On his trek north Simon Morton explores the home of our first-ever female Prime Minister, the North Canterbury town of Ashburton. (That’s ‘Vegas’ to the locals). He immediately hooks up with local hard-man and kite-maker Peter Lynn, who demonstrates how Karl Benz invented the motor-car from a sociable bicycle, but retells how Benz thank his wife for showing it to the world. ‘It’s so simple, even a woman can drive it…?!?’
Using bicycles wheels, Lynn also invented a new craze, the kite-buggy, and with the help of multi-sport legend Steve Gurney, shows how dangerous it can be to cross the Sahara. Simon escapes with his life to the city of Christchurch, a town once so filled with bikes that it rivaled Copenhagen and was dubbed ‘cyclopolis’. From historians Clare Simpson and Sarah Murray he learns how Victorian women ditched their skirts in favour of ‘scandalous’ bloomers, how the new rational dress movement supported the suffragettes, and won women the right to vote. In 1893. Very modern. So Simon wants to ride the cycle that belonged to chief suffragette Kate Sheppard, and finds it in the amazing treasure trove of memorabilia belonging to renegade collectors Leon Nevin and Keith Guthrie.
He tries all manner of mad machines, before finding modern solace amongst another bunch of ‘enthusiasts’, who ride alongside the Tour De France, but never leave the garage. His final rite of feminist passage is to meet the young ladies of the Christchurch City BMX Club, who race the boys but find them ‘sad and lame’. Before heading for the hills, and the tranquility of the West Coast.