CYCLING: Bicycle Etiquette

CYCLING: Bicycle Etiquette

CYCLING having taken such a mighty grasp upon the land, it has naturally followed that an etiquette of cycling should be established, and that it should be well established and rigidly regarded by society.

There are the details of meeting, mounting, right of way and various other points which are carefully observed and give the desired air of fashionable righteousness, without which, for many people, the pleasure of meeting in a social way on one’s wheel would be but legendary.

It is distinctly understood in the first place that “cycling” is the correct word; the up-to-date woman dares not speak of bicycling nor of wheeling.

A Cycler’s Guide.

If in town, the early hours of the morning are chosen for a ride through the park. This is on the same principle that it is considered good form for a young woman to drive only in the morning, that is, when she herself is the whip. In the country the rules, both as regards cycling and driving, are not as rigid. The maiden, however, who is a stickler for form, does all her cycling in the hours which come before noon—unless there be a special meet, a bicycle tea, for instance, or a spin by moonlight.

Neither is it correct for a young woman to ride unaccompanied. In the matter of chaperons we are becoming almost as rigid as the French, who scarcely allow a young girl to cross the street, to say nothing of shopping or calling, without being accompanied by an elder woman, her mother, relative, or a friend, as a chaperon.


During the past few years there has been a tendency in America toward a closer imitation of all French etiquette which has brought in its train a strict construction of the duties of a chaperon.

Maids Do Duty.

The unmarried woman who cycles must be chaperoned by a married lady—as everyone rides nowadays, this is an affair easily managed. Neither must the married woman ride alone; failing a male escort, she is followed by a groom or a maid.

A woman is very fortunate if among her men or women servants, one knows how to ride a bicycle. Ladies occasionally go to the expense of having a servant trained in the art.

A Man’s Duty.

If one possesses such a commodity as a brother or a husband, he can always be made useful on a cycling excursion. Never is a man better able to show for what purpose he was made than upon such occasions.

The man’s duty to the woman who rides might be made the text for a long sermon; but long sermons are never popular; therefore, it may be better to state briefly that he must always be on the alert to assist his fair companion in every way in his power—he must be clever enough to repair any slight damage to her machine which may occur en route, he must assist her in mounting and dismounting, pick her up if she has a tumble, and make himself generally useful and incidentally ornamental and agreeable.

He rides at her left in order to give her the more guarded place, as the rule of the road in meeting other cyclers is the same as that for a carriage, to turn to the right. In England, the reverse is the case.

Assisting the Lady.

In mounting, the gentleman who is accompanying a lady holds her wheel; she stands on the left side of the machine and puts her right foot across the frame to the right pedal, which at the time must be345 up; pushing the right pedal causes the machine to start and then with the left foot in place, the rider starts ahead—slowly at first, in order to give her cavalier time to mount his wheel, which he will do in the briefest time possible.

When the end of the ride is reached, the man quickly dismounts and is at his companion’s side to assist her, she, in the meantime, assisting herself as much as possible. This is done—that is, dismounting in the most approved style—by riding slowly, and when the left pedal is on the rise, the weight of the body is thrown on it, the right foot is crossed over the frame of the machine, and, with an assisting hand, the rider easily steps to the ground.

In meeting a party of cyclists who are known to each other and desire to stop for a parley, it is considered the proper thing for the men of the party to dismount while in conversation with the ladies.

As to the furnishings of the bicycle, to be really complete, it must be fitted out with a clock and a bell, luggage carrier and a cyclometer, the latter being an absolute sine qua non to the woman who cares for records. From five to six lessons are always considered necessary before one can master even the details of riding.

On the Road.

On the road the woman who wishes to ride a la mode has to know a number of little things that are overlooked by another woman, just as the smart set have a code for riding and driving that is as inexorable as that they should not eat with their knives or put sugar on oysters. Society insists on an upright position, with, of course, no attempt at racing pace. It also frowns upon constant ringing of the bell—that will do for the vulgar herd who delight in noise. The well-informed wheelwoman keeps eye and ear alert and touches her bell rarely. She dresses daintily and inconspicuously—effaces herself, in fact, as much in this exercise as she does in all public places.

Very gallant escorts use a towrope when accompanying a lady on a wheeling spin. These are managed in various ways; one consists of an India-rubber door-spring just strong enough to stretch a little346 with the strain, and about six feet of shade cord. One end is attached to the lady’s wheel at the lamp bracket or brake rod by a spring swivel, and the other end is hooked to the escort’s handle bar in such a way that he can set it free in a moment, if necessary. When he has finished towing he drops back to the lady’s side, hanging the loose end of the cord over her shoulder, to be ready for the next hill. A gentle pull that is a bagatelle to a strong rider is of great assistance to a weak one uphill or against a strong wind.

