Bicycle face

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Bicycle face, bicycle eye or a bicycle stare is a strained expression while cycling. During the 19th century, this was considered an especial risk for women. Cycling may have other effects upon the facial appearance and complexion such as sunburn and tanning.

In the 19th century, a pale complexion was desirable and so women tended to avoid exposure to the sun, using a parasol or broad-brimmed hat. Cycling made this difficult and so was a concern for women riders. The exertion and concentration required for cycling was also thought to coarsen the appearance, giving it a "wild and haunted look of the eyes" with strain lines. Even an appearance of exhilaration was considered suspicious because it suggested masturbation.[1] Physicians who wrote about this included Arabella Kenealy and Arthur Shadwell.[2]

The malady was described in rhyme:[3]

The latest feature discovered by cranks
On the faces of ladies fair.
Is known in the great cycle-istic ranks
Of the world, as the "bicycle stare".
The stares, so 'tis said, on the face of the beauty
Would frighten a mule from the path of duty


  1. ^ Sarah Hallenbeck (2015), "Protecting the Bicyclist's Face", Claiming the Bicycle: Women, Rhetoric, and Technology in Nineteenth-Century America, SIU Press, pp. 60–65, ISBN 9780809334445
  2. ^ Alyssa Straight (2016), "The Face of the Bicyclist", Culture on Two Wheels, University of Nebraska Press, pp. 57–77, ISBN 9780803269729
  3. ^ Robert A. Smith (1972), A Social History of the Bicycle, American Heritage Press, pp. 70–71, ISBN 9780070584570