In 2018, I realized I needed to listen to more women’s stories. I found the Tough Girl podcast and it changed the course of my life. These women weren’t just telling stories, they were creating and owning them. It was powerful.
The Tough Girl podcast is run by Sarah Williams, a UK-based adventurer, blogger, and speaker. Each week, she interviews women from around the world who find joy and resilience in the great outdoors. Her mission is “to increase the amount of female role models in the media, especially in relation to adventure, physical challenges, and exploration.”
This winter I decided to through-hike the Florida Trail, a 1,100-mile footpath across Florida. I figured it would also be an ideal time to listen to Tough Girl podcasts. I messaged Sarah, and she promptly sent me a curated list of her favorite cycling episodes.
My memories of the first 350 miles of the Florida Trail are now laced with the sound of women’s voices telling their stories.
Jenny Graham chatted in my ear as I hiked through the dark on a lonely canal road, the red eyes of alligators gleaming in the light of my headlamp.
Vendangi Kulkarni laughed about grizzly bears as I bent to gather sticks for my wood stove.
Quinn Brett brought me to tears as I waded through a swamp, my operated knee twinging with each step. Quinn made me feel grateful for every part of being alive.
Many of these women are people I’ve listened to or read about for years. But to have them all together, in my ear, on this trip, has been extraordinary.
These stories will move you, change you, and quite possibly set you in motion. Good luck!
When Vera’s boyfriend asked her to ride a tandem bike with him across Wales, she thought it was a lovely idea — she’d just sit on the back, drink prosecco, and enjoy the countryside. Once they started pedaling, she realized it was a bit harder than that! Luckily, Vera is really, really good at doing hard things.
After that trip, Vera started cycling on her own and with cycling clubs. With almost no long-distance cycling experience, she applied for and won the Stayer Cycles Ultra Distance Scholarship, which launched her to compete in the 2021 Pan Celtic Race.
Vera is an engineer and cyclist. She works to increase representation for Black women in both engineering and cycling.
Quinn is a life-long adventure athlete with several climbing first ascents, speed records, and mountain running records around the world. In 2017, she fell over 100 feet while climbing in Yosemite, and was left paralyzed from the waist down.
Less than four years later, in 2021, she became the first person to hand-cycle the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route from the Canadian Border to the Mexican border. She completed the trip in 25 days.
Quinn now works as an advocate for public lands, accessibility, and spinal cord research.
In college, Frankie did an exchange program to New Zealand. When her plans to work in the country fell through, she found herself on a very tight budget. This inspired her to learn simple, cheap activities like hiking and camping.
Afterward, Frankie returned to the UK. She and her partner Frit bought two used bikes and started cycling. This launched Frankie on another winding adventure — cycling nearly 2,000 miles around the UK to interview 51 adventurous women and non-binary people about how they became so adventurous. These interviews became the podcast, Extraordinary Ordinary You.
Frankie now supports individuals, adventurers, and purpose-driven businesses with content creation and social media strategy.
One day when she was in college, Olivia watched a man ride by on a bike. She realized he could be cycling anywhere. In that moment, she decided to bike across the U.S.
Shortly afterward, Oliva set out to pedal over 5,000 miles from Oregon to Florida. She used this journey to come to terms with her lifelong fear of men.
Olivia is a writer and cyclist with a passion for helping women overcome their fears.
Jenny started mountain biking in her twenties and instantly loved it. Later, she took a college course in outdoor skills and became hooked on adventure. Started biking farther and farther.
Eventually, Jenny applied for and won a scholarship to attend an Adventure Syndicate training camp. At the camp, she met a coach who offered her a year of free training. She used that training to its full potential, by breaking the women’s world record for cycling unsupported around the world.
Jenny continues to compete in endurance cycling races around the globe.
Kate started off as a bike commuter and later began doing long-distance cycling trips.
From 2017 to 2018, she rode the length of South America on a bamboo bike she built herself. She uses her cycling journeys to explore the issues of biodiversity and climate change.
Kate has written widely on environmental issues and is the author of The Carbon Cycle: Crossing the Great Divide.
Krystal started her cycling career indoors, pedaling to her favorite tunes on a stationary bike. In 2018, a friend encouraged her to do America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride, a hundred-mile ride around Lake Tahoe. She’s been cycling in the great outdoors ever since.
After her Tahoe ride, Krystal moved to Colorado and became the co-director of the Denver chapter of Black Girls Do Bike, an organization “growing and supporting a community of women of color who share a passion for cycling.”
Krystal is an ambassador of OUTRIDE, a non-profit focused on providing evidence-based cycling interventions to improve social, emotional, and cognitive health in youth.
Susan was working as a fitness trainer when she decided to join a cycling group called Leicester Spokes. Later, she helped form a women’s cycling group and started going on multi-day and multi-week cycling journeys with other women.
Eventually, Susan planned her own round-the-world cycling trip. She spent over two and half years cycling across fifteen countries on four continents.
Susan is one of Cycling UK’s “100 Women in Cycling 2019.”
When she was 26, Helen planned an around-the-world trip with her boyfriend. They broke up before leaving, and she went on the trip alone. This launched her on a lifetime of adventures.
Since 2017, she's been a full-time global cyclist, pedaling over 37,000 miles across seven continents.
Helen travels on about AU$100 a week.
At seventeen, Vendangi rode her bike across the Himalayas. Two years later, in 2018, she set out to become the youngest woman to cycle around the world. She faced grizzly bears, a concussion, logistical hangups, and over 18,000 miles of pedaling. Vendangi has an extraordinary story — and she’s just getting started.
Vendangi now runs The Adventure Shed, an end-to-end expedition management service.