‘Are you crazy?’ I am often asked. I always laugh and say, ‘Crazy only on a good day … and every day is a good day on a bicycle tour.’ – Loretta Henderson
It’s not often that a book about bicycle touring comes across less of a manual and more of a rollicking, inspiring tale woven around the stories of 100 cycling superheroes from 30+ countries, but that’s exactly what Loretta Henderson’s Big Women On Wheels Book has managed to achieve.
No stranger to bicycle travel herself (she’s been touring solo around the world since 2009), Loretta could easily have written a book based purely on her own adventures. Instead, she went the extra mile: interviewing dozens of other solo female cyclists, and combining their tales, advice and encouragement in the Big WOW Book.
In humorous and quirkily titled chapters such as ‘BUSTing Through Barriers’ and ‘Is it Safe to be Packin’ Estrogen’, Loretta’s interviewees share stories of their journeys. Their testimonies are a powerful push-back against the typical fears and stereotypes about women cycling solo and their answers shed light on issues that are rarely, if ever, addressed in more traditional bike touring manuals.
If, as a woman, you have ever wanted to know how to handle unwanted male attention, where to find a safe place to sleep, how to deal with loneliness and challenges, or even just how to overcome the fear that sometimes stands in the way of a great adventure, then this book is for you.
More than that, however, we found the book simply inspiring through the sheer diversity of experiences that it represents: women travelling in all parts of the world, largely solo but also with partners and families, on all manner of bicycles and with many different goals and drivers. The interviews with each woman are never long but each person has at least one gem to share.
For example, when Loretta asked Colleen Welch about safety, she replied in part: “I get asked if I carry a weapon of some sort. Yes, I do. It’s called my smile and it works every time!”
On cycling solo, Anahita Sriprasad from India said: “Being solo made me realize the power of believing in myself and the physical and mental strength that I hadn’t known was possible or even present within me. It’s been one of the best experiences I have had so far and it is definitely worth it. ”
Thank you, Loretta, for one of the most inspiring bike touring reads we’ve come across in a long time.