Pedaling alongside traffic on the bike trails in brightly colored, Spandex suits like superheroes sans the capes, cyclists can raise brows with their flashy, form-fitting fashions. But this Saturday, they'll attract attention to their stiff and itchy woolen ware during the 5th annual Indy Tweed Ride.
"It’s a fun, offbeat thing ... more of a vintage tweed clothing show than a bike ride," Matt McMichael explains with a laugh. He's coordinator of this year's Tweed Ride and an IndyCog volunteer. "We ride about six miles per hour.”
Bicycle events typically involve a competition of speed and distance from cyclists decked out in sleek neon cycling attire, while racing on high-speed, high-priced bikes. But this is no race. Consider it instead as a slow-moving bicycle parade of sorts. Some riders will pedal their way through on vintage bicycles, but all will wear tweed -- knickers with knee socks, vests and berets, and some of the men will sport epic beards and handlebar mustaches, grown specifically for the event.
Indy Tweed Ride is an offshoot of what's become an international event.
- Jeremy Albert
The Indy Tweed Ride has grown into an event that draws hundreds of dapper riders each year.
IndyCog Executive Director Kevin Whited says participants basically dress up all in woolen turn-of-the-century tweed garb.
“Participants usually wear knickers, [and you'll see] some with monocles ... Some people get really into it," he says. "Some people grow their beards out for the event.”
The ride entails a leisurely, low-key ride for all skill levels of cycling enthusiasts. Its course meanders through the neighborhoods of Talbott, Cottage Home and Lockerbie, as well as looping around Monument Circle.
- Jeremy Albert
The Tweed Ride's vintage fashions go beyond dapper knickers, jaunty hats and handlebar mustaches to include stylish bike accessories.
Old-timey bikes are encouraged, but McMichael says participants are allowed to ride whatever bike they wish. There is a contest for the best vintage bicycles.
Other competitions include Best Beard, “Chappiest Chap (best tweed-styled gentlemen),” “Lassiest Lass (best tweed-styled lady),” and a tea serving Sprint Cup.
The tea sprint is a race where one partner runs with a full cup of tea to the other, while racing alongside competitors. The goal is to avoid spilling the tea. Winners are those with the fullest cup of tea at the end of the sprint.
Before the ride begins at 1 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 25, many of the riders will take sustenance at the Shoefly Public House, congregating there at noon. Last year 120 riders participated, but IndyCog anticipates even more this weekend. To manage the group safely and most effectively, participation will be capped at 150 registrants.
McMichael says each year IndyCog tries to include a not-for-profit organization to highlight during the ride. This year, that will be Indy Reads on Meridian Street, where riders will stop for a spot of tea and some jolly good games.
As tradition has it, once the participants reach Monument Circle, they will all pose together for the annual group picture, showing off their tweed-afied attire. From there, the cyclists can lollygag on bike to Flat 12 Bierwerks, where the ride concludes around 4:30 p.m.
Indy Tweed Ride is also a fundraiser for IndyCog, supporting its mission “to promote bicycling as a safe and viable means of transportation and recreation in Indianapolis.” The cost to participate is $15 for IndyCog members and $20 for all other riders.
- Jeremy Albert
Riders Wendy Wahine Clay and Bob Cripe took part in last year's ride.
Whited recalls his first Tweed Ride in Indy. He bought some garb and rode to the event by himself. By the time he got there, there were eight or nine people riding along with him.
“I remember this feeling of camaraderie that I haven’t felt before,” Whited says. “It was a neat bonding experience ... no one gets mad when you ride through an intersection. It’s parade-like stuff.”