Bicycling Firsts: Clara Babe

Who out there has heard the name Clara Babe? I would be quite surprised if anyone answered with a "yes." Never-the-less Ms. Babe is one of the strong yet, mostly, unrecognized women who have dotted the history of cycling from its very inception.

She was reported to have worn a "plain, short skirt reaching to her shoetops, leggings, light shoes, jacket and hat," and was on the road for a month and four days.

During the summer of 1899 Babe, starting at Los Angeles and traveling through San Fernando, Saugus, San Francisquito Canyon, the Antelope Valley, and over the Tejon Pass Pass to reach Bakersfield on June 11. Seven days later, after riding through Delano, Visalia, and Dinuba she arrived at Fresno. She spent three days in Fresno before continuing her journey to Zebra Station, Fresno Flats, and finally the Mariposa Big Trees and Yosemite Valley. Though six of the nights were spent at lodgings, the remainder of her nights were spent on the ground camping - her twenty-three and and a half pound bike was weighted down with fifty pounds of gear including a "genuine lightweight Arctic sleeping bag" and a "little tool box, containing a miniature repair shop" of which, it turns out, she had no need, not once suffering so much as a flat tire. The simple menu for daily meals was comprised of bacon, coffee, bread, cheese, canned meats and rolled oats, and supplemented with fresh fruits from orchards along the way (she always offered payment, but often the farmers refused).

Clara Babe is believed to have been the first woman bikepacker (borrowing a modern term for such travel) to make the trip from Los Angeles to Yosemite. FYI Babe lost twelve pounds during the trip, and spent a measly twenty-one dollars.

not Clara Babe, but same time period. I imagine she must have looked similar to these two women.