Bicycle Diaries: The romance & ritual

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The romance & ritual

... of velopunk

What with our enthusiasm for all things British; it looks like the classic lightweight crowd are the kool kids now. I got my first inkling when I was trawling the bike groups on Flickr. I ran across Ladies & Gents Hubb Geared Vintage Roadsters, a cool collection of vintage steeds and those who, suitably attired, love them. In our own way, we're quite the little sub-group of Steampunk. Although I have yet to see a steam-powered lightweight at the Lake Pepin Tour or the A.B.C.E., for that matter.

Our more mechanized cousins have been getting a bit of attention lately. Ruth La Ferla wrote in the NYTimes, 8 May 08:
If steampunk has a mission, it is, in part, to restore a sense of wonder to a technology-jaded world. “Today satellite photos make the planet seem so small,” Mr. Brown lamented. “Where is the adventure it that?” In contrast, steampunk, with its airships, test tubes and time machines, is, he said, “sort of a dream , the way we used to daydream. It’s like part of your childhood’s just bursting forward again.”
While I agree with the sense of wonder part, it's exactly the smallness of the planet that makes velopunk possible. Many gentlemen cyclists, and their ladies, come to Lake Pepin from as far away as Canada and California. The rest of the year we communicate by email and listserve. And where would any of us be without eBay's vintage bike and spare parts categories?

More importantly, at least for me, velopunk is all about the traditions of English Cycle Touring. Gentlemen cyclists bring their own interpretations of style and etiquette to each lightweight gathering including knickers, Norfolk jackets, and afternoon teas. That's where you fully recognize the family resemblance between velopunk and steampunk. Again, Ruth La Ferla:
Steampunk style is also an expression of a desire to return to ritual and formality. “Steampunk has its tea parties and its time-travelers balls,” said Deborah Castellano, who presides over, which organizes neo-Victorian conventions. “It offers an element of glamour that some of us would otherwise never experience.”

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Blogger Thom said...

Good observations, this sense of history in bicycle culture is really catching on. Along these lines, you might be interested in my blogs, The Cycling Gentleman and the Old Bike Blog. Love your blog, keep up the good work!

3/9/08 12:33  
Blogger Da' Square Wheelman, said...


I most humbly accept your huzzahs! May I suggest a mutually beneficial arrangement. In the cause of gent cyclists & nutters everywhere we exchange links on out respective blog rolls?

Your dutiful servant, etc.,etc.

da'Square Wheelman

3/9/08 14:24  

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