Talk:Bicycle face

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Limited to Women?[edit]

I found this article: in JSTOR that suggests Bicycle face was not an ill limited to women. I am not suggesting it wasn't used to keep women off bicycles, but it was used as a reason to keep all people off of them. --LibraryGurl (talk) 15:58, 1 June 2014 (UTC)

If you could give us a relevant excerpted quote from that source, that might be helpful. — Cirt (talk) 17:18, 1 June 2014 (UTC)
The last paragraph on page 306 says this: "The antibicyclists said that the cycle path led straight to the hospital or the grave. They discovered all sorts of new ail-ments which the cyclist was heir to, including kyphosis bicyclistarum, or bicycle stoop, which was acquired by pedalling in a bent-over position.27 Cyclist's sore throat was found to occur after a long ride on a dusty road.28 Perhaps worst of all was bicycle face, a result of the wheelmen's con-tinuous worrying about keeping his equilibrium while he rode." My thought of the use of 'he' pronoun here and into the next page (more references of bicycle face on the next page) suggests to me a more gender neutral use that was probably common in mid-century and earlier articles. My suggestion, and I just want to make sure people agree with it before I edit, is that the header acknowledges it was to discourage both men and women, but women became the focus of attention. I found another source (that I haven't added just yet) that makes a point of mentioning women. --LibraryGurl (talk) 17:49, 1 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Shadwell, A. (1 February 1897). "The hidden dangers of cycling". National Review. London.
This article makes clear it was directed to discourage women from cycling. — Cirt (talk) 18:57, 1 June 2014 (UTC)
That is to say, it's clear the term originated to discourage women from cycling, but thoughts of men at the time was that it could occur in children, and other male cyclists, as well, just not as predominantly as women. — Cirt (talk) 19:28, 1 June 2014 (UTC)
Would it make sense to write that it was used to predominately discourage women (or something to that effect)? I don't want to negate that it was focused on keeping women from cycling, but to make sure that the article does have NPOV. --LibraryGurl (talk) 23:10, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
Yes, that certainly makes sense, thank you! — Cirt (talk) 01:45, 4 June 2014 (UTC)

Expanded lede[edit]

I see that the {{lead too short}} tag was added to the top of the article.

I've gone ahead and expanded the lede section, expanding it to serve as a standalone summary of the entire article's contents, per WP:LEAD.

Therefore I've removed the {{lead too short}} tag.


Cirt (talk) 20:20, 24 June 2014 (UTC)

Serious sourcing issues[edit]

About two weeks ago, I looked at this article, and I had a few concerns about the sourcing. (I've found that when you look at citations or claims, they aren't always as well backed up as one might hope: examples include Hitler and pep rallies, the benefits of shampoo, and various & sundry famous quotations.)

Let's start at the beginning.

Bicycle face was a fictitious disease invented by the medical establishment of the 19th century used predominately to discourage women from cycling.

So, this makes several clear claims which justify this article's interest as part of the history of feminism: it was a disease invented by the medical establishment, which was specifically about women, and it was in fact discourage women from cycling. If true, very interesting.

To justify the first claim, we need sources such as medical journals, official medical association publications, famous doctors lecturing on the dangers of bicycle face, it being conventional wisdom that women risk bicycle face if they ride, and so on. To justify the second claim, the sources should be clear that this is a danger to women specifically. They should talk about women, and not men, or people in general. And to justify the third claim, we want information about women not bicycling because of this imaginary threat. It's unreasonable to expect statistical information showing decline in female cycling is, but we can hope for thing like women complaining in essays or diaries or newspaper articles about how they are afraid to bike, or how they stopped once they were warned by their local doctor. Some anecdotes would probably suffice. So this is the sort of backing we expect for the claims we see in the summary. Let's move on, but keep these claims in mind as we look at each source and ask: do they support the interpretations & claims being made by the Wikipedia article?

The background about bicycling and feminism is pretty interesting on its own. Perhaps it could all be split out to another article like Bicycling and feminism? That seems appropriate to me: surely the connection of early feminism & bicycling doesn't begin & end with bicycle-face? But back to bicycle-face:

Physicians during the period of time shortly after women gained freedom from their homes through the ability to ride bicycles, wrote in medical journals that females in particular would suffer permanently contorted faces if they continued this physical activity.

