Women and Bicycles

If riding high-wheeled bicycles was a mark of virility and physical fitness for men, in Victorian Britain it was generally held to be unsuitable for women to be seen on bicycles. The position, the clothes' movements while mounting or dismounting and the easy and acrobatic falls, were all at odds with Victorian prudery. Makers proposed fanciful alternatives for lady cyclists, from bicycles with both pedals on one side, to tricycles, to "dicycles" with big parallel wheels. It was with the invention of the chain transmission that wheel diameters finally began to shrink. Yet, the clothing problem remained. Stylists launched the so-called "rational dress" for female cyclists. It consisted of long trousers, wide above the knee and tight at the ankle, suitably covered by an overcoat that was short enough not to prevent the use of pedals and yet long enough not to reveal the legs.