“Scorching” on the Beach: 1897

beach cycling

RIDE A WHEEL ON THE BEACH

Do This and You Are Up to Date According to Sea Shore Ethics

Sense of Propriety Given to the Fad When a Chaperon is Taken in Charge.

The Clean White Sand Closely Packed Down Forms a Splendid Bicycle Path

Wise Summer Girl’s Plan.

New York, June 12. To be thoroughly fashionable this year you should take a spin on the beach on your wheel. Of course you ride a wheel, because everyone does. If you cannot take a spin on the sea shore, take one along the shore of the lake and if that fails, think up a good substitute. In any event, if you are at the sea shore do not fail to take a breather just as near old ocean as circumstances will permit. Fashion has set the seal of approval on this fad and all her devotees, male and female, are scorching to obey her behests.

One of the most pleasant features of this new idea is that to be strictly en règle, one should ride in a bathing suit. The summer girl is not always at her best in a bathing suit, but if she is at her best then of course the idea suits her to a T. It also suits the summer young man and thus there is nothing left to be desired. To give the sanction of absolute propriety, it has been decreed that the way to take this spin along the sands is to do so in a party which is known as a bathing bicycle party. There must be a chaperon and the chances are that a chaperon who can ride a wheel is not oblivious to the fact that young people do not always dare to be conventional. So there is a delightful combination of a jolly chaperon, a bicycle and a bath.

It might not be thought that the beach would make the best of bicycle paths, but it does. In fact the firm, hard sand seems to have an elasticity that helps a rider to speed along at a great rate. It is very peasant also to go at a scorching pace with the ocean breeze blowing all about you and fanning away the perspiration. Those who have tried it say the exhilaration is simply unspeakable. Add to the joy the scorcher feels in the very movement of his wheel the invigorating effect of the salt air, and the result must be pleasant in the extreme.

Down at Coney Island, along that section of the beach that stretches away westward in horseshoe fashion toward Norton’s Point, lies the speedway of the bathing cyclist, par excellence. Go down there any day and you can see plenty of evidence of the popularity of the new fad. Maidens of from 16 to 40, young men, middle-aged men, and men who would like to be thought middle-aged, are all there. Therefore the fashionable summer girl and her best young man must join the B.B. club—that of the Bicycle and the Bath.

Omaha [NE] World-Herald 21 June 1897: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  “Scorching” was wheel-woman/man slang for speeding along at a blistering pace. It was no doubt capital exercise and, for the sea-side rider, it served a cosmetic purpose:

“Nearly all the bicycle girls at the sea shore—and all women who ride wheels are bicycle girls—go in the water without any head covering and take the surf as they find it, and dive and plunge just as if they were not the least afraid of wet hair. They come out of the water, don their bicycle costumes, and, bare-headed, ride up and down the roads, their hair streaming out in the breeze and being dried as fast as sun and wind can accomplish the desired result.” Evening Star [Washington DC] 15 August 1896: p. 10

Possibly the beaches of the States are more congenial to “scorching,” than Brighton’s stony sea-side.  From Mrs Daffodil’s experience with sand, a wheel is more likely to sink into it and hurl the wheel-woman over the handle-bars. Should that occur, jolly as is the notion of riding in one’s bathing-costume, the skin is apt to be “scorched” as well.

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