For Protection against Dogs.

Every bicyclist in the land will rise up and call the inventor of the ammonia gun for dogs blessed. Nothing is more annoying to the rider than to have a mongrel dog barking at his pedals and scurrying across his pathway in such close proximity to the front wheel as to be a constant reminder of a possible “header.” The gun is calculated to make an annoying dog sneeze and sniff away all future ambitions to investigate the pace of a rider. It is said to be a perfect instrument in every way. The advantages enumerated for it are: Positively will not leak; has no spring to press or caps to remove, and will shoot from five to twelve times from fifteen to thirty feet with one loading.

A Few Don’ts for Cyclers.

Don’t try to raise your hat to the passing “bloomer” until you become an expert in guiding your wheel.

Don’t buy a bicycle with down-curve handles. It is impossible to sit erect and hold that kind of a handle.

Don’t go out on a bicycle wearing a tail coat unless you enjoy making a ridiculous show of yourself.

Don’t travel without a jacket or loose wrap, to be worn while resting. A summer cold is a stubborn thing.

Don’t allow a taste for a bit of color in your make-up to tempt you to wearing a red or other gay-colored cap.

Don’t get off the old gag about “that tired feeling” every time you stop by the roadside for a little breathing spell.


Don’t absent yourself from church to go wheeling, as you and your bicycle are welcome at most houses of worship.

Don’t leave your bicycle in the lower hallway of your flat-house for the other tenants to fall over in the dark.

Don’t believe the farmer boy who says that it is “two miles to the next town.” It may be two, four, six or twelve.

Don’t be more than an hour passing a given point, although wheeling on a dusty road is honestly conducive to thirst.

Don’t smile at the figure others cut astride their wheels, as it is not given you to see yourself as others see you.

Don’t coast down a strange hill with a curve at its bottom? There is no telling what you will meet when it is too late.

Don’t ride ten miles at a scorching pace, then drink cold water and lie around on the grass, unless you are tired of life.

Don’t try to carry your bike downstairs under your arm. Put it on your shoulder, or you will come to distress.

Don’t laugh the watchful copper to scorn because your lamp is burning brightly. He can afford to wait his time to laugh.

Don’t dress immodestly or in the costume of a track sprinter. Sweaters worn like a Chinaman’s blouse are almost indecent.

Don’t forget that the modern law of the road requires you to turn out to the right in passing another bicycle or other vehicle.

Women’s Bicycle Rides.

Women who ride bicycles should make it a law with themselves never to ride after a feeling of weariness comes over them,” said a well-known physician. “I just came from visiting a woman who tried to ride around the city last Sunday. It was the fourth time she had ever ridden a wheel out of doors. She got half way around, came home in street cars and a carriage, and has been sick in bed ever since. She ought to be an example to all women who ride. For those who are beginning, especially, and in a measure for all women, there is a great danger in overdoing. Some women ride centuries, it is true, but they are men in strength. No ordinary woman should348 start out before knowing how far she is going. Ordinarily, though, they ride twice as far as they ought. They start out and ride away from home until they get tired.

“Then they have to ride back, getting more and more exhausted with every turn of the wheels. No ordinary woman who rides once or twice a week should go more than ten miles at a trip. That is perhaps an hour’s ride that may be easily extended to an hour and a quarter before that distance is covered, and if she does not feel fresh and in a glow when she stops, she may be certain that she has ridden too long. Naturally there is that healthy tired feeling which any one recognizes after athletic exercise, but it is quite different from and never to be mistaken for the weariness which comes from too much exertion and straining of the nerves and muscles. Very few women have ever been injured on a bicycle who kept to this rule and limited their riding to nominal distances.”

Length of the Ride.

“This limit of distance, which is designated by the feeling of weariness, is only a little more important than the limit of speed which the female frame is capable of undergoing under healthy exercising rules. Whether a man can ride at full speed for a long distance and still retain his good health is a doubtful question. It is certain, however, that no woman can keep up a high rate of speed for even a generous portion of a mile and not create the beginning of injuries. The added strength required to increase speed even a little after a certain amount of power has been expended is out of all proportion to the results. There is no relaxation of the muscles between revolutions of the pedals, nor any let up on the nervous and muscular strain while the speed lasts. The heart is far more taxed than one realizes at the moment, and that species of tingling or numbness in the nerves and muscles which often results is only a sign that they have both been overtaxed.”

