The fields were painted red and yellow with tulips and daffodils, the backdrop was the snow capped peaks of the Cascade Mountains and the bicycle riders in their tweed hats, coats and skirts added an air of sophistication to the country roads speckled with mud clods. The tires of tractors dropped those clods as they passed from one rain soaked field to the next. But today the sky was glacier blue, the roads dry and the strong southerly winds that caused power outages and gales warnings a few days earlier were gone. There would be no headwinds or tailwinds on this ride, just easy pedaling over the thirteen mile course around the Skagit County Flats.
I had ridden large rides, small rides and cross state rides but this was my first Tweed ride. It was small, about a hundred cyclists, but what was more noticeable was that it didn’t feel like I was surrounded by serious cyclists training for their next century or triathlon. Such cyclists would not waste their Saturday riding such a short distance. Nor would they lash a picnic basket to a rear rack or trade their clipless system for platform pedals and wingtips. Based on the casual pace, tweed hats and smart jackets it felt more like I was riding through Northern England with the cast of Downton Abbey.
The bicycles were what you’d find in a garage sale with a fair number of road bikes from the eighties and nineties. I didn’t notice any carbon fiber frames or bike computers. The riders were a little curvier than I’ve seen at more competitive events but the distance and terrain was reasonable enough that no one appeared worried about completing the challenge. Like the trend in 10K runs and marathons, there were probably more woman than men, including grandmothers, daughters and granddaughters, some rolling along as family units. There were a number of white hairs like myself but I didn’t expect to see so many riders in their twenties and thirties, many with little ones attached or following behind like ducklings. Seeing younger people choose to spend their Saturday on a bicycle gives me hope for the future.
What set this ride apart from others is its emphasis on taking your time and enjoying the moment. The lunch stop could be counted in hours not minutes, people ate picnic lunches not gels or power bars, and there was enough time for a croquet match. And don’t let the Dandy attire keep you from joining a Tweed ride. Those with a bounty of tweed will end up looking very dapper, like Sherlock Holmes. In contrast I had just a tweed hat and that combined with my green fishing vest and narrow collared three button shirt left me looking like a cross between Orville Wright and a Vicar on a fishing holiday.
I am looking forward to next years Tweed ride and plan to be in better shape by then – but it wouldn’t really matter.