Once a symbol of women’s liberation, the popularity of the humble bicycle coincided with the first wave of feminism, with suffragettes taking to two wheels to spread the equal rights message.
But the latest figures show a big gender divide when it comes to cycling, with 50% fewer women than men cycling twice a week or more.*
The bike began the transformation of female fashion. Corsets and heavy dresses were discarded in favour of more practical clothing and, at the turn of the century, bloomers came into their own, however those who wore them faced ridicule.
Today, many women in the UK stop cycling at puberty, and the majority never get back in the saddle, as freedom and independence are outweighed by issues of appearance, including ‘helmet hair’ and the unhip cycling clothing.
Now, in a bid to capture the public’s attention and reignite women’s love of cycling, Bicycle Ballet, a company which creates outdoor dance performances on bicycles, will be coming to the Redways of Milton Keynes with their nationwide, unique, roving performance; ‘Blazing Saddles’.
Through movement, humour and costume, Blazing Saddles celebrates the importance of the bicycle to women and fashion.
Commissioned by Pedalling Culture, a dedicated campaign to better connect Milton Keynes’ cultural venues and spaces to its sustainable transport routes, Blazing Saddles will take place on Sunday 16th September at 2pm, as part of MK Heritage Open Day.
Free to participate, and open to members of the public, Blazing Saddles will take the form of short, evolving sequences performed at several locations around Milton Keynes, including the Stone Circle, Peace Pagoda and the Bandstand, with short cycle rides in between. Participants, who will be provided with colourful cycling capes, don’t need to have any experience to take part.
“Blazing Saddles explores some of the reasons why women do, and don’t, ride bikes today, contrasting this to the 1890’s.” Karen Poley, Creative Producer of Bicycle Ballet, explains. “It brings people together in a supportive, social and fun way to transform the way people think about cycling.”
The performance, which is part choreographed and part improvised, will comprise of 20 local women alongside a specialist cast, and rehearsals for all those involved will take place on 15th September. The route is approximately 3 miles long, and will start at One4Six Café, Willen Lake. Riders can go at their own pace, and there will be a picnic break at the Tree Cathedral.
Freedom Leisure, Willen Lake, are supporting the event by offering up free rehearsal space. “Freedom Leisure are proud to support any event that promotes fitness, especially when it is also empowering women and highlighting an important historical event.” Centre Manager, Claire Clark comments. “It’s been my pleasure to assist Karen Poley from the Bicycle Ballet Co in making this event a successful and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.”
To find out more information on Pedalling Culture and all forthcoming events please visit