Some summer fun!
The modern bicycle was a 19th century invention. Initially, they were called “velocipedes“.
A strange name!
The term was probably first coined by Karl von Drais in French as vélocipède for the French translation of his advertising leaflet for his version of the Laufmaschine, also now called a ‘dandy horse‘, which he had developed in 1817. It is ultimately derived from the Latin velox, veloc- ‘swift’ + pes, ped- ‘foot’.
Over the next half century, designs improved. – for example, pedals were attached to the front wheel enabling the rider to achieve much higher speeds.. Various models came to market. There was the “boneshaker”, and the “penny farthing”. The penny farthing looked awkward, and a bit dangerous, but the large front wheel actually gave a smoother ride. But watch out if you fall!
Here is one in use
Then came the “safety” bicycle, which had a design that we still use today. At first, it was derided, but its benefits were obvious.
And with the safety bicycle came a social revolution. Women wanted to ride them!
The cycling craze of the 1890s saw women mounting bikes, escaping the bonds of domestic duty and chaperoned travel. The bicycle changed how women got around.
As the article then points out, “men freaked out.” Among the complaints by men
Commentators raised concerns that women riding bikes could be led to “loose” lifestyles. Some worried that bicycles could be sexually stimulating, so designers began building bicycles with less padded seats, and handlebars adjusted so the rider would not lead over too far and experience physical pleasure.
But women were undaunted. They wanted to ride!
Not just that, women were actually competing in velocipede races! Om fact. the first recorded race took place in Bordeaux in 1868, using front wheel pedal models.
There was, as they say, a hitch
The pedals were attached to the axis of the front wheel, which meant that the first female velocipede racers sat with their legs stretched out in front of them. With the speed of the velocipedes, their clothing flowed behind them, revealing their legs as seen in the illustration. Le Monde Illustré called their outfits “foolish.”
Far too racy for Americans!
The following month, the American journal Harper’s Weekly, A Journal of Civilization, printed the same illustration with one difference. In the American version, undergarments were added to cover the legs of the female velocipede racers. Apparently, the French version was considered too risque for American readers, despite the “Reform Dress” movement already percolating.
The new undergarments were a perfect match for this new exciting past time
Bloomers had appeared in The Water-Cure Journal, the popular women’s health journal, in October 1849. The new garment was a response to the cumbersome fashions of the time that hindered women from athletic activity. Amelia Bloomer took a liking to the new garment and published it in her journal, The Lily. By 1851 Bloomers had become the craze.
And this is how we got to today
Perhaps the next revolution in transport will be led by women?