For my last birthday I asked my dad for Eileen Sheridan’s autobiography ‘Wonder Wheels’ as she is a big inspiration (see this blog post from last year). During a trip to Rome with my husband at the end of last season, I finally found time to read the book on the plane.
The first page immediately makes you appreciate what an amazing person Eileen Sheridan is. It shows a picture of her on the bike during a 12hr TT in the pouring rain, yet she looks to be really enjoying it, focused but with a big smile on her face.
The next page touched me too, but in a more melancholic way. She dedicated the book to her dad ‘who always encouraged [her] to believe that anything was possible’. Perhaps it was quite fitting that this book was a present from my dad, who also always supported me to go for the things I feel passionate about.
Obviously it is a book about cycling, but it is written in such a way that it will appeal to anyone, cyclist and non-cyclist alike, anyone who admires an adventurous spirit.
For those who don’t know who Eileen Sheridan is, she is an absolute cycling legend. She won the women’s Best British All-Rounder title in 1949 and 1950 and various other National titles, but is probably best known for her stamina and long-distance records, particularly point-to-point records. I enjoyed the chapters in the book in which she writes about her Land’s End – John O’Groats record (and subsequent 1,000 mile record of 3 days and 1 hour). Both her determination and sense of humour really shine through here.
Five of Eileen’s place-to-place records are yet to be broken, including London to Edinburgh (20 hours 11 minutes and 35 seconds), London to Liverpool (9 hours 39 minutes) and London to Bath and back (10 hours 41 minutes and 22 seconds). With today’s traffic and changes to road infrastructure, they will likely remain unbroken forever.
Most people are probably more familiar with the legendary Beryl Burton, but for me Eileen Sheridan is the true inspiration. Probably because I like long-distance cycling and perhaps because I met her and can therefore better appreciate not just her cycling records, but also the person behind the great cyclist.
Whilst the stories about her many point-to-point records made me appreciate a) what a different place the world was then and b) the hardship she went through on some of those rides, it is probably her recollections about how she got into cycling, her cycle touring adventures with her husband and her descriptions of the spirit of cycling clubs in those days that I enjoyed most.
This signed photo of her (that a friend kindly gave me as a wedding/birthday present last year) hangs on my wall in the ‘turbo room’. It is her smile and sheer sense of enjoyment of just being on her bike that inspires me most. It reminds me that to achieve my goals I will need to train hard, but it equally shows the power of enjoyment and positive thinking.
Eileen Sheridan – you remain my hero! … can I please borrow those wonder wheels?