All of us here love bikes, and a good number of us are into theatre. But I doubt there are many who would imagine how these two passions can be related.
Last night the all female troupe of the cycle touring theatre company, the Handlebards arrived in Salford after a two day trip across the Peak District for their 27th show of this year’s tour performing Shakespeare’s “As you like it” in a charmingly chaotic fashion.
The Handlebards formed in 2012, originally as an all boys theatre troupe with a love of adventure and a “yes man” mentality and have spent the last summers since touring Shakesperian verse with props, set and character all piled onto their bicycles. As you can imagine, this will take its toll on their two wheeled steeds, so it was only natural that their bikes should get a little TLC on arrival! The BikeHive’s Jo and Lady Pedal’s Hannah got to work in the Manchester Bike Hire workshop to check over all the essentials and do the most thorough job possible in the time frame before the show. It was a rare treat to be servicing custom built bikes and investigating this intriguing combination of parts – The girls troupe is sponsored with new edition Pashley tourers, sporting disc brakes and an 8-speed hub gear painted in special edition maroon.
We had the privilege of cycling the final two bikes from the workshop up to Ordsall Hall where the troupe was preparing for their performance in the beautifully kept grounds of the manor under a warm evening sun. The lawn was scattered with camping chairs, blankets and picnics. The show itself began with a bang with the girls bursting into song to the tune of a ukulele. Audience participation and blurred lines between character and reality made for a feeling of authenticity and a fantastically hilarious show with cross-dressing, character swapping, and a hilarious use of props. The performance was high energy and fast paced, keeping everyone engaged throughout – had I not met them on arrival it would have been easy to forget just how far these talented girls had cycled to be there, they are truly a force of nature with seemingly endless reserves of energy!
We had a thoroughly pleasant evening and it was a real pleasure to meet these most talented and resilient actors who have done an excellent job of doing what they love, in a sustainable and productive way! Well done Handlebards!
If you missed the girls’ troupe this time, the boys’ troupe will be performing at Ordsall Hall on the 10th August.
See their full schedule for dates, venues and booking links here.
Drawing is a perfect way to connect with and notice your surroundings. We decided that drawing bikes and bodies would be a great chance to learn about both of these things and their relationship to each other.
We gathered at The Wonder Inn, a creative wellness centre in Manchester, to draw and discuss and learn. The group was drawn from a cross section of the Manchester community and women had come for different reasons. Some were intrigued by the original idea, some love bikes, some were feminists and wanted to celebrate International Women’s Day, some wanted to try life drawing for the first time, others wanted to connect with their creativity.
We started by doodling – the first key principle of drawing is to connect your mind and your hands and to understand how your materials behave. This also gave us the chance to feel comfortable in the room, get to know our model, Maggi-May, and to see our marks on paper without fear of making mistakes. We mused on what we value about our bodies. Whilst we doodled we listened to each other’s pride in the power of our bodies and each celebrated the value of our diverse bodies.
As we moved through a series of poses, learnt the value of just looking and grew more confident in our mark making we discussed the specific experience of being women and women who cycle. We noted how different and diverse women’s bodies are but how our experiences are often characterised by a conflict with our bodies. A few women noted how cycling has reduced this conflict through feeling powerful, empowered, not caring, losing weight, gaining muscle, changing shape or feeling free (or all of the above!).
An interesting discussion about our favourite bodily sensation inspired a renewed love of cycling in a number of the group. Women enjoy the feeling of wind, rain and sunshine on their skin and in their hair. One woman echoed a consensus that feeling powerful, especially standing up and ‘absolutely going for it’ was a great sensation. The meditative rhythm of breathing and pedaling was noted, as was the sensation of being out of breath. One woman mentioned the lovely feeling of weightlessness you experience when one your bike. And everyone agreed it’s a great place to think! I personally love feeling the wind through the hairs on my legs! A great reason not to shave your pins if ever there was one! We all agreed that a child-like sense of abandonment and freedom was something very special about cycling (and drawing!).
We ended the session by celebrating each other’s drawings and discussing the importance of mindful creativity and mindful cycling. The session was so incredibly uplifting; I think we all floated out the room on a wave of empowerment and solidarity!
Thank you so much to everyone who participated! A huge thank you to Maggi-May who participated and modeled! And thanks again to The Wonder Inn for hosting us.
Here’s what some of the Lady Pedallers had to say about their experience:
“It was great to spend time with a group of women sharing our experience thinking about body positivity and making art”
“Great session! I loved the celebration of feminism, empowerment and cycling-we need more of this in Manchester”
“It was one of the best afternoons I have spent. It’s helped me get in touch with my creativity and love my body and inspire me to bike more often.”
“Always leave Lady Pedal events looking forward to riding my bike.”
We’ve been overwhelmed by the feedback we had for our event last Tuesday! Thank you so much to everyone who attended, and particularly to all the speakers who came to share their stories. We were so pleased to be able to give a platform to these amazing women to showcase their amazing capacity.
