels of body fat (below 17-18%) were responsible for disruption of menstruation. Presently, there are no well-defined limits for body fat, and inter-personal differences are great. It is likely that there are many factors that may influence disruption of menses, including weight loss, low weight, nutritional inadequacy, physical or emotional stress, and levels of certain hormones such as endogenous opiates and cortisol.
Menstrual dysfunction does not only involve total absence or irregular menstruation but also luteal-phase deficiency and anovulation, both of which influence fertility. Lack of oestrogen and menstrual dysfunction may lead to a number of other problems, including:
1. loss of bone density, possibly provoking stress fractures in the short term and increasing the risk of osteoporosis in later life
2. possible increased risk of breast and endometrial cancer.

Furthermore, being underweight and restriction of calories can lead to:
3. reduced immunity from bacterial and viral infections
4. increased recovery time after training
5. reduced effectiveness of training.

To summarize, while women cyclists should endeavour to keep their body fat down to a reasonable level, they must ensure that their diet contains enough calories and carbohydrate to support the rigours of training and competition (Shangold and Mirkin, 1993).

Menstruation and performance
Girls tend to reach puberty earlier than boys. This means that the advantages of early maturity seen in junior boy athletes are less prevalent in girls’ events. It also means that while 13-year-old girls will often be able to beat boys of the same age in races, by 14 or 15 when the boys have started to go through puberty, the advantage has been lost. Excessive exercise tends to delay puberty by about five months for every year of training, with the associated medical, physical and psychological problems. At the other end of the scale, there is no evidence that exercise has any effect on the date of the menopause. However, exercise will protect against some of the side effects of the menopause such as fatigue and bone loss, although overtraining may exacerbate them.
There is no evidence that exercise of any type during menstruation is harmful or that menstruation causes a drop in performance. Indeed, some women feel that they perform better at this time. Heavy bleeding may lead to anaemia, which will cause lethargy and tiredness, and the hormonal changes prior to menstruation may lead to bloating and fatigue. The symptoms of PMS have been largely attributed to a drop in the brain levels of serotonin or 5HT (Shangold and Mirkin, 1993). Exercise itself increases brain levels of 5HT, as does carbohydrate ingestion. A craving for chocolate is related to this but, sadly, its high-fat content has the wrong effect, so reach instead for fruit or a jam sandwich!

The contraceptive pill offers women some protection against hormonal fluctuations caused by increased levels of training. It also alleviates PMS symptoms and can, in special circumstances, be used to manipulate periods – but this should only be carried out with the consent of a doctor. The reduced blood loss during periods will also benefit athletes who often suffer from anaemia. Although a few women may experience mild side effects (most of which can be alleviated by changing formulations), both the contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy offer female athletes numerous benefits. There is no evidence to suggest that these hormonal therapies have a deleterious effect on athletic performance.

What about diet?
Despite the observed fact that women tend to perspire less than men, there is no evidence that they need less fluid or that they can tolerate heat better. Women also need as much protein and fat as men relative to their body weight. The dietary requirements for men and women are broadly similar with a few exceptions:
1. fewer total calories
2. extra iron and calcium to prevent anaemia and maintain or promote bone density
3. athletes on the contraceptive pill should take a multivitamin/mineral supplement as these drugs may affect absorption and metabolism of certain vitamins.

The absolute amount of carbohydrate needed will depend on the individual and the duration and intensity of training/competition. Total carbohydrate requirements of 2000 calories per day are not uncommon, even for women endurance cyclists. However, experience has shown that most female cyclists (in common with many other female athletes) are over-preoccupied with their weight and underestimate their nutritional needs. Like most endurance athletes, women cyclists are often guilty of eating far too little carbohydrate and would benefit from additional intake without the risk of gaining weight. This is caused by an increase in the training potential of the body and a resultant increase in metabolic rate (Anderson, 1997).

Training and recovery
The differences between the performances of men and women athletes are greatest in the lower ranks. This can be explained by the differences in lean body mass and muscle fibre size. Interestingly, the differences between the VO2max of elite men and women athletes can almost all be accounted for by the differences in lean body mass, red blood cell number and physique. Absolute maximal oxygen consumption (L.min-1) is typically 40% or more greater in men than in women of similar athletic standing. When body weight is taken into consideration (ml.min.kg-1) this difference is reduced to 20%. It decreases to less than 10% if expressed relative to LEAN body weight. Thus body fat accounts for almost all of the differences in VO2max between elite men and women. The remaining differences are accounted for by physical (eg, gait) and haematological factors (Shangold and Mirkin, 1993).
Women use the same number of calories per hour of exercise as men (relative to lean body weight) and have similar ratios of Type I and Type II muscle fibres. The production and clearance of lactic acid is also the same. Women, however, tend to have smaller hearts than men and higher heart rates at the same level of exertion, even when expressed as a percentage of maximum attainable. This needs to be taken into consideration when prescribing training levels purely on heart rate (vis-a-vis BCF guidelines, which were based on a male). Using perceived rate of intensity as an additional tool is advisable. A number of texts recommend the equation 226 minus age for predicting maximal heart rates in women, although, as with 220 minus age, this rule only applies in about 55% of cases. The variation in maximum heart rate and the relationship between VO2max and heart rate varies considerably between individuals even of the same sex. For this reason athletes must learn to listen to their own bodies and train accordingly.

Auriel Forrester and Pirkko Korkia

Heroine: Nicole Cooke

Nicole is an a amazing cyclist and at the same time a fantastic role model for sports wimmin. She is tough and strong and powerful.


A bicycle is my last refuge in this world where the beauty ideal is pushed at every turn.

On a bike I feel free from adverts, magazines, Gok Wan, telling me how to look, what to wear, how to behave.

On my bike I am free. I sweat, let the wind blow through my hair til it stands on end, rain streams refreshingly down my bare face,  mud splatters my clothes. I feel alive. I feel powerful yet affected by nature. I feel strong and weak and focussed. Wild.