Since I became a cycling convert five or so years ago I have done a lot of online research, especially when trying to learn how to fix things on my bikes. But I also discovered several great cycling blogs out there that I eventually read in their entireties. When I made the switch to a full-on commuter I was working at a bookstore in Portland, ME. I don’t know if folks are aware, but when you work in a cool, indie book shop there are people from different publishing houses who visit from time to time, and they love getting to know what topics and authors you enjoy so they can bring you advanced copies to read. I only worked there for a year, but I got to read some great books on cycling, bike culture, and repair. And since then I have become quite familiar with the bicycle section of my local library. Since I’ve been reading all these great books, and since I’ve been doing this whole blog thing, it struck me that I should try writing some reviews now and then.
I’m on vacation in Canada (or at least I was when I began writing this review), so I brought along some reading material that I checked out ahead of time. One of those was Ride the Revolution – The Inside Stories from Women in Cycling, edited by Suze Clemitson. What better place to start!?
I really enjoyed this book. Each chapter is either written by a woman from the world of cycling, and Clemitson did a fantastic job of finding people who are associated with cycling in a wide variety of ways. I have to admit that I’d only ever heard of a tiny handful of these very interesting women, and even then I mainly knew the names but not the specifics. But that’s a point that this book makes over and over without really having to say it explicitly. There are so many women who are amazing athletes, commentators, and administrators in the sport of cycling, and yet there is very little coverage that might otherwise make them household names. Cycling as sport has been male-centric for most of its history, even though women have been there all along doing all of the same things.
This book does focus almost exclusively on the sporting aspect of cycling, which might make it less interesting to anyone who isn’t at all familiar with the various tours and races that have been running for decades. I have only been interested in cycling as a sport for about a year now, but I have read a few books about the Tour de France and some other classic races. I also read The Rider by Tim Krabbe and Gironimo by Tim Moore early in my “research” into bicycles, so I had some idea of how the sport works and how it has evolved over time. Prior to that I had mainly read about the history of bicycles and how new inventions and innovations have brought us from unwieldy penny farthings to the sleek, sexy cycles of the modern age. But even in those books there is a great deal to learn about how sport drove many of those innovations. It is difficult to learn much about bikes without also learning at least something about competitive cycling. So if you have any interest in bicycles, and you also have any feelings at all about sexual (in)equality, this book will have much in it that you will find interesting.
It is well organized into sections with similar narratives, like “The Pioneers”, “The Riders”, “The Media”, etc. The first chapter covers Beryl Burton, whom I’d never heard of, and who was quite clearly an unmitigated badass. She was setting records alongside (and sometimes ahead of) the men around her while also dealing with all of the responsibilities of a wife and mother in the 60’s and 70’s. Her chapter ended in the same way as so many others in this book, with me asking myself “how is it possible that in all of my reading I’ve never heard of this person?” I have read about a few women from the early days of cycling who are not mentioned in this book, but most were not involved in any sort of cycling sport. However, I imagine that if I mentioned Beryl to any ladies who follow the sport of cycling (and especially any who themselves compete) they would know who I was talking about. But maybe not!
I also discovered fascinating tales of women like Sarah Connolly whose voice is known as a commentator of cycling events, or the two outstanding Australians, Rochelle Gilmore and Tracey Gaudry, a team owner and the first female VP of the UCI respectively. Some of the chapters are actually interviews, and in those cases the questions are always insightful (perhaps because they come from women as well) and follow one another deeper into the subject than you might find in a regular magazine article with its need to cover a wider range of subjects and experiences.
There was never a chapter that I found boring or was antsy to skip. Even the one on Hannah Grant, the chef for the Tinkoff-Saxo team was interesting, although I do work in the food industry and I was a pastry chef in my former life, so I do have more of a built in buy-in for something like that. Overall I think this would be a good book to suggest (or just purchase) for any cyclists in your life whom you consider deserving of such a thing.