Female Cycling Books


Pelotome’s guide to female cycling books.

The Pioneering Lady Cyclists.

~ Wheels and Whims – Florine Thayer McCray & Esther Louise Smith (1884).

May 1884

Wheels and Whims.

The first known published book dedicated to female cycling, “An Etching” is the charming and insightful fictional novel about four ladies out on a tricycle adventure together in New England along the banks of the Connecticut River, from Hartford to Essex.

The writing offers a real insight into not just female cycling at the time – the four cyclists are insulted by men and young boys along the route – but also into the arguments for women’s right to vote and equal rights to work, as well as the treatment of mentally ill patients at the Connecticut Hospital for Insane at Middletown,

  • by Florine Thayer McCray & Esther Louise Smith
  • published by Cupples, Upham & Company, Boston.

1885 – published in 1877

A Canterbury Pilgrimage.

A “most interesting book” of how two English men, 20 year old London-born Charles Frederick Casella and his friend, Fritz, travelled in April 1872, from Bonn in Germany to Metz (then part of Germany, but today France), via Bingen am Rhein “on bone-shakers made by Snoxell”; one of which “rejoiced in rubber tyres, as at that time this great luxury was just coming into vogue.”

  • by Charles F. Casella.
  • printed by Spottiswoode & Co., London
  • (illustration of a Snoxell velocipede, left, not from book).

1873 – published in 1876

The Modern Bicycle.

This updated version of Charles Spencer’s pioneering book from 1869, “containing instructions for beginners; choice of a machine; hints on training; road book for England, Wales, &c, &c,” was part of “Warne’s Useful Books” series and, together with a comprehensive list of routes and mileage, includes an 18 page chapter providing “the detailed account of the trip from London to John o’ Groats, the longest on record which has ever been undertaken,” in June 1873, by four members of the Middlesex Bicycle Club over fourteen days, and an estimated 800 miles (“a very moderate estimate when the winding of the roads is taken into consideration, to say nothing of the continual ascents”).

  • by Charles Spencer.
  • with practical illustrations.
  • published by Frederick Warne and Co., London.


Bicycling; Its Rise and Development.

“A text book for riders” aimed to cater for the rapidly developing bicycle movement by filling the void, after early books about the wooden wheeled machine had become valueless. With numerous illustrations to assist the beginner, the book is packed with informative chapters on routes in England, Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, The Battlefields of 1870, Upper Rhine, Belgium, Germany, Holland, and France – each highlighting the points of interest, hotels, museums, mileage, gradients and road conditions along the way,

  • Published by Tinsley Bros., London.

1874 – with later editions in 1876, 1877 & 1878

The Bicycle for 1874.

Written by the honorable secretary to the Surrey Bicycle Club, this first in a series of his “record of bicycling for the past year” for the weekly Bicycle Journal magazine, includes a short account of the author’s fifty miles cycle from London to “a small farm in Sussex”, where his father was staying, on his “very giraffe of a bicycle as to height, no less than forty-five inches in the driving wheel.”

  • by Alfred Howard.
  • Published by Henry Kent Causton & Sons, London.
  • (illustration of an 1874 racing bicycle, left, not from book).

1874 – published in 1875

Paris to Vienna by Bicycle.

In this 32 page book, W. Saunders recounts Frenchman M. A. Laumaillé’s notable 760 mile, 12 day journey of October 1874, “the longest bicycle tour on record”, from the French to the Austrian capital on an English machine. The journey, “of upwards of 760 miles in spite of bad roads, disgraceful treatment by villagers, heavy rains, and many other discouragements” was also wildly reported in international medical journals at the time, due to Laumaille’s invention of a natural tonic made from liqueur de cocoa, which “supported him and gave him strength.”

  • by W. Saunders.
  • Published by Tinsley Brothers, London.
  • image, left, proved by University of Bristol Library.

1877 – with later editions in 1878 & 1879

The Bicycle Annual for 1877.

With British maps and routes – complete with mileages and a description of the state of the road – and an important review of the previous year, the weekly Bicycling Times magazine’s annual release arrogantly boasted by its third edition, in 1879, that “its success last year was simply unprecedented in bicycling literature. It would be in the worst taste to refer to the fact that the only rival to this publication [Alfred Howard’s “The Bicycle for…” guide] will not this year appear, having fairly been run off the field.”

  • Edited by C.W. Nairn & C.J. Fox Junior.
  • Published by Bicycling Times Office, London.

1878 – with later edition in 1879

The Bicyclist’s Pocket-Book and Diary for 1878.

A publication from “The Country – A Journal of Rural Pursuits” , 170 Strand, this 167 page neatly bound book came complete with pencil and pockets. “Contents very well chosen and valuable.”

  • Published by “The Country”, 170 Strand, London.
  • (illustration of an 1878 Simpson & Son “Defiance” bicycle, left, not from book).


Eydtkuhnen to Langenweddingen by Bicycle.

A 24 page account of “an attempt to ride from the Russian frontier to Calais” from Eydtkuhnen, the village on the East Prussian (German) side of the border – today the settlement of Eitkūnai in Chernyshevskoe, Kaliningrad, on the border with Kybartai, Lithuania. 877 km away, Langenweddingen in Prussia is today part of Sülzetal near Magdeburg, Germany.

A reading of this book took place at the Drill Hall, Bromley, Kent, England, on January 25th 1879, however little else is known about it.

  • by W.S. Yorke Shuttleworth.
  • Published by J. Mardling, London.
  • (illustration from an old postcard, left, not from book).


The American Bicycler.

Perhaps taking its inspiration from Alfred Howard’s British “The Bicycle for…” series, “a manual for the observer, the learner, and the expert” gives instructions on how to ride a bicycle, including the rules of the road, and also features chapters on road racing, American clubs, and suggested routes with mileage. A review of 1878 also states that “the bicycle has begun to supersede those ill-starred velocipedes ; and Detroit leads the country in having an aristocratic lady- bicycler”.

  • by Charles E. Pratt.
  • Published by Houghton, Osgood & Company, Boston.


“I have caught a glance of several shocked faces at the windows as we came along. Is the spectacle of a lady riding a tricycle shocking? We are so used to it that we forget that strangers may not approve.”

“Shocking!” said Philip, in earnest admiration, “far from it. It is charming. It is thoroughly ladylike, and at the same time has a flavor of independence and life and healthful pleasure about it, that could but be captivating to all who possess health and good spirits.”

– Wheels and Whims by Florine Thayer McCray & Esther Louise Smith, 1884.

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