Alice Lethbridge (100 mile and 12 hour record holder) engages with Alf Engers, the Time Trial King of half a century earlier. Women (or Ladies as they were then known) were admitted to the club as guest speakers. (2018)

A male bastion falls: The Pedal Club now fully open to women

The Pedal Club, one of the very few remaining all-male cycling clubs, is now fully open to women.

The Pedal Club on bikes (2018)

Many in the cycling world had assumed that this club retained its men-only rule because the members were determined to keep it that way, but this was not the case. The issue had been contentious for decades and proposals for change were often put forward, but these were successfully resisted by a group of ‘social conservatives’.

They were aided by the club’s rules which appear to have been devised by a gentleman who felt that the nineteenth century had ended prematurely and who wrote in a style resembling the Ten Commandments, which gave the rules an impression of immutability. In particular, the rules state that they cannot be changed without a two-thirds majority and this provision defeated the reformers as recently as 2017.

But nothing lasts forever, and a new presentation of the issue last week saw a complete change of mind with the proposal to accept women as equal members being accepted unanimously.

What is the Pedal Club, and does it matter?
The Pedal Club was founded in 1941 with the intention of providing a discussion forum for leading members of the cycling world. It would invite ‘prominent public persons’ to address the members and hoped to ‘further the interests of the sport and pastime in all possible ways’.

George Strauss (The Minister for War Transport) speaking at the Pedal Club Lunch, January 1946

The club rapidly gained a high public profile: it was known to all within ‘Cycledom’ (as it was then often called) and to many outside the world of cycling. Guest speakers included government ministers (Philip Noel-Baker, George Strauss and Denis Howell) and overseas celebrities (Hubert Opperman, Jean Bobet). In the more recent past, the club has become less well known and many members believe the all male rule has been largely responsible. It is certainly the case that most public figures now refuse to associate themselves in any way with a men-only club.

Does the club still have a role to play? One member recently commented that the club ‘acts as a conscience for British Cycling’. In the age of ‘sportwashing’ this could be a vital job.

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