Properly used, a wheel is certainly a promoter of health. It develops muscles that are seldom, if ever, otherwise used. It gains for women349 that ideal condition of the flesh so prized by sculptors and artists, namely, a firm, solid tissue when the muscles are flexed, and a softness of an infant with muscular relaxation. It develops the entire torso and limbs, it renders one’s nerves like steel and is a splendid antidote for headaches.

An exceedingly smart and yet thoroughly practical cycling costume is known as the “Londonderry,” and is made in gray-green hopsack, a soft fabric which lends itself admirably to the full folds of the ample knickerbockers, which form a most important part of this costume. The “Londonderry” coat is made with long and very full basques, which form a kind of skirt when on the machine, and which, nevertheless, do not interfere in the least with the rider’s freedom of action. This coat is prettily braided with black, and fastened with big black buttons. It is so arranged in front that it can be worn either with a shirt or over a double-breasted vest of cloth or leather.

Skirts are an Abomination.

A renowned lady writer says: “In the first place let me condemn the skirt—not from prejudice, but from experience. Skirts, no matter how light, how trim, how heavy, are both a nuisance and a danger. A nuisance because they are always subject to entanglement in the wheel; because they fly up with every breeze and motion; because they have not the chic appearance of the properly made bloomer, and because, if they are weighted, like a riding habit, they make so much more to carry against the wind. And breeze makes weight.

“They are a danger because with the constant pumping of the pedals the knee is required to raise too great a weight; this bears upon the body just below the back of the hips, giving backache; often more serious troubles. I wouldn’t wear a skirt. I had one torn off me by the wheel; but I rode with them long enough to give a just comparison of the merits of skirts versus bloomers.

“Riding suits should be of fine, light weight, navy blue or black material, made with bloomers, and the blouse with tailor-made jacket. I wear the sweater myself in preference, because it is not so apt to350 leave one subject to changes of temperature. The Alpine hat of Tam O’Shanter is au fait for street, with leggings to match the bloomers and jacket, and low shoes made broad on the ball of the foot. All bicycle shoes should be broad on the ball, because the pedaling is done with the ball, not with the under curve, as so many think. Doeskin gloves are best for ordinary riding. Bloomers should be made to fasten at the left side of the back, which leaves room for a pocket on the right side. Tinted leggings should always match the hat and gloves.

“Tell the ladies to have their saddles built high and wide in the back, sloping away and downwards in front; and that if they pedal properly there is no reason why bicycling should not be a healthful, moral, modest and permanent form of exercise. For, mark it,” she added, as a parting sally, “the wheel has come to stay.”

A Pace Indicator.

A man who rides for health and pleasure and not to race or score centuries says that his plan is never to go so fast that he must breathe through his mouth. As long as his nostrils can supply sufficient air he knows that he is not over-exerting himself. As soon as he feels an inclination to breathe through his mouth he slackens his pace.

Don’t Dodge a Bicycle.

Before bicycling will ever become a success a meeting must be called for the purpose of allowing the wheelmen and the pedestrian to arrive at some understanding. “I am in favor of a convention or something of that sort,” said a prominent wheelman to a reporter.

As it is now, a rider comes down the street and sees ahead of him at a crossing a man or woman who is supposed to be endowed with reasonable intelligence. This person is in the act of crossing the street. He looks up, sees the rider coming and stands still right in the middle of the street. Of course, he is mentally calculating his chances for getting across safely.

In the meantime, the rider is getting closer and closer and is in a351 study equally as profound as to what the person is going to do. The pedestrian takes a step forward, takes another glance up the street, stops, and starts back, makes an effort to reach the pavement, stops again, starts forward, stops.

Of course, by this time the cyclist is almost at a standstill and is also zigzagging from one side to the other, waiting and muttering. The pedestrian seems to give up all possibility of escape, faces the rider, both arms extended, jumps from one foot to the other, and the two collide. The cyclist is thrown to the ground, his wheel twisted, and he gets the blame.

And how easily all this can be avoided! Let the pedestrian, instead of performing all these trying evolutions, merely walk along as though there was nothing behind him, keep his course, and the cyclist will know what to do. He will turn his wheel to one side and slide past with perfect ease and safety. On the crossings let a man walk along as though there were not a bicycle in the state, and the wheelman will judge his course accordingly. He has control of his wheel and is as anxious not to collide as the other fellow.

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