A line of wool jackets, shined boots and perfectly sculpted mustaches made its way down First Street on Sunday, with dozens of dapper bicycle riders on their way to Lake Missoula Tea Company. A green bike furnished with a wooden box behind its front tire, known as a “long john,” carried their mugs.
The ride and cup of afternoon tea, along with the vintage dress, made up only a portion of Free Cycles Missoula’s 10th annual Tweed Ride.
“This isn’t just for all you die-hard tweeders,” said Free Cycles Missoula’s founder and executive Bob Giordana at the start of the ride.
“This is to raise awareness for our shop, for all of our educational programs and get us out of our cars for an afternoon,” he said.
Tweed rides originated in England in the 1990s, with riders by the hundreds donning the clothes reminiscent of those a century prior. The event in Missoula started as a fundraiser for a local preschool before Free Cycles Missoula became its host.
“It just lent itself more to the shop,” Giordano said. “People get to get together, support us, support the local businesses that helped with the event, have fun and look classy doing it.”
During his 23 years of operating the shop, Giordano has helped rebuild bikes that date back to the Grover Cleveland administration.
As riders dressed to the nines made their way into the shop, they grabbed a cup of soup or glass of beer, and listened to the strum of a slide guitar, banjo and fiddle from local bluegrass band Pinegrass. They also placed bids in a silent auction featuring caps and vests from local artists, along with movie tickets from the Roxy Theater and gift bags from Black Coffee Roasting Company.
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One of the artists who contributed clothes to the auction, Katrina Dalrymple, joined the ride to tea in a vest, newsboy cap and blouse that she sewed herself. In the same spirit of Free Cycles Missoula repurposing old parts to keep bikes rolling, her blouse came from a bed sheet, while she sewed her vest and newsboy cap from a duvet cover.
“I enjoy the group aspect, but mostly I just enjoy the challenge to sew something new and interesting,” said Dalrymple, who also attended the Tweed Ride last year.
Brandon Steele, clad in a blue wool coat and bow tie, rode with his wife Lauren, wearing a skirt and vest. Sunday marked their third Tweed Ride after they rebuilt their bikes, a '50s Murray and '60s Schwinn, at the shop.
“It’s always fun to dress up,” said Brandon Steele, who lit a briar wood pipe while he waited for the ride to afternoon tea to begin.
“He tends to dress like this a little more often than me,” said Lauren.
Steele offered Giordano a puff from his pipe before the ride to Lake Missoula Tea Company. Along with Lake Missoula Tea Company, Circle Square 2nd Hand Store and Missoula Bike Club sponsored the event.
After tea, the tweed riders set out to Greenough Park, where awards were given for the best clothes, the best bike and the best mustache.