Bikes and Bloomers celebrates pioneering women cyclists

Dr Kat Jungnickel and Yasmin Emerson demonstrate an item of Victorian ladies cycle wearIt’s not often that you sit in a historic church watching a lady stand on a chair to reveal her undergarments, but then Bikes and Bloomers was no ordinary event. The audience sat rapt as Dr Kat Jungnickel explained how a handful of innovative Victorian women ‘made their bodies fit cycling’; working around the social and sartorial constraints of the times to create practical and yet respectable items of cycle wear.

At the end of the talk, recreations of some of the items of clothing were tried on with one pair of bloomers being fitted to Catherine Thompson, head mechanic at Outspoken Cycles, who had previously given us a highly entertaining and informative guide to puncture repair (she has a great tip for getting tyres back on without using tyre levers). The talk was accompanied by plentiful tea and cake supplied by members of the Cambridge Ladybirds WI. There was an opportunity later to burn off the flapjacks, chocolate and pecan brownies and lemon cake as Camcycle led a short ride around town ending up at the Senate House – exactly the location where protestors had burnt an effigy of a woman on a bicycle in 1897. Over 100 years later the mood had changed – this time it was just pure celebration!

Bikes and Bloomers event