All of our speakers recounted their adventures in an accessible and 100% genuine way, without giving away any hints that they were even remotely aware of just how remarkable their achievements were! Open, friendly and approachable, we had a perfect balance of encouragement, expertise, technical know-how, enthusiasm and a damn good dose of determination.
Cycling to equality – the chain that set women free
Glynis Francis kicked off our talks, tracking the development of her involvement in cycling from a young age, in a time when women were a rarity in the world of competitive cycling and how she went on to make a name for women in cycling, winning medals and becoming the (as yet undisputed) world’s fastest grandma!
Her advice to new cyclists was to surround yourself with can-do people, the only thing holding you back is yourself! And our favourite quote of the night: “Glynis how do you feel when you’re on a bike?” “Smug.”
Making cycling safe and fun
Our second speaker proved her determination before she even arrived! A part time ICU and community nurse, Kathy West jumped on a plane up from the Isle of Wight after finishing her night shift and just about made it to us in time to give her talk!
Kathy came from a Mountain Biking background and was surprised to find herself in the saddle of a roadie, but she’s certainly wasted no time in getting properly stuck in; she gave us a whistlestop tour of her cycling adventures with groups around Spain and Australia, and shared how jumping on her bike has led to a blossoming international romance! One of the most important parts of Kathy’s talk was the importance of wearing a helmet, she’s destroyed several over the years and apparently is the butt of many helmet crash test jokes! Kathy also highlighted the importance of setting up your bike correctly as this can make the difference between a long hard slog and an enjoyable ride.
Advice to cyclists was to get out in the countryside and raise your levels of awareness – feel the elements and take a good look around you. “You’ve got to enjoy what you do”.
10 lessons I learned on the road
.Kathy’s sentiment was echoed by Liz Leakey – a freelance web designer turned adventurer – who praised the bicycle for allowing us to engage with the world around us.
After spending her twenties pursuing her career, Liz was able to go freelance and undertake a cycling adventure that would take her from New Zealand, across Asia and Europe to return to the UK. Her talk was structured around the things she learnt along the way:
Be in the moment
Your body can do amazing things
Women are wherever you go
To travel is to be rich
Bikes are not all that special
The world is full of kindness
Smile and smile again
Every relationship deserves a bike ride
Paradise is yours….
With all the trials and tribulations of such a bold undertaking, Liz found that she was not alone, recounting one particular instance when she had been taken in by a women who “just knew that I needed looking after”. The nurturing instinct is strong and we are never alone.
Woman in the workshop: the story of a reluctant mechanic
Mary Clark told how cycling has been an ever present part of her own story from day one. Brought up in a car-less household, Mary would be hard pressed not to cycle!
As she grew up, she began to engage (reluctantly) with the mechanics side, eventually leading to employment with a long stream of bicycle cooperatives beginning in Brixton – “I didn’t much care for the mechanics. I loved the bikes, & I loved the Brixton people”.
Mary didn’t particularly enjoy the experience of being a bicycle mechanic, largely because she didn’t feel like she was very good at it! However, she now works at BikeRight! as the lead mechanic, with 30 years experience under her belt where she has built her confidence to the point where she is now more than happy to claim her identity as a bike mechanic – “I am one of them, and I’m one of the best”
Thank you to all our speakers and all who attended – if you would like to feed back on this event, would be interested in hosting or participating in future events of this type, or would like to contact anyone involved, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via our contact form or email email@example.com!
Lady Pedal will be leading the Chorlton feeder ride to Alexandra Park to make history for women’s cycling in Manchester!
We’ll be leaving Chorlton Park at 1pm to join the main event. We’ll pedal at a chilled lovely pace around the park, up the Fallowfield Loop and onto Alex Park. We’ll have qualified Ride Leaders on hand to help keep the group together.
The main mass participation ride will be happening in Alexandra Park where all the feeder rides will come together for one bulk beaming pedal around the park – HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN WE GET!!??? Here’s what’s happening:
>> Free bike tuning & maintenance advice
>> Cyclist’s Speaker’s Corner – get your voice heard!
>> Learn2Ride sessions
>> Tasty grub & drinks at the Teahive Cafe
>> Silly bike games for kids and adults with ACE prizes to be won [more info to follow]
>> Women’s cycling photo exhibition
>> Safety goodies & bike training information from the TfGM bike trailer
It’s going to be a great day! Please please spread the word to anyone you think might be interested.
**** Guys are absolutely welcome as well – this event is by no means excluding you awesome lot – but designed to help highlight IWD and help develop women’s cycling in our fine city… Would be beyond great if you could join us – as individualsl or with your family & friends ***
Bike/Body Life Drawing
Learn about the mechanics of your bike and your body in a guided drawing session.
This is a session for women to learn about the way their bodies and their bikes work and also participate in a consciousness-raising discussion about your body’s relationship to your bike, the world and your mind.
All bodies are good bodies!
You will be guided through the drawing session, learning about significant body and bike bits as you go. The discussion aims to promote body positivity and explore women’s attitudes to their bodies, cycling and physical and mental well being.