Which physicians and what medical journals? Multiple names should be mentioned, and it always worries me when I read an article which use passive voice and lofty summaries and metonymies. ('Doctors agree, you should eat your Frosted Flakes every morning...')

It was argued the bicycle face resulted from continued strain to keep the device balanced while being ridden.

To jump forward a bit, this is incomplete. The sources say that the unnamed proponents speculated there were 3 causes of bicycle-face': over-exertion, the upright position, and the strain of balancing.

Concerns about bicycle face with regard to female cyclists were detailed by medical doctor A. Shadwell in an 1897 article for the National Review in London titled "The hidden dangers of cycling".

This at least is specific. But first: the National Review was not a medical journal of any kind, and was not a particularly notable or prestigious journal that I can tell, so this isn't an impressive citation; I also have no idea who Shadwell is, he seem to be just a random medical doctor. (And as we know from modern times, individual doctors never endorse alternative medicine or kooky beliefs or become convinced of peculiar things, right?) More troublingly, this description - "Concerns about bicycle face with regard to female cyclists" - does not match what Shadwell wrote. Clicking down to the full-text and searching for bicycle face, this is what Shadwell wrote; I will quote almost the full block oe we can see the context:

The strain of attending to it may not be very great in itself—sometimes it is and sometimes it is not—but it never ceases, and this incessant tension is the thing which tells upon the nerves. How incessant it is, the demeanor of most riders declares with an emphasis which still excites ridicule, familiar as the sight has become. Some time ago I drew attention to the peculiar strained, set look so often associated with this pastime and called it the ‘bicycle face’; the general adoption of the phrase since then indicates a general recognition of its justice. Some wear the “face” more and some less marked, but nearly all have it, except the small boys who care little for croppers. Has anybody ever seen persons on bicycles talking and laughing and looking jolly, like persons engaged in any other amusement? Never, I swear. Doubtless they can at a pinch, but in practice they don’t. All their attention is given up to the road and the machine. With set faces, eyes fixed before them, and an expression either anxious, irritable, or at best stony, they pedal away, looking neither to the right nor to the left, save for an instantaneous flash, and speaking not at all, except a word flung gasping over the shoulder at most. It is this strange and unhuman gravity which excites the ridicule and hostility of the street cad and of the dull-witted rustic alike. The enthusiast will indignantly deny the description, but I ask him to look at his fellow. Did ever pastime wear a mien so sombre? The bicyclist has reason, for let the attention wander for more than an instant, an the odds are heavy on a spill. The machine is so excessively crank;11 it cannot stand the slightest shock. To ride it safely entails a double strain—a general one on the nerves and a particular one on the balancing centre. The latter does not affect everybody, but I am certain that it affects some very seriously. People differ in balancing capacity as much as in an ear for music or a gift for speech; and it costs some riders real and constant effort to keep their equilibrium. They show it by suffering from headache at the back of the head, where the balancing centre is situated. The general strain on the nerves affects everybody, but some people “have no nerves,” and therefore do not suffer. The naturally timid and anxious feel it very acutely. Apprehension works their senses up to a high pitch of tension, and puts a severe nervous strain upon them. Then certain persons are specially susceptible to the work thrown upon the optic nerve by the rapid succession of impressions received when moving quickly. Hence the headache commonly caused by looking out of the window on a long journey—“sick headache” or migraine. That is exactly the sort of headache many bicyclists complain of.
I do not want to labour the point too much. Surely the foregoing considerations are enough to explain the nervous exhaustion caused by bicycling, wholly apart from over-exertion. The close and incessant application of mind and brain and senses is the root of it. Riding this fascinating contrivance demands much the same sort of attention as crossing a crowded thoroughfare; and if any one will spend an hour or so straight on end12 in that amusement, say at Blackfriars or Charing Cross or Piccadilly Circus. I will wager that he will experience something of the symptoms we have been discussing, although his physical exertions have been inconsiderable.

Now, does Shadwell discuss women? Does he say that bicycle face afflicts any women so uppity as to dare to ride a bike? No, his language throughout this is completely masculine: "except the small boys who care little for croppers"; "excites the ridicule and hostility of the street cad"; "enthusiast indignantly deny the description, but I ask him to look at his fellow"; "I will wager that he will experience something". He never mentions women. To go by Shadwell's words, we would have to conclude that bicycle face was invented by the establishment to stop men from biking! Despite the folly of his article, I'm afraid we can't indict Shadwell as inventing bicycle-face to oppress women. He doesn't even discuss it that much, mot of what I quoted is about the optic nerves, headaches, being thrown from bikes, etc. The strained expression on hi face is not even part of it. Interestingly, reading this passage, it looks like Shadwell didn't even think that bicycle face wa a permanent thing - he only speaks of conditions during biking, he doesn't say that the bicycle face would persist past biking. (And if bicycle face doesn't persist after biking, how could it be any threat to a woman concerned about her appearance?)

