…So few ladies appear to trouble about a special cycling costume. They are apparently content to wear their ordinary outdoor clothing, and in many cases are clad in quite unsuitable attire – unsuitable because it is much too showy and elaborate for such a purpose as riding a bicycle.
…It is an extravagance, if nothing more,, to wear dark-coloured walking skirts for cycling, for they rapidly deteriorate through the dust, mud and saddle friction to which they are exposed, and cannot be brushed into a state of cleanliness and smartness again like our rough tweeds. All lady cyclists who ride seriously should have a costume solely intended for use when on the bicycle.
– Atalanta, The Ladies Page, Cycling Magazine, 1912
One hundred years ago, when this Raleigh bicycle was new, cycling for ladies was a matter of great topicality, with their costumes exciting more column inches in newspapers and magazines than any other aspect.
‘When women first began to ride the bicycle many (old fogey) physicians said it would be very injurious,’ explained Ida Trafford Bell in July 1894. ‘The undue exercise was dilated upon and the peculiar liability to straining or to getting falls or bruises, and, in fact, every possible objection which old-fashioned ideas and obsolete theories could suggest was brought up. Probably not one of the objectors could ride a bicycle to save his life or had ever felt the exhilarating joy of a truly fresh breath of air taken into the lungs like a stream of electrical vitality.
…But the day of old fogies is happily passed. Women defied the dear old fellows with their last century notions, and with commendable pluck learned to ride, and ride well, swiftly, gracefully, athletically. The women of today now mount their wheels and go forth for a rapid spin in the open air, knowing that in this way they can best win strength and courage to meet their many household worries. Dame Fashion also has smiled approval, and has decreed that women of the highest standing in the world of society may go forth mistresses of the art of bicycling, free and untrammeled by conventional dress and musty tradition.’
Today we take the bicycle for granted. It’s seldom seen as a tool of liberation. Yet the humble bicycle was the first machine to enable independent travel. With mass production, it went on to empower both women and the working classes.
1912 Popular Raleigh All Steel Lady’s
Model No 27
This rare hundred-year-old Popular Raleigh All Steel Lady’s bicycle is very well-preserved. It’s a testament to the high standard of Raleigh’s bicycles that this example has not only survived but can still be used for daily commuting. It was recently serviced, and fitted with new cream Schwalbe tyres and tubes. This is an excellent mount for any 21st century lady-about-town who enjoys the era of Downton Abbey or the time of flappers in the twenties.
The paintwork is original and unrestored, with the Raleigh transfers just about visible. It would have been originally fitted with a celluloid or leather chaincase, which has been removed at some time over the years; as you can see, its framework remains. (These chaincases were very delicate, and required unstitching to adjust or replace the chain). The saddle is a little tatty, but usable, and there’s a period wicker basket with leather straps for carrying your shopping. This bicycle is now ready to provide faithful service for the next hundred years.
29th FEBRUARY 1912
1911 RALEIGH CATALOGUE