The growing popularity of cycling in the late 19th century encouraged the publication of a number of guides for the enthusiast and novice alike. Victorian England, in particular, took to the new sport with vim and vigor. The book, Cycling, published under the Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes series, offers a unique glimpse into various cultural aspects of the sport during this time period, including such topics as racing, women, dress, and touring clubs. The book is also loaded with details about manufacturing, equipment, statistics, and history. Many of the illustrations peppered throughout the book are by the noted illustrator/artist Joseph Pennell.
In the streets of our great cities and in highways and
byways throughout the land, carriages, swift and serviceable,
propelled by the power of human muscles alone, have become
common. The sight of a traveller of either sex, seated on a
light machine, and proceeding with considerable rapidity and
apparently but little exertion, is so usual that the wayfarer hardly
turns his head to look at the accustomed sight. Yet it is but a
very short time ago that the passage of a cyclist was wont to
produce an exhibition of considerable excitement, and sometimes
even demonstrations of hostility.
The tricycle-bicycle controversy
One of the great advantages of the tricycle over its two-wheeled
rival is that it permits the rider to stop at will. A
bicycle, on the contrary, only retains its stable equilibrium
on the condition of being kept in constant motion. An
attempt at a halt is instantly rewarded by an upset. An active
rider can dismount very quickly ; but an elderly gentleman,
however skilful he might be, would feel the impossibility of
performing the necessary gymnastics if he should be so ill advised
as to ride a bicycle through crowded streets. The construction
of the bicycle, too, makes it an impossible mount for
ladies, to whom the tricycle offers no sort of difficulty. For
town work and for the use of the gentler sex the tricycle is
decidedly the more convenient machine. On country roads,
and for young and active riders, it is a matter of taste which
should have the preference.
Health benefits considered
It is for this reason, therefore, that it is suggested
to the novice that he should go to a doctor who has some
knowledge of athletics. There are many, unfortunately,
who cannot stand the mild strain of a ride upon the
road, and such men would not of course venture to tempt fortune
on the racing path ; there are others also who, although they are
free from disease, might possibly damage themselves by a vigorous
course of cycling, and they also should avoid the path and
its concomitant excitement and exertion; but there are men —
many of them— to whom the hardest physical exertion is, or
would be, of the greatest practical benefit. These are men
with good physical powers, sound in wind and limb, without
any heart or lung trouble, and with an active digestion.
Such men, unless they can take a sufficiency of exercise, absolutely
suffer from those very physical advantages which they
enjoy. They grow fat and unwieldy, and in the train of the
abnormal development of adipose tissue follows any number of
ailments which might have been avoided by exercise.
How to dress appropriately
Exhilarating and enjoyable as is the sport of cycling, and healthy as it has proved itself to be, its enjoyment and its health-giving qualities are wholly dependent upon one very important point : a correct and suitable costume. It must not be forgotten that cycling is, after all, an athletic exercise, that it causes perspiration when ardently followed out, and for that reason alone it requires its votaries to be properly costumed in a dress suitable and convenient for the work in hand. It may be well to say a few words on this question of appropriate attire, as a good many riders are even now doubtful about the propriety of donning a regular cycling dress. In the earlier days of the sport, a pedestrian or a rider in cycling garb was sufficiently a novelty to attract a good deal of annoying attention in any town he might visit. But this is no longer the case, and a correctly dressed cyclist, more especially if he adopts the C. T C. costume, is so common an object, that he passes without special notice.
Women cyclists on the scene
By far the larger number of our lady riders began their
cycling experiences upon sociables or tandems with their
husbands and brothers, and thus gained by degrees the experience
and confidence necessary for the fullest enjoyment of
a cruise upon wheels, eventually attaining the self-reliance
necessary for a trip upon a single machine. It is perhaps upon
a tandem with a gentleman companion that the lady rider looks
most at home, and when, clad in a well-fitting and becoming
costume, she flits by on the front seat of one of these light and
speedy machines, the most sceptical observer is converted to the
same view. This fact is fully recognised by the general public, who
have been quite educated up to the sight of lady tricyclists
perambulating the roads, and gaze upon them with the same sort of indifference with which a nineteenth-century horse gazes upon a railway train or a steam roller.
- Albemarle, William Coutts Keppel. Cycling. London : Longmans, Green, 1891.
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