But does Shadwell at least establish bicycle face was invented by the "medical establishment" as the intro claimed? No. Shadwell himself specifically warns us, early in his article, that "The medical profession generally has thus, I believe, been misled into an overfavourable or overconfident view of cycling, and has a medical man I know their attitude pretty well." If bicycle face or any of the other chimeras in his article had really been supported by the "medical establishment", Shadwell surely would have cloaked himself in the prestige of his "medical profession" and claimed their authority.

So, the Shadwell reference does not establish what the article claims it does. In fact, it establishes the opposite: bicycle face was not a gendered phenomenon applying only to women, it was not a disease, nor was it supported by the medical establishment.

His article was subsequently discussed and analyzed in The Advertiser.

Here too the primary source text is useful to look at: The Advertiser is a random lowbrow Australian newspaper full of all sorts of random things, to the point where it's hard to find the relevant article on pg6! (It's in the lower right hand corner, second column in, touching the bottom of the page, titled "The Intoxicating Bicycle".) It somewhat mockingly mentions Shadwell's article. It does mention his concern with women and girls, but specifically, 'overtaxing their strength' and developing a 'goitre', although other concerns are dismissed as 'perplexingly vague', and notes his claim bicycling is an addiction like alcohol. And that's it. The anonymous writer never once mentions bicycle face. Nothing about women or the medical establishment or anyone believing Shadwell.

An 1895 article in The Literary Digest reviewed literature from the time period which discussed the bicycle face, and noted that The Springfield Republican warned against excessive cycling by "women, girls, and middle-aged men".

This is much meatier, as the article is even titled "The 'Bicycle Face'". The intro mentions 'English medical papers', but as I've started to expect, no names or specific journals are ever mentioned. This at least testifies that the meme briefly gained popularity - "talk about the 'bicycle face' has gained considerable currency" - but launches into a description of how biking can tempt people into overexertion and exhaustion if they don't know their limits. (All of a sudden I am reminded of a Boy Scouts trip where I had to bike 25+ miles despite not being a biker at all and at the end of the day lay flushed and groaning from my aching legs... I certainly was not "in condition for hard riding".) TLD's article also continues the theme of only mentioning bicycle face as occurring during biking, and also not laying any gender stress, pointing out both that male and females could endanger themselves by biking, which is absolutely true given that young women were not encouraged to exercise AFAIK. TLD quotes a writer in The Christian Intelligencer (not a newspaper I've ever heard of) as considering it plausible, but then clips a passage The Boston Advertiser (likewise; also, it seems like half these newspapers were copying articles almost wholesale from each other - I guess copyright meant as little back then as it does now online...) rubbishing the idea as silly puritanism and finally The Providence Journal as contrarianly praising bicycle face. Again, no gendering, no real evidence of it being a disease, no evidence it stopped anyone from biking, and no evidence of the medical establishment aside from the dubious intro.

Opposition to cycling on this basis dissipated midway through the 1890s as the activity was embraced by the upper-class.

How can opposition dissipate when the opposition was never a real thing? Like, where does this claim even come from? Where does this precise time-table and explanation and social class come from? Anyway, this doesn't even make sense - Shadwell published his article in 1897. Some dissipation!

This pseudoscience has been cited by historians as an example of failures by medical doctors to understand and treat women appropriately and responsibly, including in the book Women's Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.[1]

By this point, I was very interested in what this encyclopedia had to say, so I looked it up on Google Books. If you click through to the book, you'll find there is only one hit in it for 'bicycle face', and the relevant part's a paragraph long while containing zero citations or sources:

In the late 1800s, when women were emancipated from the home by the bicycle, doctors wrote in respected medical journals of the dreaded disease "bicycle face". Imagining the pain of a female sitting astride a bicycle, they warned of a wrinkled face response and the permanence of such disfigurement. The effect of such warnings was to keep women away from this recreational sport.

