Cycling history favors the ladies.

Shaun Murphy, project coordinator at the Minneapolis Department of Public Works forwarded along some historical tidbits about cycling in the Twin Cities. One fact detailed a female racer who rode a double century, pedaling 17 hours straight, without the aid of carbon fiber.

Others facts range from a city wide pump system for tires and the requirement for each bicycle to register with the city and be given a tag—something a few angry motorists would like to bring back.

Now if only trivial pursuit would include some of these facts on its next addtion…

The City used to require bicycle tags for cyclists. In the year 1900 they cost 50 cents annually, and they were required to ride on Minneapolis’ cycle path system. The fee went toward cycle path construction. In 1901, there were 50 miles of paths in the city. By the year 1903, at the height of the cycling craze, 30,000 tags were sold in Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis-based Minnesota Cycle Pump company opened for business in 1900. 500 pump machines were installed on street corners in Minneapolis and St Paul, and for a penny cyclists could get 40 cranks to fill up flats.

Minneapolis used to have a full-time Bicycle Inspector, E.M. Connors. He was in charge of enforcing cycle ordinances. In a 1900 article headline in the Minneapolis Journal, it says “Bicycle Inspector Connors Has More Than He Can Handle.” He was in need of another officer to assist in the problem of “stolen wheels.”

In 1900, the City of Bloomington was making plans to build a cycle path into Minneapolis.

Women were at the forefront of the turn-of-the-century cycling craze. Female racers used to ride non-stop “centuries,” at a 100-mile distance.

Two quotes from the Sports section of the Minneapolis Journal tell the story:

“Miss Blanche Boucher finished a 200-mile ride last evening in 17 hours and 30 minutes. She started from Monk’s place at Lake Calhoun, at 3 o’clock yesterday morning and was paced by tandem teams throughout the day. She stood the strain well and looked fit for another century at the finish.

“Mrs. James McIlrath Jr . . .started last Friday morning at 9 o’clock over the St Paul – Minnetonka century course, and before stopping rolled up five consecutive centuries, finishing at 8 o’clock Sunday evening, one hour within the limit of 60 hours. So far as known this is the longest ride ever made by a lady.”

And these ladies did the ride about 60 years before the invention of spandex. Not sure how they overcame chaffing, but those are some impressive feats of endurance. It makes my two mile commute seem wimpy…

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