Cycling UK has launched its annual Women's Festival of Cycling with a call for women to share their "bicycle face" on social media.

The campaign is a reference to the early days of cycling, when Victorian doctors warned women off the new pursuit of cycling by claiming it would cause a disfigurement known as "bicycle face".

Laughable as it sounds today, "bicycle face" was just one of the scare tactics deployed to prevent women from cycling in the 19th century.

At the time women were viewed as weak and fragile but the bicycle craze sweeping the nation was challenging this notion. Women were suddenly able to travel independently, more practical fashions were evolving, and women were campaigning for the right to vote.

In response, some doctors warned women that cycling was dangerous for women's health. Cycling, they said, would give women a hunched back, wearied face and masculine features, ruining their chances of finding a husband.

Share your bicycle face and help promote the Women's Festival of Cycling.
Share your bicycle face and help promote the Women's Festival of Cycling.

Luckily, the benefits of fresh air and exercise that the bicycle brought were soon recognised, and the myth of bicycle face and other health scares were exposed.

The struggle for equality has continued into the 21st century, with men still accounting for the majority of miles cycled in the UK.

Cycling UK's annual Women's Festival of cycling is taking place between 17 July and 1 August and is sponsored by British cycle manufacturer Raleigh. During the festival the charity is asking women to share photographs of their 'real' bicycle face on social media, and tag their friends, to demonstrate the fun and freedom cycling really brings.

Sarah Mitchell, Cycling UK chief executive, said: "We want to celebrate the diversity of women who cycle and the broad range of cycling they do. Whether you're a commuter, mountain biker, leisure cyclist or road cyclist, share a picture of yourself. If we're ever to see gender parity in cycling, women need to see more women like them cycling."

To get involved, share your bicycle face photos and videos and celebrate the Women's Festival of Cycling using the hashtags #BeYouByBike and #WFOC2021.

For information on the Women's Festival of Cycling see