Where to start... Which doctors? Which 'respected medical journals'? What says it was aimed at women in particular? Why does Lopiano (author of the Foreword) say it was 'sitting astride a bicycle' when all the primary sources speak of the strain and tension of riding a bicycle, not of sitting on it? And why is it a 'wrinkled face' when they speak of it being tense and ugly? Where does anyone speak of the 'permanence' of bicycle face? Is there any evidence it did in fact keep women away?

Lopiano's Foreword, or possibly her 2000 article "Modern history of women in sports: Twenty-five years of Title IX" which has the same paragraph almost word for word, seems to be the root citation for all the other books which mention bicycle face: it was published in 2001 while all the others were published later (Herlihy in 2006; Davis in 2002). It's also the root citation for the article (look at the first version in the article history), with everything else added later. This is weird, because such a fascinating topic as bicycle face should have been red meat for any feminist historians, or heck, any historians at all. How could bicycle face have gone unnoticed for ~104 years, from Shadwell to Davis?

But let's go through those as well to see what they say:

  1. Davis: "Still others charged that repeated cycling could create an ugly 'bicycle face', characterized by a hard, clenched jaw and bulging eyes." One line, no citations, vague wording attributing it to 'others'.
  2. Herlihy: "Riders were also said to acquire the "bicycle face", a contorted appearance supposedly brought on by their incessant struggle to keep their vehicle in balance." One line, no citations, vague passive voice wording 'were also said'; interestingly, Herlihy doesn't bring gender up like Davis, but he messes up in listing only one cause (balance).
  3. Vivanco 2013: "While some doctors declared bicycling to be almost miraculous in its health-giving properties, others warned darkly of bicycle-related maladies like tuberculosis, uncontrollable desires to have sex, and "bicycle face", a contortion of the face born of the struggle to balance a bicycle (Pridmore and Hurd 1995; Herlihy 2004)."This is a little confusing because Vivanco lumps in a whole list of things which are attributed to the two citations. The Herlihy cite is to above and we've already seen how empty that is; Pridmore and Hurd 1995 seems to be The American Bicycle, described in Google books as a 192pg book which is the "first ever color history of the American bicycle industry" with "250 illustrations". Unfortunately, the latter is not available for search on Google Books or Amazon, nor available for download from Libgen, so I can't verify it says nothing important about bicycle face, but it certainly doesn't sound like a hard-hitting analysis of Victorian England newspapers & medical journals, to say the least. But in any case, this doesn't seem to support the gendering or medical establishment or discouragement claims.

For kicks, I looked at the two external links:

You see, bicycle face, according to the display, was one of the "allegedly possible ailments" of riding a bike. Anti-bicyclists of the time claimed it was "the product of excessive worry over maintaining balance while riding."

Sounds like it's based on Shadwell, and so of no interested. The second link is also based on Shadwell, and puts the same gender spin on it.

So, that's all the relevant citations in the current WP article. Because I am a glutton for punishment, I'm going to extend this too-long comment even further and take a look at some of the hits in the first page of Google Books & Scholar which were not included in the current WP article. OK, starting with Books:

