Women on Bikes!
December 29, 2011 12:48 PM   Subscribe

In which we discuss a history of women riding bicycles.

In 1895 it was important for women to follow proper etiquette. By the 1890s, women bought almost 1/3 of bicycles sold, raced them, and took them on tours.

Now, even though female cyclists make less than male counterparts, at least women are serious competitors. Women looking for something less competitive can still find a bike, get riding, and enjoy themselves along the way.
posted by thewestinggame (18 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I love the list of 41 tips for proper etiquette. Number 42 should be " Aw, fuck it. Don't even think of riding a bicycle."
posted by 2N2222 at 1:20 PM on December 29, 2011

Don’t faint on the road.

Good tip. Proper etiquette demands that you retire to the fainting room first.
posted by zachlipton at 1:20 PM on December 29, 2011

A woman needs a bicycle like a fish needs a man.
posted by bicyclefish at 1:36 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

My day has come!
posted by bicyclefish at 1:45 PM on December 29, 2011 [10 favorites]

My mom was renovating a room last week and found a huge cache of newspapers from 1938 layered beneath the floor as insulation. One treasure from the stack was a glossy Sunday insert about the resurgence of bicycling (!) that featured a few "then & now" pics of women on bikes. It was surprising how "modern" the casual female cyclists of 1938 look.

Oh, and Annie Londonderry, who completed the first round-the-world bike trip in 1895, belongs on this list!
posted by richyoung at 2:10 PM on December 29, 2011

I'd have wanted to hang out with the kind of women who would scratch matches on their bloomers, that sounds badass whatever it is.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:16 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry for this, but I've been meaning to watch The Road To Wellville again, despite the quasi-pornographic steak scenes (for those of us omni/carnivores) -

Bicycle Smile.
posted by Samizdata at 2:38 PM on December 29, 2011

Anyone (male or female) want to try to break all the 1895 etiquette rules with me in one ride?
posted by shortyJBot at 3:01 PM on December 29, 2011

I love the history, especially the etiquette rules. Women and bicycles in art would surely include my favorite Girl on a Bicycle woodblock print.
posted by Anitanola at 3:12 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Don’t forget your toolbag

Damn straight! I hate it when she drops me on a climb!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:22 PM on December 29, 2011

Frances Benjamin Johnston famously wore men's clothing and a fake mustache while riding her bicycle. The tight pants would avoid many of the etiquette issues related to bloomers.
posted by autopilot at 3:37 PM on December 29, 2011

posted by photoslob at 3:53 PM on December 29, 2011

Don’t try to ride in your brother’s clothes “to see how it feels.”

Man, the subtext is really becoming text at this point.
posted by yoink at 4:25 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

If we're talking about modern Professional women's cycling, the most vocal rider of late is Giorgia Bronzini of Italy, who's the women's road cycling World Champion for the second consecutive year. She's said:
"In Italy you only make a great effort. So much so that when I’m asked for advice on women's cycling, I'll tell them that it is better to stop or not start at all, and engage in another [sport].

"But then I add that if there is desire and passion, then cycling offers excitement and adventure, discipline and character. Being a cyclist is not easy: a young girl who starts, misses work for 14-15 years.

. . .

"There is no comparison. Tennis has come close to equal-awards at the top. In basketball and volleyball, as well as skiing and swimming, there is more attention and space. We are still relegated to the role of extras."
"Me and Noemi will try to ask to speak with the UCI so we can have the same professional contract for the women as the professional men have."
"I’d say that moment has arrived, and has done for a while. Women’s cycling is ready to make important steps. Already in Copenhagen I wanted to speak with the president of the UCI to inform him that my jersey was worth just as much as Cavendish’s [the men's World Champion] one, and to give him a list of reasons why we women deserve more."

. . .

"Italian women give more to cycling than they receive. Our movement is growing in numbers and in value, with results that the men haven’t been able to obtain, at least in the last few years. What are we missing? Structures, from managers to teams, and above all, we’re lacking money and sponsors."
It's a terribly bleak picture, from the amateur levels on up to the Pros.
posted by The Michael The at 4:45 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don’t cultivate a “bicycle face.”

I'm missing some cultural context for what this means, clearly.
posted by RobotHero at 8:52 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don’t cultivate a “bicycle face.”

I'm missing some cultural context for what this means, clearly.

It's only recently – the 1970s – that physical exertation by women has come to be seen as attractive and desirable. I just got the book "The Language of Clothes" a couple days ago, after watching a few Jane Austen movies, interestingly enough. While watching the movies I kept thinking, "I know the costumes are true to era, but then why do none of the dresses or coats cover their upper chests? Wouldn't you get freaking cold in England in winter without anything covering your chest?"

Turns out, that was the whole purpose. It kept women "consumptive", i.e. weak, i.e. physically dependent. Attractive, back then, and it stayed that way for quite a while. A weak, fainting woman was one well-off enough not to physically exert herself. Today we do have our own corollary: tans and spiky heels. A tan means you have time and money to get out of the office and do nothing in the sun (or a sun bed). Spiky heels mean you have money to throw at shoes and a car or chauffeur to get you around, since no one who walks anywhere (the classist view being that only plebes have to walk) would wear such hobbling, dangerous contraptions.

And bicycles? My goodness, just look at the way they're treated even on MetaFilter. Bicycles!! The gall of them, poor and middle class folk getting around almost as quickly as the rich!

I'm a woman and mountain bike. I ride alone, though on trails where I know there will be runners or other cyclists, in case anything happens. Why alone? Because no women I know ride bicycles here. I know they exist, of course, there are some women MTB champions in France and for road racing we have our semi-mythical Jeannie Longo. I don't ride with men any more because I got tired of them discussing how to make things easier for me, without speaking to me, only to each other, around me, as I listened, before they'd even seen me ride. Then acting surprised when I rode well. Then laughing at me as if I were a petulant child when I suggested we go faster. "Don't get in over your head, honey!"

Fuck that shit, fuck. I'll ride my fucking bike as I please, by my fucking self, and pass wuss dudes standing up and locking up their back wheels with their brakes while they try to figure out what's making them wobble down rocky hills. (Hint: their locked back wheels.) So yeah, I'm one of those women who "never started at all" I suppose; I want nothing of Yet Another Venue To Be Treated Like A Child. But I do want to bike. Cycling rules. I love it.
posted by fraula at 4:50 AM on December 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Don’t cultivate a “bicycle face.”

I'm missing some cultural context for what this means, clearly.

Tony Martin Zombie Face.
posted by The Michael The at 6:39 AM on December 30, 2011

Don’t cultivate a “bicycle face.”

Advice not followed by this woman who creates a webcomic called Bikeyface (which I highly recommend reading).
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 8:29 AM on January 6, 2012

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