She always used to wear black. Not because she wanted to be particularly elegant, but because she wanted to be inconspicuous, as she was not allowed to race on the roads with her bicycle. The subject is Eileen Sheridan, the great British cyclist of the 40s and 50s, who broke all the Women’s Road Record Association records. There were 24 in all, including the gruelling Land’s End to John O’Groats ride, which she completed in 2 days, 11 hours and 7 minutes of non-stop pedalling.
Her husband Ken, an amateur cyclist himself and later her trainer, introduced her to cycling and competitions.
“We used to ride in our baggy shorts, not padded of course, and a sweater with a pocket on the front where we kept our food. It opened like a sail as we cycled! I wore chamois leather shorts when I was racing, but that’s as smart as it got! There were no showers or anything. We used to finish, find out our time and ride home!”
She was exuberant, always smiling lively and positive, in spite of the loom of the post-war years. Now, in her 90s she still lives in West London and has maintained her clear voice and unwavering passion for cycling.
She was so famous and went on to be the subject of two movies: one by Pathé and entitled ‘Housewife Cyclist’ in 1956. At the time, newsreaders commented ‘No wonder she wins races, she has to get back in time to finish the housework’ underlying the attitude towards sportswomen at the time. More recently, in 2014, producer Anthony Collins made ‘Come on Eileen’, a short movie about her incredible career.
For this movie, Collins found a suitable person to play the part of Eileen through an advert on a cycling forum. Jude Brosnan, cycling correspondent of Time Out and blogger on ispeakbike.blogspot.com, replied and got the part.
After filming, Jude herself, wanted to try the 900 mile ride from John O’Grady to Land’s End. She succeeded in her endeavour, unsupported and only suffering one puncture. She used Eileen’s map, explored the country stopping in places she did not know but wanted to explore, making a holiday of her journey. She managed the whole trip on 6000 calories a day.
She’s returned to blogging and cycling for fun now. Wanting to look her best, she always wears lipstick even when cycling.