  1. phrenology journal, 1897: "Have you ever watched anyone learning to swim'? You will see the exaggeration of the so-called 'bicycle face.' "But the physical improvement of a. rider depends considerably on the position used. Unless the position is correct, the effect of the ..." Only hit in the journal for the phrase, skeptically invoked ("so-called"), does not support the 3 core claims
  2. American Medico-surgical Bulletin, 1895: a clever piece mocking the idea: "Bicyclists, journalists, neurologists, and the small fry had almost begun to believe that the bicycle-face was a real entity, a brand-new product of evolution, and it was only deemed necessary to settle on the forces which produced this new and interesting condition. We quote from an alleged interview in the New York Tribune...Thus they seek to convince us that the bicycle face is not a 'face' sui generis' but only a variety of horse-face or locomotive-face." Well played, New York Tribune.
  3. The Type-Writer Girl, 2003 novel: footnote: "'Bicycle face' was a well-known phenomenon by the end of the nineteenth century, and women especially were warned about its dangers to their physical appearance. The February 21, 1902 issue of the Ottawa Daily Republic included an article that explained the symptoms of 'bicycle face': 'Another facial contortion has been added to the list that has been growing ever since the bicycle face appeared a few years ago when the craze for the wheel became general. The wheeling face was easily recognized. The set expression, the strained eye, and often the sadly drawn-up mouth became distinguishing characters of the faces of bicyclists, both men and women" ("Automobile Face", pg3). This is an interesting quote for several reasons: first, apparently bicycle face was merely one of a whole menagerie of imagined faces; if Wikipedia has an article on bicycle face, perhaps it should have articles on all those other; second, despite the novel's description of it applying to women especially, their chosen quote specifically says that it applies to "both men and women" without any emphasis; third, the meme apparently now is a very long way from its home in London, being discussed in a Canadian paper. Unfortunately, that newspaper does not seem to have been conveniently digitized and I don't want to track down a microfiche archive of it. (Canada is a long way from home.)
  4. Medical Sentinel, 1895: more mockery from the medical establishment, interestingly, laying the blame solely on the "lay press": "The subject of the latest fad-discussion in the lay press is the 'Bicycle Face'. This question naturally and profoundly divides itself into (1) Is there a 'bicycle face'? and (2) What is the cause of the 'bicycle face'?...Among the many devotees of the wheel there should be such a wide range of talent, taste, and ingenuity, that interest in the discussion should not wane on account of the lack of alleged possible causes. The medical man will soon have to worry about this question; hence he may deem it wise to read up on the subject. Then we may hear of the 'bicycle-face face' --Editorial, American Medico-Surgical Bulletin, Aug.1, 1895." Droll, very droll.
  5. Medical Record, 1897: this is actually a sort of reply to Shadwell, an article titled "Cycling from the standpoint of health": "an alarmist article recently appeared in the National Review, pointing out some of the risks of injury to health to which bicyclists are liable...The author, Dr. Shadwell, has written on the subject at various times, so that his views carry a certain amount of weight. To him also belongs the distinction of originating the term 'bicycle face'", and summarizes the article, before beginning evaluation: "The argument introduced in this article are not sufficiently definite, however, to be of use in drawing any conclusions. Taking into consideration the immense number of persons who nowadays ride a wheel, it would be remarkable if among the number there were some whom cycling did not suit and some to whom it was decidedly harmful. Unless statistics can be given clearly showing that to a fair proportion of riders the exercise is pernicious, a vague statement of hidden dangers will deter but few." and then a lengthy defense of biking. Unfortunately, that's the only mention of 'bicycle face' in the article. But overall, this medical journal does not seem to put any credence in bicycle face, for women or men, or in Shadwell's general assortment of anti-bicycling arguments.

That's Google Books. Next is Scholar.

