When one considers the classic dandyish modes of conveyance, the bicycle does not at first blush top the list. Rather, one first thinks of the horse (either actually ridden or merely wagered upon), followed down through history by the yacht and the doomed first-class ocean-liner, then perhaps in the air by the Graf Zeppelin, the private plane, the China Clipper and, finally, the Concord. On the ground, the classic roadster springs to mind (as does the racing car (à la Porfirio Rubirosa), followed by the chauffer-driven Rolls and the Town Car.
But the bicycle? Not so much.
There is, however, a growing movement afoot that may change this common conception. They’re called “tweed rides” or “tweed runs” and they’re happening periodically in cities across the Occident. At these events, participants get decked out in their tweedy Sunday best and take their classic (or neo-classic) bicycles for a leisurely cruise across town to some designated pastoral spot or watering hole, where the party really begins.
This may be fair to the venerable velocipede. The first “bicycle” – that is, a two wheeled, human powered transport – was invented in 1818 by a German baron. Aptly nicknamed the “dandy horse,” this bone-shaker was simply a wooden frame over a pair of in-line metal wheels and a handlebar for steering. The rider straddled the contraption and pushed it forward like a kick scooter, setting off his tight-fitting, instep-strapped “inexpressibles” admirably to the ladies. (Talk about sacrificing comfort and practicality on the altar of style.) Later in the 19th century, bicycles more or less as we know them today were all the rage among fashionable urbanites wanting to zip around town rapidly. The bike-riding Oxford student in tweed jacket, flapping robe and mortarboard cap is among the most classic images.
Through the magic of the googling engine, we were recently apprised of an article in the Washington Post about an upcoming “Seersucker Ride” (June 9) sponsored by a D.C. outfit calling itself “Dandies and Quaintrelles.”
The article quotes a Ms. Holly Bass, identified as a “performance artist” who organizes D and Q’s cycling events. “It’s as much about an attitude as it is about a style of dress,” she told the Post. “It’s about harking back to an era when the way in which you presented yourself was viewed as a reflection of respect, courtesy and manners.”