don’ts for female cyclists
Bicycle history Women cycling

Don’t cultivate a ‘bicycle face’ and other amusing advice for women in 1895

don’ts for female cyclists

As a history buff, I can’t go past this fantastic list of don’ts for female cyclists published in a newspaper called New York World in 1895. My personal favourite is ‘Don’t cultivate a bicycle face’.

I’m not sure what a ‘bicycle face’ might have been, but a found a few other descriptions:

“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. It went on to describe the condition as “usually flushed, but sometimes pale, often with lips more or less drawn, and the beginning of dark shadows under the eyes, and always with an expression of weariness.”

Others said the condition was “characterised by a hard, clenched jaw and bulging eyes.”

The full list is also quite amusing:

  • 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 criticise 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 jewellery 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 labour
  • 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 you 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.

What are your “don’ts for female cyclists”? Share via Women Who Cycle’s Facebook page for comments.

One comment

  1. This is hilarious and still makes me chuckle in 2023.
    My name is Steven P Williams and I am the chairman of the annual Tweed Ride that we participate in every year in Snohomish, Washington; a town founded in 1861.
    We are putting on a show on September 9th and our theme is based on the mother of our city formulated around the fixed in the 1890s.
    We are expecting 50 riders this year and will be ‘in the era’ all day long. I will rewrite this list and read it out loud for our modern day ladies to hear and hopefully they will chuckle and not be offended by the clearly sexist statements based on how our great great grandmothers did it way way back. Or they may realize that a ‘bicycle face’ is STILL just as ugly today as it was in ’95!
    Look both ways before you cross and don’t forget that riding an antique bicycle wearing nifty clothes is indeed still fashionable. Just don’t over due it!

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