  1. "The sociology of the bicycle", Aronson 1952: apparently this cite did deal with bicycle face after all; but it doesn't mention gender at all, and adds nothing we hadn't already seen:
The bicycle was the subject not only of religious but also of medical dispute. In this debate both sides made extravagant claims. The antibicyclists said that the cycle path led straight to the hospital or the grave. They discovered all sorts of new ailments which the cyclist was heir to, including kyphosis bicyclistarum, or bicycle stoop, which was acquired by pedalling in a bent-over position.27 Cyclist's sore throat was found to occur after a long ride on a dusty road.28 Perhaps worst of all was bicycle face, a result of the wheelmen's continuous worrying about keeping his equilibrium while he rode.29 [Literary Digest again]
The Christian Intelligence [sic] added that another cause of bicycle face was the habitual violation of the law of the Sabbath by cyclists. [ibid] Many more "normal" diseases were also laid to the exercise.3
The proponents of the bicycle, on the other hand, likened its effects to that of a wonder drug. Among the more important illnesses that it could cure were rheumatism, indigestion, alcoholism, anaemia, gout, liver trouble, and "nerves."32 At the same time, though not altogether denying the existence of such ills as bicycle face or bicycle stoop, the advocates of the wheel minimized their danger or told how to avoid them. At a meeting of the Academy of Medicine in 1895, doctors advised the average American cyclist that he would not be troubled by bicyclist's stoop if he sat erect.33 Indeed, Dr. Graeme M. Hammond, in a paper before the same academy, reported that detailed physical examinations of cyclists revealed them to be unusually healthy.34 An article in the New York Daily Tribune maintained that bicycle face was not an illness to be avoided but to be sought after and that
. . . anybody who rides every day on a wheel and does not acquire the bicycle face lacks character, and is a menace to himself and everybody else when on the road or on the track. The bicycle face denotes strength of mind in the persons who possess it. It means alertness, quick perception and prompt action in emergencies. The idiotic grin of some of the cigarette smoking fellows who make fun of bicycling can never be mistaken for the bicycle face. [same Tribune as before, apparently]
  1. Lopiano 2000, "Modern history of women in sports: Twenty-five years of Title IX": "In the late 1800s, when women were emancipated from the home by the bicycle, there were physicians who wrote in respected medical journals of the dreaded disease ”bicycle face.” Imagining the pain of a female sitting astride a bicycle, they warned of a wrinkled-face response and the permanence of such disfigurement." As expected, identical to the book.
  2. Bishop 2000, "Good afternoon, good evening, and good night: The Truman Show as media criticism": I don't know why this turned up in the search results. It does not mention 'bicycle face', or 'bicycle', or 'face', as far as I can tell.
  3. Lopiano 2001, "Gender equity in sports: whose responsibility is it": "In the 1880's, male doctors even predicted that women who rode bicycles, then symbolic of the independent female, would suffer the dreaded disease of "bicycle face", the distortion of facial muscles from the pain and suffering derived from contact of the female anatomy with a bicycle seat. Spare us! " Goodness, that sounds familiar.
  4. Costa 2003, "10 Social issues in American women's sports": "Nineteenth-century social engineering, aimed at the middle class, led strict unhealthy dress codes that further restricted women’s physical activity. It was generally believed that women would suffer from ‘brain exhaustion’ they studied, and ‘bicycle face’ if they enjoyed recreational (Vertinsky 1994). It was the bicycle that liberated middle-class women their corsets and gave them the freedom to make choices about their social activities. They could ride to the beach, the store, the theatre, or more importantly to a field hockey game or learn to play basketball at the YWCA." The citation is to "Vertinsky, P. (1994) ‘Women, sport and exercise in the 19th century’, in M. Costa and S. Guthrie (eds), 'Women and sport: Interdisciplinary perspectives, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics." to my intense disappointment, I am unable to find a copy of the book or chapter; the closest I've come is a PowerPoint summary of the chapter. But based on the citations, it seems to cover a very wide range of topics, and the PowerPoint does not mention bicycle face, so it's possible the Vertinsky cite was not for bicycle face at all - since Costa 2003 is well after Lopiano began writing about it, they could have known about it that way but not cited Lopiano.
  5. a Lopiano paper, 2004, "Gender equity in sports"; this was a bit tricky to find but I managed it, and the relevant passage is "In the 1880s, male doctors even predicted that women who rode bicycles, then symbolic of independent woman, would suffer the dreaded disease of "bicycle face," the distortion of facial muscles from the pain and suffering derived from contact of the female anatomy with a bicycle seat. These myths and stereotypes have arisen from lack of knowledge, fear of the unknown and the desire of many men to keep the "heady" and powerful cultural institution of sports for themselves." No citations, nothing new here. Just a repetition of the book, with all the mistakes repeated, such as the seat error.
  6. "Negotiating with gender stereotypes on social networking sites: From “bicycle face” to Facebook", Bailey et al 2013; quotes a line mentioning bicycle face from "A List of Don'ts for Women on Bicycles Circa 1895, cited in Popova, 2012", which is "Popova, M. (n.d.). A list of don'ts for women on bicycles circa 1895. Brainpickings. Retrieved from" which is indeed just a list and adds nothing ( also probably ripped it off completely from ).

And that's Scholar done.

So where do we stand? After reviewing all that material, here's what it looks like to me:

  1. there was a minor meme started in 1895 or so by some anonymous citizen that bicyclists - of all genders - had a unique 'bicycle face' while they were riding due to the complexity & danger of the task. It was the topic of a little gossip in a few places in the Anglophone world, but was mocked by the few medical writers who took any notice at all of the topic. It was not about women, it was not a permanent disease, it was not supported by the medical establishment, and it did not influence anyone.
  2. Shadwell, as part of an anti-bicycle screed, 2 years later revived it in a non-medical-journal; it was not a major piece of his argument and overall his anti-bicycle screed drew little more reaction than some mention in some random magazines or newspapers
  3. the bicycle face meme largely died out after that, only to be briefly mentioned in 1952 as an amusing part of a survey of early attitudes to bicycle; still not gendered, still not part of the medical establishment, still not a disease
  4. in 2000 or so, Dr. Lopiano, who specializes in women's sports and particularly in advocating government funding, starts talking in her writings at ever opportunity about a form of bicycle face which bears no resemblance to any of the primary sources: in her narrative, it was a fake permanent disease pushed by doctors to scare women out of being injured by sitting on bicycle seats. I have no idea where Lopiano got this or how she could have extracted this version from the primary sources discussed above.
  5. But in any event, her narrative is so delicious it starts being paraphrased and copied, not always with appropriate citation, by other authors, from 2000 to 2014. Which brings us to here, the latter day, where bicycle face now has a long detailed Wikipedia article, a clone article on, and seems to be going viral.

