Of all the physical woes attributed to the bicycle as it became popular in the 1890s, the one that most strained credulity was the “bicycle face.” Characterized by wide, wild eyes; a grim set to the mouth; and a migration of facial features toward the center, the disorder was said to result from the stress of incessant balancing. A German philosopher claimed that the condition drained “every vestige of intelligence” from the sufferer’s appearance and rendered children unrecognizable to their own mothers. The bicycle face hung on, too, warned a journalist: “Once fixed upon the countenance, it can never be removed.”
— Adapted from The Mechanical Horse: How the Bicycle Reshaped American Life, by Margaret Guroff, published by the University of Texas Press in April
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.