Female Cyclists in History

Billie Fleming

Today marks the beginning of Women’s History Month. Celebrated annually in March, generations of women are recognised and appreciated for their invaluable status in society throughout history. The celebration seeks to raise awareness of a variety of female role models to inspire and empower the current generation of women. Here at PBK, we are paying tribute to five female cyclists who have set and broken historical records that date back to the 1800’s!

Female Cyclists who have made a mark in History:

  1. Annie Londonderry – Originally Cohen Kopchovsky

    This remarkable woman astonished people of the Victorian era where female cyclists were rare as women were known for staying at home and looking after their husband and children. This was a time before the Olympic Games were even born and she demonstrated what women are really capable of when they put their minds to it. Back in 1894 with only one change of clothes and a 20kg bike, Annie left her 3 children and husband and decided to cycle around the world – apparently to settle a wager between two businessmen. Whether this was just an excuse to fulfil her ambition we don’t know, but she went on to cycle around the world and did so in 15 months. This was an extraordinary accomplishment for anyone to complete and a task that most of us would not even dream of doing! Back then there was no such thing as breathable cycling jerseys, padded shorts and carbon bikes, so to do this with these limitations back in 1894 seems even more of a feat to accomplish. Today, ProBikeKit Celebrate Annie Londonderry for one of the most inspiring women of all time.


    (Image Source: Peter Zheutlin)

  2. Billie Fleming - Originally Billie Dovey

    Billie Fleming set the women’s record for the longest distance cycled in a year. Reaching close to 30,000 miles (29,603.7 miles to be precise) in 1938, she had inspired many people to cycle. Having started cycling at the age of 18, Fleming rode across the UK on a mission to create awareness around the health benefits of cycling. She did this independently, with a number of sponsors (one being Cadbury chocolate) to provide her with equipment to ensure she could cycle in all weather conditions. Sources state that she carried no water and ate at cafés along her route. Her determination and bravery in reaching such an achievement paid off and is one that is hard to beat – even after she passed away at 100 years of age in 2014, her record still stands today.


    (Image source: Cycling Weekly)

  3. Beryl Burton OBE – The greatest cyclist of all time

    Tragically Beryl Burton died of heart failure at only 58 years of age, but the 7 times World Champion has left quite a legacy behind.

    One of her biggest achievements set nearly 50 years ago still remains today. It is that of the 12 hour time trial, covering a whopping 277.25 miles in just 12 hours – yes, that’s 23 mph! At the time the record was so massive that she held the furthest distance over the men for two years after. Her list of achievements is so huge it makes your eyes water and your legs hurt just thinking about it. What this incredibly talented and hard working woman managed to collect over her 25 year career is somewhat unthinkable:

    – 5 world championships on the track – individual pursuit
    – 2 world road race championships
    – 72 National individual time trials
    – 24 National road and track titles

    She also set a tandem 10 mile time trial record with her daughter Denise – both being very competitive on the road which caused some tension. In 1972 both mother and daughter were chosen to represent Team GB – quite the gene pool you may say!


    (Image Source: Ductch National Archive, Kroon Ron/Anefo)

  4. Lizzie Armitstead

    A more contemporary example, but one of the most iconic female cyclists nonetheless! Lizzie Armitstead has won the hearts of the Nation as the reigning World, Commonwealth and National Road Race Champion. Having won countless World and Olympic titles, she has inspired women across the country to achieve great accomplishments in sport. Before her many successes in her road racing career, Lizzie Armitstead won five medals at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in 2009 and 2010, including Team Pursuit Gold in 2009. In a time where female empowerment in sport is evolving, Lizzie has taken the stage for Great Britain since riding as a junior and has her eyes set firmly on adding to her list of achievements in Rio at this summer’s Olympics.


    (Image source:  Jérémy-Günther-Heinz Jähnick)

  5. Marianne Vos

    Seems quite strange when you think a woman at only 28 years of age can be such a household name already. The Dutch rider has so many titles to her name I would imagine she needs a whole room dedicated to her trophies and winner’s jerseys. After winning her first European and world title at the age of 14 as a junior, she continued to make her presence known and came onto the senior circuit by storm, at only 19 years old started racking up Gold Medals. Now, in 2016 she is 7 times World Cyclocross Champion, 3 times Road Race Champion, 3 times Giro d’Italia GC winner, 4 times National Road Race Champion and 2 times National Time Trial Champion. Vos holds 2 World Gold medals on the track and not forgetting her Olympic Gold Road Medal and Olympic Track Gold. This catalogue of achievements is amongst many others, but we would be here all day! What she has achieved is simply astonishing and a credit to her hard work, commitment, passion and drive for the sport she is so talented at.


    Image Source: Hoebele

Have these five iconic female cyclists inspired you? Shop through our women’s section to get started cycling!

Elizabeth Demetriou

Elizabeth Demetriou


I'm a runner at heart but since shin splints became a big part of my life, I turned to cycling as a form of cross training. I love riding track and am a regular on the Manchester velodrome; on the road I ride a Trek Lexa and I call it Toby.

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