What is to be done with this article?

If you delete the part about it being a madeup disease to scare women which seems to itself have been madeup, in what way is 'bicycle face' actually noteworthy? Is it Notable because Aronson quotes a bit of material and because Shadwell wrote an article which mentions it a bit? I'm a bit skeptical, because in looking through these hits, I've seen a lot of other disorders mentioned which I don't expect to ever have a WP article, like "wheelman's hump" or "automobile face". I'm just not seeing it. WP isn't for every idiotic idea espoused by a quack doc at some point throughout history (unless the quack happens to attract a lot of followers, anyway).

Which leaves the general background material about feminism & bicycling, which I think could be profitably split out to a new article like Bicycling and feminism. We could then redirect bicycle face to a general history of bicycling like History of the bicycle. This way, we save what is good in this article, avoid peddling what looks like motivated bunk without leaving a misleading redirect in place, and don't have to cover a topic which is inherently not important.

Phew! I can't believe I read through and wrote all that. I fear I may have bicycle-face face now, just as that doctor warned! --Gwern (contribs) 04:12 12 July 2014 (GMT)

Deletion proposal[edit]

Thanks for your detailed analysis, Gwern, I am quite amazed! I see very little which could be salvaged form this article (it being a non-happened-thing), so I am marking it for deletion. If someone disagrees, please remove the tag, read Gwern's section and voice your concerns here, thanks. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:57, 4 August 2014 (UTC)

As I said, I think deletion is maybe a bit excessive, and also makes it harder for anyone interested in bicycle face to find my analysis. If no one objects, perhaps I should just do my suggested redirect/partial-deletion? --Gwern (contribs) 23:22 9 September 2014 (GMT)
@Gwern: Thank you for such an exhaustive analysis. While bicycle face was perhaps a minor phenomenon at the time, it has since received significant coverage in reliable sources, so I'd be opposed to outright deletion of this article for now. Would you be opposed improving the article by including opposing viewpoints and more critical analysis? Your evidence notwithstanding, many of the news sources that picked up on bicycle face this year repeat the assertion that it was indeed directed towards women:
Now I suppose that all of these sources could be wrong as per your reasoning, but what we really need is sources that concur with your analysis (otherwise I think it would be considered original research). If you still think this should be a redirect, I think we should bring it to AfD. I'd also strongly support the creation of a Bicycling and feminism article though and I think a short mention of the phenomenon at History of the bicycle would be warranted. gobonobo + c 04:33, 11 September 2014 (UTC)
I don't think such sources could be provided for the simple reason that bicycle face has never been the topic of a full-length article or thesis or book defending the hyperbolic claims which are made briefly, in passing, without sources, by so-called Reliable Sources (most of the discussions I found run a few sentences, if that); and has primarily been promulgated in third-rate publications (blogs, opinion pieces, Vox, Maine Today - not really the best sources). Where could I publish my analysis that would itself count as a RS, what journal would bother with publishing a debunking of such a minor and obscure myth which has never really been published? (How many Snopes pages ever get published?) Keeping in mind that academic journals are notorious for not publishing corrections or criticisms of actual research that those journals published?
Since the topic has no merit, and it's deeply unfeasible to get a debunking published, the best thing is to just exercise our editorial discretion and remove the incorrect material. --Gwern (contribs) 18:05 20 October 2014 (GMT)
Alright, since this has drawn minimal interest (Cirt hasn't left any comments) over the past few months and doesn't seem appropriate for AfD, I'm just going to implement my suggestion & close the books on this one: move Bicycle Face to Bicycling and Feminism, and leave a note on the talk page to not include Bicycle Face since it's bogus. --Gwern (contribs) 23:10 10 November 2014 (GMT)