Honouring Sydney’s cycling heroines, past and present

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Imagine Googling your name and discovering you share it with an unusual heroine from the past.

That’s exactly what happened to 39-year-old Sarah Maddock, and it sparked a newfound passion for bike riding. Her namesake was instrumental in encouraging Australian women to ride bikes more than 130 years ago.

The Sarah Maddock of the 1890s played a key role in supporting more women to ride during the cycling craze at the turn of that century. She led the first Sydney Ladies Bicycle Club and fought to eliminate discrimination against women in sport.

Quoted in the New South Wales Cycling Gazette on 19 June 1897, Sarah Maddock said: “There is a charm in cycle touring which appeals to us more strongly than any other branch of the pastime and few people who have once tried it will be able to resist its fascination”.

The original Sarah Maddock also became the first woman to undertake an epic cycling trip between Sydney and Melbourne 125 years ago, joining her husband Ernest on doctors’ orders to make a ‘complete change’ to improve his ill health.

The modern Sarah Maddock will relive this mammoth journey in August, leading a 14-day bike tour spanning almost 1,000 kilometres.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore will be patron of the modern Sarah Maddock’s journey. 125 years ago, the Mayoress of Sydney, Mrs S Lees, was patron of the first Sydney Ladies Cycling Club set up by the original Sarah Maddock.

“This surprising tale celebrates one of the most significant bike riding champions in Sydney’s history,” the Lord Mayor said.

“The humble bike has been a popular form of transport for decades and remains one of the most cost effective, reliable and sustainable ways to move around the city.

“We know women are more likely to ride if they feel safe and see others doing the same. That’s why we’re building a safe and connected bike network as quickly as possible.”

While bike trips across the City of Sydney area have more than doubled in the past 10 years, a recent National Cycling Participation Survey shows the number of men riding still far outweighs women.

City of Sydney research shows only 13 per cent of women residents in our area ride regularly, and 60 per cent of local women don’t think it’s safe enough to ride on the road.

Sarah Maddock had not ridden a bike since she was a child, but was reinspired on discovering her namesake’s passion for riding more than one hundred years before her.

“I remember thinking it would be amazing to do that one day myself. I got back into riding to work, while also looking into the history of Sarah’s fascinating past,” Sarah Maddock said.

She tracked down direct descendants through an old obituary notice and got in touch.

“I really wanted to share my tour with the family. Eventually I found Sarah’s great granddaughter and gave her a call. It was a little strange at first as we’re not related, but they’ve become my second family.

“They shared memories of growing up with Sarah, but knew very little of what she had achieved, so it was wonderful to share her legacy with them.”

Gillian Appleton from Paddington spent much of her childhood school holidays with her great grandmother Sarah Maddock.

“Sarah was fantastic character who lived well into her 90s. Although I knew her very well and she lived to a great age, I didn’t know anything about her cycling history – she had never talked about it,” Ms Appleton said.

“When Sarah contacted our family it was quite a discovery. I subsequently spoke to a friend who was a great cycling enthusiast and mentioned my great grandmother was a great lady cyclist back in her day and he said: ‘good heavens, she was famous!’”

“It’s wonderful the other Sarah is drawing attention to this journey. It’s shedding light on a lost part of history.”

Gillian and several other family members will join Sarah Maddock in Sydney before the race, to wish her luck ahead of her memorial ride.

“I’ve been training for months and I’m excited about visiting some of the same old towns the original Sarah rode through 125 years before,” Sarah said.

“I do feel like there’s a bit of pressure on my shoulders. But when the ride gets tough, I’ll be inspired by Sarah’s story of resilience. I still can’t believe she did the whole ride wearing a corset, with just a bottle of water and a spare set of clothes wrapped around the handlebars!”

WHO: Patron of the ride Lord Mayor Clover Moore
Sarah Maddock
The great grandchildren of Sarah Maddock senior
WHEN: Tuesday 27 August 2019
TIME: 11am
LOCATION: In front of Sydney Town Hall

For more information about the Sydney to Melbourne commemorative tour, visit Mulga bicycle tours

More information Contact City of Sydney Leanne Bridges 9265 9617 or lbridges@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au.

For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, contact Jack Begbie on 0481 759 580 or email jbegbie@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

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