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Personal Best: The Autobiography of Beryl Burton

Reviewed by Georgena Terry

Burton-on-bikeIt’s 2015, and women’s professional cycling is in the news because of a movement by women racers to stake a claim in a sport dominated by men. Women don’t have as many races to choose from, their salaries pale in comparison to men’s, and media coverage of women’s races is sorely lacking.

It’s 1960, and women’s cycling is an afterthought. The women’s World Road Cycling Championship has just been held in Sachsenring, East Germany. Beryl Burton of Great Britain is the winner. A few days earlier she had won the women’s World Champion 3000 meters pursuit title in Leipzig. But afterwards, when she landed at Heathrow Airport, she was “…just a girl loaded with bike equipment…I was a double world champion in an international sport and it might as well have been the ladies’ darts final down at the local as far as Britain was concerned.”

Beryl Burton won five Track Cycling World Championships, two Road Cycling World Championships and the British Best All-rounder competition for twenty-five successive years. All of this while raising a family and holding down a job.

Personal Best weaves the details of track meets, time trials and road races into the fabric of cycling history in general and women’s cycling in particular. Never resentful, Burton simply acknowledges the situation and lets her legs do the talking, as they say.

Burton-with-medalA fiery spirit from the start, she used a two year bout with childhood rheumatic fever as the impetus for her to make her mark in sports. Fortunately, for women everywhere, she fell in love with cycling. Her bicycling career began with social club cycling in the mid 1950’s and quickly progressed to time trials and road races. The records began to fall and continued to do so for almost a quarter of a century.

Burton was never a professional cyclist. She financed her cycling through her paid job. It was truly passion for the sport that drove her: “I can plead only that the love of racing a bike was deeply ingrained …. I was prepared to make personal sacrifices particularly [if] I could win medals for my country.”

Although it’s still far from optimum, the landscape for women racers has changed greatly since Burton competed. Fortunately, 55 years ago Beryl Burton put her back to a great stone boulder and exerted the push that would change the status-quo in women’s cycling.

For more information on Beryl Burton:
7 Times World Cycling Champion – Beryl Burton OBE
Racing Is Life – The Beryl Burton Story



This is a page from The Golden Book of Cycling, created in 1932 to recognize outstanding contributors to cycling. Don’t try to order one from Amazon — only the original exists. (Click on the image to read it.)




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Georgena will answer your questions about bike-fit, bike-frames, saddles, and bike-maintenance. So don’t be shy. Take advantage of her knowledge and decades of experience to get answers to any questions you have about bicycles. Email me at [email protected].

When Georgena Terry first started designing bicycles, over 30 years ago, there were no women-specific bikes. Many female cyclists were forced to put up with neck, and shoulder pain, and other physical problems that came from riding bicycles that didn’t fit them. Georgena Terry changed that. Looking at anatomical differences between men and women, such as body mass and body strength, she began designing bike frames that optimized comfort and performance for female cyclists, with special attention to women under 5’2”.

Working out of her basement in Rochester, NY, Georgena first designed bikes for herself, then for her cycling friends. In 1985, she sparked a revolution in the cycling industry by launching Terry Precision Cycling, selling custom-built, high-quality steel frame bikes for women. Larger cycling companies sat up and took notice. Eventually following her lead, they developed their own brand of women-specific bicycles, clothing, saddles and accessories.

Today, Georgena continues her passion, designing and building custom steel bikes for women cyclists of all sizes. Contact her at georgenaterry.com


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