Are you at risk for getting Bicycle Face? Is that even a real thing?!

Bicycle face was a 19th-century health problem that men actually made up to scare women away from biking.

Descriptions of bicycle face varied: some implied it could be a permanent condition, while others maintained that given enough time away from a bicycle, a person’s bicycle face would eventually subside.

But the real shocking reason is why men made up the condition.

Back then bicycles were seen by many as an instrument of feminism. They gave women a measure of increased mobility, which was something prior to this time in history, women on their own never had.

This also allowed women to go out on their bicycle and spread the world about the suffrage moment. Bikes also helped stoke dress reform movements, which aimed to reduce Victorian restrictions on clothes and undergarments so women could wear clothes that allowed them to engage in physical activities.

So what did men do?

They argued that bicycling was an excessively taxing activity, unsuitable for women. It would lead to not only bicycle face, but also exhaustion, insomnia, heart palpitations, headaches, and depression.

Finally, a female doctor named Sarah Hacket Stevenson, came forward to set the record straight.

[Cycling] is not injurious to any part of the anatomy, as it improves the general health. I have been conscientiously recommending bicycling for the last five years,” she said. “The painfully anxious facial expression is seen only among beginners, and is due to the uncertainty of amateurs. As soon as a rider becomes proficient, can gauge her muscular strength, and acquires perfect confidence in her ability to balance herself and in her power of locomotion, this look passes away.”

 

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