10 Most Influential Women in the History of Cycling | PedalChef

Key Takeaways

  • Women cyclists have historically challenged and changed gender norms.
  • Their achievements in cycling are both inspiring and monumental.
  • These pioneers continue to influence the sport and its community.

Cycling through history, women have pedaled their way to glory and change.

Ever wondered who powered the so-called men’s world of cycling into an inclusive sport?

These are the trailblazers who pedaled beyond societal expectations, setting records and tearing down gender barriers.

Their legacies roll on, inspiring new generations.

You’re not just reading a story; you’re stepping into the slipstream of icons.

These women didn’t just ride bikes; they rode into history books, shaping the sport and culture of cycling.

They've shown strength, endurance, and unyielding spirit—qualites that resonate with us today.



Annie Londonderry

Did you know that Annie Londonderry, a mother of three, was the first woman to cycle around the globe?

Picture this: the year is 1894, and this daring woman embarks on a journey that will etch her name in history.

Born: Annie Cohen Kopchovsky

Dates: 1870 - November 11, 1947

Origin: Latvia

Imagine the stir she caused, as cycling was then considered a male-dominated sport.

Yet, Annie, who hailed from Latvia, didn’t let that stop her.

She left her life in Boston, took a deep breath, and pedaled into the unknown, armed only with determination and a pearl-handled revolver.

Her Challenge:

To cycle the globe in fifteen months with only a few personal belongings, starting with just $5 in her pocket.

Her travels weren't just about physical endurance; they were a statement, challenging the societal norms of the time.

Can you believe she took this massive leap of faith all while sporting the bloomer costume, which was quite controversial in those days?

Key Points in Her Journey:

  • Chicago Arrival: Reached on September 12, 1895, before her deadline.
  • Mode of Travel: Predominantly by bicycle, but also with the help of ships.
  • Media Career: Post-adventure, she leveraged her fame to build a career in journalism.

Annie’s remarkable voyage did more than just circle the globe; it spun the wheel of progress for women in sports.

Her legacy is captured beautifully in Peter Zheutlin’s book, "Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry's Extraordinary Ride." Isn’t it fascinating how Annie cycled her way into history, leaving tire tracks that became a pathway for aspiring female cyclists worldwide?

Tillie Anderson

Have you heard of Tillie Anderson, the "Queen of the Wheel"?

This Swedish powerhouse pedaled her way into history, and her feats are sure to impress you.

Born on April 23, 1875, in Skåne, Sweden, Tillie was just 16 when she immigrated to Chicago in 1891.

Here, her tale as a cycling legend began.

From a humble start as a seamstress, Tillie's determination saw her save enough to buy her very first bicycle.

The year 1895 was pivotal as she burst onto the cycling scene, defying social norms and expectations of women at the time.

Her passion for cycling quickly turned into competitive racing, a realm where few women dared to enter.

  1. Cycling Milestones:
  1. Arrived in Chicago: 1891
  2. First race victory: 1895

Tillie was no ordinary cyclist; she set records that left spectators and fellow competitors in awe.

Her strong will and unyielding spirit led her to participate in grueling six-day races, requiring riders to race two hours each night for six days straight.

Picture this: Tillie Anderson, speeding around a track, outpacing the competition for 18 hours over a span of six days, a feat just as remarkable then as it is now.

Her legacy extends far beyond her Swedish roots or the streets of Chicago.

Tillie Anderson not only shattered records but also expectations, proving that determination and passion know no bounds.

Next time you hop on your bike, remember the "Queen of the Wheel" and pedal with the same joy and fierceness that she did.

Isn't it incredible what you can achieve when you set your mind to it?

Beryl Burton

Did you know that Beryl Burton was not just a pioneer in women's cycling, but also a record-breaker and a national treasure?

Born on May 12, 1937, Beryl became an icon in British cycling, raking in more than 90 domestic championships and seven world titles.

Her fierce determination led her to achievements some athletes can only dream of.

Let's break it down, shall we?

Speaking of breaking down, her world record for the 12-hour time-trial was so groundbreaking that it surpassed the men's record of the time—and this was in 1967!

Yep, you heard that right—her record stood taller than the men's for two whole years.

That's what you call smashing the glass ceiling—or should we say, the glass finish line?

Her repertoire of accomplishments didn't stop there.

Even though she never got a shot at Olympic gold, with women's cycling introduced to the Olympics after her prime, Beryl didn’t need a medal to prove her mettle.

Alongside her daughter Denise, Beryl smashed the women's bicycle tandem record for the 10-mile distance in a swooping 21 minutes and 25 seconds.

Here's a quick rundown of her achievements:

  • 90+ domestic championships: That’s more than a lifetime's worth for many cyclists!
  • Seven world titles: Can you imagine standing on top of the world, not once, but seven times?
  • Women's 12-hour record: An astonishing 277.25 miles, a testament to her endurance and power.

Cherished in memories and records, Beryl Burton remains a symbol of excellence and an inspiration to many, proving what you can achieve with two wheels and a heart full of determination.

