Ride Like Billie Fleming!
Billie Fleming, who died in May 2014 aged 100, has a unique place in the history of cycling. In 1938, she cycled every day and set the women's world record for the greatest distance cycled in a single year.
After 365 days she had ridden her bike 29,603.4 miles - 35 times the distance from Land's End to John O'Groats. "I just got on my bike in the morning and kept cycling all day. I rode all over the country," she recalled. A hard day's pedalling was often followed by a promotional visit to a Rudge Whitworth cycle dealer, and then sometimes a talk at a village hall or cycling event.
Over seventy years after Billie Fleming completed her near 30,000 mile ride to raise awareness for the health benefits of women's cycling, a tribute ride has been organised to continue her goal.
Organiser Anne Hunt has managed to enlist hundreds of women to ride in Billie’s memory throughout 2015, having read about the epic ride shortly before Billie’s death. Inspired by Billie, Anne has coordinated a 365-day ride for women across the country, following the route she took as closely as possible. Anne told me why she decided to take on this enormous logistical challenge:
“I was so inspired by Billie being an ordinary girl with a simple message having the determination and tenacity to take this on. Everyone who knew her said she played down what she was doing. To her it wasn't a big deal, yet I think she was extraordinary - brave and strong in spirit as well as physically fit - a 'can do' attitude that I admire and I just want everyone to know about her so they can admire her achievements too."
A 100-mile sportive in tribute would have been nice, but by getting out there every day for the year, all over the UK, in all types of weather, it really demonstrates what she did and is a much more fitting tribute!"
Anne Hunt, Billie Fleming Tribute Rides organiser
From Billie’s records we know that she entered Scotland on 28 July via Northumberland, passing through my home town of Dunbar the following day. Unfortunately for us, Billie’s ride records for Scotland are rather thin, as she felt the weeks she spent in Scotland were akin to a holiday!
However, the Belles on Bikes network is keen to join with other cyclists to celebrate Billie’s phenomenal achievement. You can join the Stirling Belles on two Billie Fleming Rides (and a picnic) and our Aberdeenshire Belles will be completing a mammoth 110-mile ride over the 'Ride Like Billie' weekend in August! Our friends at the Glasgow Bike Station are also planning some rides. And of course you can also join me in Dunbar on Wednesday 29 July.
You can find out more about the incredible Billie Fleming on a website devoted to her memory. You can organise a ride in tribute to Billie, or join a ride via the Tribute to Billie website. You can also email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.