Joy ride: Children’s book discusses biking while female

Bike curious: “Born to Ride: A Story About Bicycle Face,” illustrated by Bay Ridgite Kelsey Garrity-Riley, tells the tale of a 19th-century girl who learns to ride a bike, despite warnings that it will warp her face.
Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

She’s facing history.

A Bay Ridge artist will read from her picture book about a girl in the late 19th century who learns to ride a bicycle, at Stories Bookshop in Park Slope on March 24. “Born to Ride: A Story About Bicycle Face” highlights a pernicious rumor of the 1890s: that a woman’s delicate constitution could not handle the strain of cycling, and that any attempt to do so would lead to a permanent disfiguration dubbed “bicycle face” — an idea that shocked the book’s illustrator.

“I had never heard of ‘bicycle face’ — obviously it’s the most ridiculous thing imaginable,” said Kelsey Garrity-Riley. “It’s something we don’t think twice about — every little girl and boy learns to ride a bike, and it would never occur to me to not have that freedom and independen­ce.”

Author Larissa Theule wrote the story of youngster Louisa Belinda Bellflower, who feels frustrated by the limits she faces as a girl. After Louisa ditches her skirt for pants and demands that her brother teach her how to ride, he warns her of the bulging eyes and closed-up jaw that doctors claim will plague female cyclists. Louisa remains undaunted, and after falling off the two-wheeler again and again, she finds her balance and her own “bicycle face” — which is intentionally one of the few times the character smiles in the book, said Garrity-Riley.

“When she finally does ride, her ‘bicycle face’ is a gigantic, gorgeous smile,” the illustrator said. “Before that, there’s this intensity and determination. I appreciate girls being given the space not to have to constantly be smiling.”

The artist says that the book teaches a lesson of resistance that she hopes will prompt readers to consider the barriers they still face today.

“At the time it wasn’t an overt form of oppression, but there’s still all these small ways that women and minorities are held down in a way that may not seem obvious, and I would encourage people to look for those ways,” Garrity-Riley said.

“Born to Ride” story time with illustrator Kelsey Garrity-Riley at Stories Bookshop and Storytelling Lab (458 Bergen St. between Fifth and Flatbush avenues in Park Slope, March 24 at 10:30 am. Free.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Posted 12:00 am, March 21, 2019
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Wilbur D. Horse from Mockingbird Heights says:
You've GOT to be kidding me. This was 125 years ago, and this was not slavery or a similar daily, dire living condition. It is Not a "lesson of resistance,"or "oppression," as the female author jubilantly claims. It's getting to the point that, if a woman crosses Flatbush Ave without getting hit by a bus, she is "brave." Stop it already with the female self-congratulations.
March 21, 6:17 am
Sashimi Takeshimaya from Kyoto Prefecture says:
Women oughta boycott anything from the Middle East where females are truly oppressed, backwards and second class citizens, but that will never happen. These feminists secretly wish they were forced to conceal their hideous faces.
March 21, 10:21 am
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Deleting my comment pointing out that Wilbur & Sashimi are a bunch of misogynistic low lifes? Really? How sad. Wilbur D. Horse, Why do you feel so threatened by women? What are you so afraid of? Why do you hate women? Sashimi Takeshimaya, are you an incel?
March 21, 1:56 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
I'm proudly interested in men only, but thank you.
March 21, 4:42 pm
Don Lemon from The West Side Club says:
Jussie Smollett is everything Henry Ford is looking for in a man, honesty and brains!
March 21, 6:34 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
I'm Commenting!
March 21, 10:55 pm
Ms. Me. from Bay Ridge says:
It's a shame that children nowadays are not allowed to be carefree but are hit over the head with every SJW issue past and present. Also, you have no justification to remove this comment as you did the first time I posted it several hour ago.
March 22, 2:21 pm
Ms. Me from Bay Ridge says:
March 22, 2:26 pm
Ms. Me. from Bay Ridge says:
I was giving it out to all the boys for free when I was a child. I turned out fairly ok. I guess. I stayed away from rap music and always went to church.
March 22, 4:23 pm

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: