Victorian women were told that Bicycle Face would ruin their beauty.
Bicycle Face is the tense expression of concentration required for dodging traffic.
Not only would this ruin women’s good looks, but their legs would get bowlegged from pedaling.
“Over-exertion, the upright position on the wheel, and the unconscious effort to maintain one’s balance tend to produce a wearied and exhausted ‘bicycle face,'” noted the Literary Digest in 1895
The following list of 41 don’ts for female cyclists was published in 1895 in the newspaper New York World:
- Don’t be a fright.
- Don’t faint on the road.
- Don’t wear a man’s cap.
- Don’t wear tight garters.
- Don’t forget your toolbag
- Don’t attempt a “century.”
- Don’t coast. It is dangerous.
- Don’t boast of your long rides.
- Don’t criticize people’s “legs.”
- Don’t wear loud hued leggings.
- Don’t cultivate a “bicycle face.”
- Don’t refuse assistance up a hill.
- Don’t wear clothes that don’t fit.
- Don’t neglect a “light’s out” cry.
- Don’t wear jewelry while on a tour.
- Don’t race. Leave that to the scorchers.
- Don’t wear laced boots. They are tiresome.
- Don’t imagine everybody is looking at you.
- Don’t go to church in your bicycle costume.
- Don’t wear a garden party hat with bloomers.
- Don’t contest the right of way with cable cars.
- Don’t chew gum. Exercise your jaws in private.
- Don’t wear white kid gloves. Silk is the thing.
- Don’t ask, “What do you think of my bloomers?”
- Don’t use bicycle slang. Leave that to the boys.
- Don’t go out after dark without a male escort.
- Don’t go without a needle, thread and thimble.
- Don’t try to have every article of your attire “match.”
- Don’t let your golden hair be hanging down your back.
- Don’t allow dear little Fido to accompany you
- Don’t scratch a match on the seat of your bloomers.
- Don’t discuss bloomers with every man you know.
- Don’t appear in public until you have learned to ride well.
- Don’t overdo things. Let cycling be a recreation, not a labor.
- Don’t ignore the laws of the road because you are a woman.
- Don’t try to ride in your brother’s clothes “to see how it feels.”
- Don’t scream if you meet a cow. If she sees you first, she will run.
- Don’t cultivate everything that is up to date because yon ride a wheel.
- Don’t emulate your brother’s attitude if he rides parallel with the ground.
- Don’t undertake a long ride if you are not confident of performing it easily.
- Don’t appear to be up on “records” and “record smashing.” That is sporty.
Women sensibly ignored these rules.
Instead, they enjoyed socializing unchaperoned and the freedom of lighter undergarments – only 7 pounds in weight!
No wonder women kept pedaling on.
Happy Bike to Work Day. Get your Bicycle Face on!
Siobhan O’Shea is a freelance writer. She writes about pretty much everything but especially likes to bring readers’ attention to new tech, marketing, human behavior, and other oddities.