Self-defence techniques for cyclists

November 11, 2011 at 8:42 am | Posted in Anne, Cycling | 2 Comments
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I’ve been turning my attention to John Buchan (the Richard Hannay stories) and George Macdonald Fraser (the Flashman Papers) of late so things have been a bit quiet in the world of Famous Five Style. However, this article sent to me via my bicycle insurance provider made me chuckle and I think has relevance for the Five who often run into scrapes on their bikes. It’s all about self-defence techniques for cyclists  and is taken from Pearson’s Magazine from 1901. It’s actually a little bit terrifying. Take this, for instance:

Nearly every cyclist carries a weapon on his machine which, under many circumstances, he may use with great effect: a strong, long, heavy metal pump offers as convenient a weapon as one could desire. Let the rider who is threatened by a foot-pad flourish his pump in his assailant’s face, and he will be surprised how quickly and precipitously the assailant jumps back. A formidable blow could be delivered in a man’s face with a heavy pump, especially when riding at speed.

There is some advice that may have been useful for Violet Hunter, the heroine of the Sherlock Holmes ‘Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist’:

A lady, say, is riding alone on a country road, when an approaching tramp suddenly assumes a hostile attitude, standing before her with legs apart and arms out-stretched, effectively barring the way. Let the lady put on a spurt, and ride, point blank, at her assailant, then swerve at the last moment. Certainly this requires nerve, but it is really simple, and marvellously effective. The tramp cannot overcome the instinct of self-protection which makes him jump to one side, when the cyclist, of course, at once swerves in the other direction

The author overlooks the possibility of the tramp and the daring lady cyclist both veering off in the same direction though, which could be quite nasty.

My favourite is the article’s final suggestion. Noting that ‘the last three or four methods of defence […] described are hardly suitable for use by lady cyclists, unless particularly strong-minded and strong-armed!’ the author recommends a water pistol for use by the fairer sex. This would no doubt appeal to young Anne Kirrin who, as readers may remember, uses a similar method to repel irritating Wilfred in Five Have a Mystery to Solve.

The water squirt is guaranteed to stop an attack from the most vicious dog or man — and certainly the foot-pad who attempted to approach a lady cyclist, and was met with a douche of cold water, would receive a severe shock that would probably cause him to stand back long enough to allow his prey to escape.

Here’s the link to the full article, complete with more natty Victorian illustrations.



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  1. Bravo! Top tips for us lady cyclists. I will certainly be adding a water pistol to my daily armour. Hawkins Bazaar will be my first port of call tomorrow.

  2. Jolly good! Those footpads and bounders better watch out! x

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