Seaside History

Life in the Fast Lane

March 6, 2013 | by Nate Burke

Riding attire was a bit different in 1897. This picture of an adventurous group out for a ride on Seaside’s beach was way before helmets, elbow pads, and spandex. Recreational bicyclers in the 1890s pretty much donned clothing that was more suited for the destination rather than the journey itself.  Bicycles in America began to be widely utilized for recreation and practical transportation around the year 1878.  During the early 1890s, ankle length dresses were still the norm for women, and clothes tailored for recreation and sport were nearly nonexistent (and often publicly unacceptable). The dangers for women riding bicycles, due to the rigid cultural restrictions on attire, were manifold. Skirts were often tangled up in bike chains, which could easily cause serious injury. To avoid this, special buckles were invented to fasten the skirt around the ankles – with dubious results. But as you can see in the picture, the risks for these heavily clothed, helmet-less riders were an acceptable gamble. The world was used to a slower pace back in 1897. Most people’s experience with the pleasures of speed came from an occasional train ride. The speed and personal freedom of a bicycle was an exhilarating experience for many.

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