Riding through history, she left trails of empowerment for all of the cyclists who followed.

Alfonsina Strada

Ever heard of Alfonsina Strada?

Well, she was quite the trailblazer.

Picture this: cycling back in the early 20th century was a man's world, but that didn't stop Alfonsina.

Born on March 16, 1891, in Italy, she was pedaling against all odds.

Why is she noteworthy?

  • She shattered norms: In the 1920s, women cyclists were not common, especially in competitive races. Yet, Alfonsina entered the Giro d'Italia in 1924. That's right, you heard me — the Giro d'Italia, one of cycling’s Grand Tours!
  • Her legacy: Her participation wasn't just for show. She finished the grueling race, and her competitive spirit made quite the splash in the cycling community.

Astounding, isn't it?

Think about your toughest bike ride and now imagine doing that in a wool dress and leather shoes.


You bet.


Not really.

But Alfonsina didn't care one bit about that.

She was too busy making history.

Quick Facts About Alfonsina Strada
Born March 16, 1891
Died September 13, 1959
Notable For Riding the Giro d'Italia 1924

So, next time you're out for a spin on your bike, remember Alfonsina Strada.

She was more than a cyclist; she was a symbol of perseverance and a reminder that barriers are meant to be broken.

Would she have ever guessed that she'd be an inspiration for many, years after she took her last ride?

Who knows, but one thing is for sure: you don't need to be a professional cyclist to appreciate the determination and grit of this incredible woman.

Marianne Martin

Have you heard the story about the tenacious Marianne Martin and her historic ride?

Picture it: 1984, the very first Tour de France Féminin, and Marianne Martin, an American from Michigan, surges ahead to claim victory.

It wasn't just any win; Martin shattered expectations and became an enduring symbol of strength in women's cycling.

Martin's Triumph:

  • First Place: 1984 Tour de France Féminin
  • Time: 29:39:02 over 18 stages
  • Born: November 1, 1957
  • Origin: Fenton, Michigan, USA

It's fascinating to consider her journey, isn't it?

Martin wasn't just competing against other cyclists; she was riding against doubt and for progress.

Her stamina over that grueling 1,080-kilometre (that's about 670 miles, just for context) course brought her to the finish line with a lead of 3:17 ahead of the runner-up.

And just think, she accomplished this monumental feat during the event's inaugural run—talk about setting the bar high!

Now, picture the dedication needed to pedal those hills and valleys.

Marianne's win, in a stellar 29 hours, 39 minutes, and 2 seconds, was more than just a personal victory.

It represented a pivotal moment for women in sports, symbolizing what dedication and resilience could achieve.

Can you imagine the sheer willpower?

By celebrating Marianne Martin, you're not only applauding her success but also acknowledging her contribution to changing the landscape of women's competitive cycling.

Isn't it incredible how one individual's achievements can inspire so many?

Keep pedaling, Marianne, your legacy rolls on!

Jeannie Longo

Have you heard about Jeannie Longo, the French cyclist whose name is synonymous with victory and stamina?

Jeannie's story is not just about speed on two wheels—it's about crushing records and redefining what it means to be an athlete.

Born on October 31, 1958, Longo became a titan in the world of cycling.

Here are the impressive numbers that sum up her career:

  • 60: The astonishing number of times she has won the French National Championship.
  • 13: World Championship titles that she has to her name.
  • 1: Olympic gold medal shining in her collection from the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Longo's tenure in competitive cycling is nothing short of phenomenal.

She started racing in 1975, and guess what?

She didn't stop turning the pedals competitively until 2012.

Now, that's stamina for you!

Along with her Olympic triumph, she showed off her versatility by bagging a World Championship silver medal in mountain biking—a testament to her remarkable adaptability and skill across different disciplines.

Her key career highlights include:

  • Winning the road race World Championship five times.
  • Clinching her 9th French time trial title at age 51, proving age is just a number.

But Longo didn't just race; she rewrote the story of women in cycling.

While others may come and go, legends like Jeannie Longo leave a trail of inspiration for generations to follow.

With her steely determination and a trophy-laden career, she's shown what it truly means to be a champion.

Fancy a ride to chase your dreams just like Jeannie?

Connie Carpenter-Phinney

Have you heard the story of a legend named Connie Carpenter-Phinney?

She's not just any cyclist; she's the trailblazer who pedaled her way into the history books.

Imagine the roaring crowd at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, where Connie, with a triumphant bike throw, claimed the very first Olympic gold medal in the women's road race.

Now, that's a picture-perfect finish!

Olympic Excellence:

  • Olympic gold medalist (1984, road race)
  • Participation in 1972 Winter Olympics (speed skating)

Let's pedal back a bit, shall we?

Before her cycling days, Connie was already making waves, or should we say, gliding on ice.

Picture this young talent at the tender age of 14, competing in speed skating at the 1972 Winter Olympics.

Fast forward to her cycling career, and she's racking up not one but twelve U.S. national championships.

