★ Isn’t this advert for Whitworth Cycles just great?! Dating from around 1890, it’s by the famous Romanian artist, Jean de Paleologu. With the six pretty girls gazing down admiringly at the dashing young cyclist, it reflects the now-often-forgotten fact that during cycling’s infancy in the 19th century, bicycles were largely seen as the preserve of somewhat daring young men. Penny-farthing bicycles (with a huge front wheel and very small rear wheel) were even used for racing, with their riders the equivalent of modern-day Formula 1 drivers!
With its two evenly-sized wheels, the example in the advert is what we commonly think of as a ‘normal’ bicycle, but was then known as a ‘safety bicycle’, having only been invented in the 1880s as a less dangerous alternative to the unstable penny-farthing. Although it was seen as more suitable for women to ride, those who did were still often met with criticism for their ‘un-ladylike’ behavior. Thank goodness times have changed!