Road Cycling

This 100-year-old Guide To ‘Self-Protection on a Cycle’ Is Hilarious

Some awesome practical tips for fending off bike thieves

Recently we posted a collection of scary videos showing road rage against cyclists. This sparked a bit of a debate on Facebook about whether drivers ever use their cars as weapons against cyclists.

What we hadn’t realised is that bikes can also be used as weapons and in fact people were doing it back in Victorian times! Check out these awesome diagrams from Pearson Magazine in April 1901.

Here’s another excellent example. Apparently cycling was popular with women at the start of the 20th century. Despite not having the right to vote (or many rights at all) riding a bike was seen as acceptable, in spite of the dangers. I’d love to see a lycra-clad lady try this on a 21st century hoodie.

Tindal goes on to explain the disadvantages of riding a bike: “The cyclist sits astride a steed, moreover, from which he may be upset far more easily than if he were astride good, solid horseflesh” before talking about how it can be helpful when confronted by “footpads, tramps, or objectionable small boys.”

“The cyclist has a weapon in his cycle with which he may baffle attack in more ways than are at first apparent,” the article tells us. For example:

And according to Tindal: “The cyclist who is a skilful rider, who possesses pluck and
dash, who has mastered the elementary rules of defence on a bicycle, may rest content that he is able to defend himself perfectly when attacked under the majority of likely conditions.”

“The cyclist who possesses pluck and dash … may rest content that he is able to defend himself.”

For example if you are confronted (as I’m sure many of us often are) by “a tramp who suddenly assumes a hostile attitude, standing before you with legs apart and arms out-stretched” Tindal suggests that you “spring backwards off your machine, and by pulling at the handle-bars, cause it to rear up on its back wheel.”

“That your antagonist will jump back from sheer surprise at the moment when you make your machine rear up, goes without saying,” he adds.

Can’t help thinking it might be slightly optimistic to expect modern day muggers to be as surprised by the site of a bike doing a wheelie, but hey why not give it a go?

Tindal’s practical advice doesn’t stop there. “Another case: suppose you are standing face to face with an assailant who has approached close to you, and is threatening you with his fists.”

“All that you have to do is to give your bicycle a slight push, so that it falls over on to your opponent; then, without a pause, aim as heavy a blow as may be at his chest or chin.” Easy eh?

“Without a pause, aim as heavy a blow as may be at his chest or chin.”

However, he warns: “In desperate emergencies it is sometimes necessary to act desperately, to take desperate risks.”

“Suppose, for example, that you are riding along a narrow track, or path, when suddenly a man bars your way. To turn and flee is impossible.” So he recommends errr…. this:

Tindal confidently predicts that “You will come upon him with an irresistible momentum, as though you had dropped from the sky!” I can’t help thinking you’re more likely to end up sprawled in a heap with your head being kicked in, but maybe I just haven’t practised enough.

Of course, Tindal adds, it goes without saying that: “The last three or four methods of defence that I have described are hardly suitable for use by lady cyclists.”

Women may have been allowed to ride bikes, but getting involved in rough and tumble antics would have been a step too far. Wonder what the likes of Rachel Atherton or Shanaze Reade would make of that?

You may also like:

11 Scary Road Rage Incidents Involving Cyclists

11 Wacky Bike Accessories That Will Make You Laugh

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