Winning Streak:

  • 4 medals in World Championship competitions
  • 12 U.S. national championships

Her dedication to the sport went beyond personal triumphs.

Together with her compatriot Rebecca Twigg, they led Team USA to a historic 1-2 finish in that Olympic race.

It was more than a win; it was a statement that women's cycling had arrived.

So you ask, what makes Connie more than just a successful cyclist?

Beyond the medals and accolades, she paved the way for female cyclists everywhere, showing that determination and hard work could take you to the very top.

And isn't that something to ride home about?

Inga Thompson

Did you know Inga Thompson's name is almost synonymous with the rise of women's cycling in the U.S.?


Her wheels spun a riveting story of determination that took her from a running injury rehabilitation to becoming a cycling legend.

She started cycling in 1984, and here's the kicker: within months, she joined the Olympic team—imagine that swift shift!

  1. Olympic Record:
  1. Competed in 1984, 1988, 1992
  2. Best finish: 8th place in 1988
  1. World Championships Pedigree:
  1. Silver medals in 1987, 1990, 1991

With a tally of three Olympic appearances, she powered through the tough terrains of cycling competitions worldwide with relentless effort.

But let's not stop there, because Thompson also has a storied legacy at the United States National Road Race Championships:

  • National Titles:
  • 🥇 1987
  • 🥇 1988
  • 🥇 1990
  • 🥇 1991

And if you're thinking, "Well, what else has she achieved?" how about scaling the ranks at the Tour de France, finishing third in '86 and '89?

It's not just her athletic achievements that shine brightly, though.

As an advocate for women's cycling, Thompson has pedaled tirelessly for equal prize money and opportunities, ensuring that future generations of female cyclers aren't left eating dust.

Podium Finishes at Women's Tour de France:

  • 🚴‍♀️ 1986: 3rd place
  • 🚴‍♀️ 1989: 3rd place

So when you're looking at the rich tapestry of women who've influenced cycling's narrative, remember the spirit of athletes like Thompson.

With ten national championships and a streak of victories that any cycler would envy, she proves that with adrenaline in your veins and conviction in your heart, every lap could be a triumph.

Wheels up for Inga Thompson, a true trailblazer in women's cycling!

Kristin Armstrong

Have you ever heard of a cyclist who's a master of the race against time?

Meet Kristin Armstrong, a name that resonates with persistence and record-breaking achievements in women’s cycling.

Did you know Armstrong is a three-time Olympic gold medalist?

That's right!

She won the women's individual time trial in 2008, 2012, and 2016.

Can you imagine crossing the finish line with the fastest time in the world not once, not twice, but three times?

She's not only a champion, but a piece of history etched into the Olympic legacy.

Here's a snapshot of her accolades:

  • Olympic Gold Medals: 3 (Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016)
  • Became World Champion: Twice in her career
  • Record: First female cyclist to win the same road event at three Olympics

Her return to cycling after starting a family and going on to claim another Olympic gold is nothing short of incredible, don't you think?

It’s no surprise that her achievements shine as a catalyst for the growth of women’s cycling.

If you're wondering about her age-defying accomplishments, get this—Armstrong won her third Olympic gold one day before turning 43, making her the oldest female cyclist to earn an Olympic medal.

Let that sink in next time you're contemplating a new challenge!

With a legacy like hers, it's clear why Kristin Armstrong is a standout figure in the cycling world and a true inspiration for athletes everywhere.

Bonnie Tu

Hey there, have you heard of Bonnie Tu?

If not, you're about to discover why she's a trailblazer in the cycling world.

Bonnie Tu, a name synonymous with women's cycling, holds the torch as chairperson of Giant Bicycle.

Ever wonder about the biggest bike brand globally?

That's Giant, and she's the mastermind steering the handlebars!

Her journey isn't just impressing; it's groundbreaking.


She didn't just climb to the top; she laid a new path for women in the industry.

Did you know that when she observed a sparse presence of women in cycling, she didn't just watch from the sidelines?

Oh no, Bonnie decided to do something inspirational!

  • Influence: Bonnie not only leads Giant but also launched Liv, the premier brand dedicated entirely to women cyclists. It's not just about bikes—it's about empowering women on the saddle.
  • Mark Your Calendar: Specifically in 2008, she took a bold step with Liv. Imagine starting a revolution, and now, who's not seeing the Liv logo on trails and road races? She's got a vision, and it's rolling fast and far!

Here are a few key points to help you get a handle on her impact:

Achievement Details
Women's Cycling Advocate Pushing past the industry's glass ceiling
Liv Founder Pioneering a brand that's by and for women riders
Marketing Maestro "Actually, I can" and "Liv Beyond" campaigns
Inspirational Leader Encouraging countless women to hop on and pedal away

Next time you're out for a ride, or maybe cheering on a cycling event, keep your eyes peeled—you might just spot a testament to Bonnie's work.

She's cycling's powerhouse, continually pedaling towards a future where the gender gap in this sport is nothing but a distant memory.

Isn't that something worth riding towards?