This is a wonderful article that I’ve copied from an old issue of Cycling magazine from the early 1900’s. I’ve also included a scan of the original article. Times have changed… 🙂
Those who have noticed the huge increase of cyclists in the last year or so (and who could help noticing it?) must also have been struck by the fact that so large a proportion of them are women. Many ask me why it is. I can only reply that it is a sign of the times. More and more of our womenfolk are moving over to those forms of life that mean freedom, action and adventure. They want to be out of doors and away from the monotony of pent-up places and ordered routine.
The bicycle, either as an end in itself or as a help to other objective is almost ideally tin instrument for the modern girl, for it justifies all her healthy modern instincts.
On the matter of clothing alone, the bicycle enables the modern girl to follow entirely her own ideas as to what is sensible and comfortable dress. A cycling girl may, within reason, wear anything from the daintiest frock to an out-and-out man’s suite, complete with collar and tie, when she may receive glances of admiration and interest, but never of surprise. The bicycle has always made the most sensible clothing the right clothing. It introduced rational dress, and re-introduced it during the war, when the “and girls” took it up. It was the bicycle that popularised women’s “shorts,” now so widely used in tennis and other sports. And it was the bicycle that so emancipated women that they could travel the roads without anyone thinking it odd.
The old idea, that cycling is bad for complexion, has long been exploded. Today, girls ride their bicycles to get “that schoolgirl complexion,” using a little of one of the many present-day preparations that preserve the colour while preventing any risk of roughness or harshness.
Another very old-fashioned prejudice – that cycling interfered with the shape and poise of the figure – has been found to be exact opposite of the fact. Today, I will undertake to go into an office or a workshop and pick out the cycling girls, or most of them, from the erectness of their figures, and the easy gracefulness of their walk. Let me add this – that in cases where I feel any doubt, their complexion helps me to decide.
I would advise all keen cycling girls to join a club, if possible. There they will meet many more girls, some with great experience, and will learn a great deal without having to buy their experience in the hard school of trial and error.
The reason why so many cycling girls are outside clubs, is that they did not intend, at the beginning, to take up cycling for its own sake. They brought their bicycles as an auxiliary to tennis, and for shopping, visits, etc. They quickly found that it was a splendid investment, but that the cycling was the best part of the expedition. You can guess what was the next move. They set out one day on their machines, but the courts, or the shops, did not see them. They had answered the call of the open road, and had become cycling girls.
The modern girl would never have become an enthusiastic cyclist, if the ladies’ pattern bicycles of the present day were the lumbering, heavy-running contraptions of the past days. What an anomaly it was that whereas the burly athletic men could buy the daintiest featherweight racers, slightly-built girls had to “take or leave” a machine that we could barely lift.
Today, thanks to the advance in modern design and manufacture, the “Ladies’ Model” is a light, sweet running creation, worthy of a modern Eve.
A few hints, and then I have done. Today, there are dozens of makers of special cycling clothing for girls. I strongly advise girls to get the special garments where possible, and not to use the men’s articles. Again, it is far better to get special cycling shoes, which have a much lower heel and better shape than the town shoe. For cold weather, use a pair of plus-fours, with one of the smart modern brown jackets of shower-proof cloth, with zipp fasteners.
I ought to add that the really modern Eve is not complete, judging from observations on the road, unless she is seated on a smart tandem with a modern Adam. Tandeming has increased in an extraordinary way. Whether that is a cause or an effect of the modern Eve’s invasions of the road I leave others to say. But it is all a splendid sport, anyway.