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Muscle on Wheels : Louise Armaindo and the High-Wheel Racers of Nineteenth-Century America, Hardback Book

Muscle on Wheels : Louise Armaindo and the High-Wheel Racers of Nineteenth-Century America Hardback


The majestic high-wheel bicycle, with its spider wheels and rubber tires, emerged in the mid-1870s as the standard bicycle.

A common misconception is that, bound by Victorian dress and decorum, women were unable to ride it, only taking up cycling in the 1880s with the advent of the chain-driven safety bicycle.

On the contrary, women had been riding and even racing some form of the bicycle since the first velocipedes appeared in Europe early in the nineteenth century. Challenging the understanding that bicycling was a purely masculine sport, Muscle on Wheels tells the story of women's high-wheel racing in North America in the 1880s and early 1890s, with a focus on a particular cyclist: Louise Armaindo (1857-1900).

Among Canada's first women professional athletes and the first woman who was truly successful as a high-wheel racer, Armaindo began her career as a strongwoman and trapeze artist in Chicago in the 1870s before discovering high-wheel bicycle racing.

Initially she competed against men, but as more women took up the sport, she raced them too.

Although Armaindo is the star of Muscle on Wheels, the book is also about other women cyclists and the many men - racers, managers, trainers, agents, bookmakers, sport administrators, and editors of influential cycling magazines - who controlled the sport, especially in the United States. The story of working-class Victorian women who earned a living through their athletic talent, Muscle on Wheels showcases an exciting moment in women's and athletic history that is often forgotten or misconstrued.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 248 pages, 40 b&w images
  • Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Gender studies: women
  • ISBN: 9780773554658



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