The things people worried about in the 19th century…
One such was the risk that women who rode bicycles would get – wait for it – bicycle face.
Instead, some late 19th century doctors warned that — especially for women — using the newfangled contraption could lead to a threatening medical condition: bicycle face.
Because…what? They were facing forward and paying attention, so they wouldn’t look all languorous and dreamy and fragile, as the fashion was?
“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: “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.” Elsewhere, others said the condition was “characterized by a hard, clenched jaw and bulging eyes.”
Yeah that’s wrong. Just for one thing, it’s only an effort to maintain balance on a bicycle when you haven’t learned to ride one yet. Once you catch on it becomes completely automatic and effortless, and you wonder why it was so difficult before then.
Anyway. It’s always interesting to see people trying to make women feel anxious about what they look like. Such a healthy pastime – unlike that dreadful bicycle thing.