Billy Fleming was a young a typist in 1938 London who decided to cycle across Britain and show people the benefits of this sport and means of transport through leading by example. In one year only, she cycled 29, 603.7 miles around Britain with one small saddle bag containing some clothes, tools and 5 lb. slabs of Cadbury’s chocolate, stopping at caf├ęs and shops to eat and giving evening talks in village halls, cycle dealerships and the Royal Albert Hall, London, England.

Billie’s fervour proved infectious. “Perhaps the greatest memory of my ride will be the people I encountered and the wonderful friends I have made,” she told Cycling at the end of her year’s efforts. “It is an understood fact that we are a shy nation, but all the while I travelled on my bicycle I was received with enthusiasm by strangers who seemed to appreciate my democratic mode of travel … Each day I would come into contact with someone who knew nothing at all about cycling, and it was on these occasions that I put my heart and soul into explaining some of the finer details concerning the art of riding a bicycle and the benefits accrued therefrom.”

Pedalling in all 29,603.7 miles, she set a women’s world record (which it is believed still stands today) for distance cycled within a single year. “My average was about 81 miles per day, but in the summer I rode further in the better weather and longer days. One day I was in York, woke up in the morning and said to myself, “I think I’ll ride home today,” and set off back to Mill Hill [in London]. I ended up riding 196 miles. I loved it.”

Perhaps we can all take away some inspiration from this great life story and get on our bikes, if not for 29 000 miles, then at least for one short journey to start with!

(credit goes to Times, The (London, England) – Tuesday, June 17, 2014)

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