Cycling abuse

I stumbled upon an article in The Lancet, volume 138, issue 3554, of the 10th October 1891, which it seems has been overlooked by the internet so far. It celebrates the rise of the bicycle, but warns against its abuse — addiction, even. It has a message that James Cracknell might like to ponder before getting too carried away with the fabulous medicinal properties of bicycle helmets: cycling isn’t dangerous, it’s those sick addicts who like to race themselves to exhaustion who are dangerous.

Those who believe in the necessity of physical exercise, and we belong to their number, have need also to remember that even so good a thing as this is in excess an evil. The use of the cycle is a form of bodily recreation in itself doubtless wholesome; none the less is it open to the mischievous effects of undue indulgence. Tempted by the ease of movement, combined as a rule with attractive scenery, everyone tries it. Everyone too, finds he can do something with it, and considerations of weather, constitution, age, and health are apt to be dismissed with summary imprudence. One fruitful source of injury is competition. In this matter not even the strongest rider can afford to ignore his limit of endurance. The record-breaker, who sinks exhausted at his journey’s end, has gone a point beyond this. The septuagenarian who tries to rival his juniors by doing and repeating his twenty or thirty miles, perhaps against time, is even less wise. Lady cyclists, too, may bear in mind that their sex is somewhat the weaker. So likewise amongst men the power of endurance varies greatly, and is is better for some to admit this and be moderate than to labour after the achievements of far more muscular neighbours. In short, whenever prostration beyond mere transient fatigue follows the exercise, or when digestion suffers and weight is markedly lessened, and a pastime which ought to exhilarate becomes an anxious labour, we may be sure that it is being overdone. He that would reap its best results must content himself with much less that this; but unless he can observe such moderation, he had better abstain from it altogether.

From here, The Lancet moves on to a fascinating case series of three patients with gastric ulcers cured by a diet of ice cream. (Perhaps the placebo effect of ice cream will turn out to be more powerful than four sugar pills.)

2 thoughts on “Cycling abuse”

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