Tribute to Billie

BillieFleming

Know who this is? Helping to make sure more people do is going to be a lot of fun.

Tommy Godwin. All cyclists know the name, and least have a rough idea of why they do: at 5 o’clock in the morning on the 1st of January 1939, Tommy set out on his bike to make an attempt on the world record for riding the most miles in a year. On the 29th of October he arrived in Trafalgar Square, having covered 100,838km to take the record. Instead of stopping, he continued through the winter to reach 120, 805km; a record which, three quarters of a century later, remains unbroken (and he still didn’t stop: by the following May, having ridden for 500 days, he’d reached 160,000km, at which point he stopped – and spent a few weeks relearning how to walk before signing up to the RAF to fight in the Second World War).

Billie Fleming. Do you know who she was? Nope, nor did I, and it’s likely that few others who read this will do either. One year before Tommy set his record, Billie set the yearly distance record for a female cyclist at 47,642.5km, averaging 130km every day with the aim of proving that women were capable of riding such distances and being self-reliant – she was sponsored but through her own choice did not receive support, preferring to look after her own needs. Her record also remains unbroken.

Billie died on the 12th of May 2014, 100 years and a month after her birth. The Billie Fleming Tribute Ride aims to increase awareness of her achievements – and continue her work in encouraging more women to take up cycling – by replicating her record-breaking ride.

The ride’s website lists its priorities as follows:

  • To have a woman or group of women cycle in Tribute to Billie every day in 2015.
  • To have the cyclist(s) ride the number of miles Billie cycled on that date.
  • To have the cyclist(s) ride in the area Billie cycled on that date; where possible covering the route as recorded by records of towns Billie visited, published in Cycling Magazine
  • To get as many women cyclists joining in a stage as possible. They do not need to ride the whole distance.

…which all sounds brilliant. The first stage will set out from Regent’s Park on the 1st of January 2015 and men can take part too – find all the information and contact details here.