Speed Read: Tweed Ride

Twee Wheelin’: Old-timey bikes, prim British togs, and always, a stop for tea: The annual Tweed Ride rolls through town on October 27.
Bikers on old timey bikes at Tweed Ride
Old-timey bikes, prim British togs, and, always, a stop for tea.

Photo by Jeremy Albert

No, those aren’t hired actors. It may look like Downton Abbey on wheels, but this is for anyone who likes the idea of donning traditional English cycling garb, then cruising through downtown neighborhoods.

Even an old Schwinn is OK. But a Penny-farthing is preferred. Sure, you’ll see some antique bikes and re-creations—one regular brings a 1903 ride to every event. And you’ll probably encounter at least one Penny-farthing—one of those bicycles with a gigantic front wheel—trying to keep up. But most bikes don’t quite match the period costumes. All pedal-powered vehicles are welcome, and the pace for the 7-to-10-mile ride is leisurely.

It all started in London’s Savile Row. Yes, the one they sing about in Annie. In 2009, 300 cyclists launched the event. Since then, Tweed Rides have popped up from Chihuahua, Mexico, to Malmo, Sweden, and from San Francisco to Boston.

Now it’s a signature event of IndyCog. IndyCog began as a blog, but has since evolved into a nonprofit that advocates for cyclists. Its mission is to make bike-riding safe and fun for everyone, so it keeps Tweed Ride more about casual cruising than Breaking Away–level racing.

Take some life lessons from the organizers of the original Tweed Ride. In case of inclement weather, “a full-sized umbrella is difficult on a bicycle, but a sturdy macintosh or cape might not go amiss,” advise the British masterminds behind the first Tweed Ride. When stopping for tea, “pinky up or pinky down, with milk or with lemon, these are choices each one of us must make for themselves. But the main thing is to not rush one’s self. Afternoon tea is one of life’s great luxuries.”

And about the outfits … The D.C. social group Dandies and Quaintrelles, which hosts vintage-inspired events, suggests ladies wear “skirts, dresses, jackets, and vests in traditional fall fabrics like wool or tweed.” As for the guys, “Don’t be afraid to accessorize. Throw a scarf under your blazer, wear a walking cap or cabbie hat, put on some fun socks to flash while you pedal. The main point is to have fun with the old stuff.”

Check the forecast. A cool fall day can make for a lovely ride. But a late burst of heat doesn’t mix well with heavy costumes. For the 2017 ride, the day peaked at 40 degrees, while 2016 riders had to manage temperatures that climbed to 79 degrees.

Historical accuracy isn’t crucial. An IndyCog volunteer who later became a board member, Oran Sands has been sporting tweed since the first Indy ride. Sands, an application developer at the security company Defenders, dragged out an old jacket for that first jaunt, but has since tailored a pair of knickers and found an actual Harris tweed jacket at a vintage clothing store. “The most amazing thing about it,” he says, “is that the period costumes aren’t accurate. Even the London Tweed Ride will admit people in that period didn’t dress this way to cycle. It’s the way people want things to be, but not necessarily the way they were.”

Get tickets to this year’s Tweed Ride here.