SF Tweed Bike Ride Saturday: An interview with organizer Colin Fahrion

tweed ride resize
photo credit: gmackenzie, www.flickr.com/photos/gmackenz

Saturday. 1pm. Justin Herman Plaza.

They come from the city’s haberdasheries, barbers, and milliners; from bike shops, and bowling greens. Behatted, mustachioed, and–most importantly–tweeded, the bikers will assemble for their summer ride, which will take them on an undisclosed, but assuredly “not too hilly,” route through the city, that will wind its way to Goorin Bros. in North Beach. We got a chance to speak with their organizer, Colin Fahrion, this afternoon.

Modern Gentleman’s Blog: Which was your first love: bikes or tweed?

Colin Fahrion:  Bikes. Been riding since I was young. One of the main reasons I moved to SF was so I wouldn’t need a car and could just bicycle. That was back in ’96. I still don’t own a car.

MGB:  Where were you coming from?

CF:  Cleveland, Ohio…Dressing dapper in tweed and other styles came later. About the same time as I launched Tweed Ride.

MGB:  Where did that idea first come from?

CB: Tweed Ride was inspired by the Tweed Run in London. The first SF Tweed Ride happened a few weeks [later]. Both the London Tweed Run and the SF Tweed Ride inspired several other rides to launch around the country and world. It’s pretty great to see how many have popped up and are still going.

MGB:  Have you gotten to ride in any of the others?

CF:  Sadly, no. I’d like to, but my trips to other towns have never linked up, schedule-wise. I have talked to a few of the other organizers online, and I met one of the people that helped with the Eugene ride, who was really nice and gave me a bicycle tour of the town.

MGB:  Where do you recommend shopping for a tweed outfit for the ride?

CF:  Usually thrift stores and vintage shops. Held Over and La Rosa on the Haight are great. Held Over always has a good selection of Harris Tweed. I like to encourage everyone to [dress up]. Several are intimidated by the idea, which is why I like to encourage thrift stores as a good start. A basic Tweed jacket is usually easy to find–and cheap–at a thrift store. Of course, we also get really snappily attired people who go all out with their fashion. I like the spectrum of styles and dedication. It’s a good crowd of people.

MGB: What kind of bike do you ride?

Raleigh Londoner
photo credit: juicyrai, www.flickr.com/photos/wink/

CF:  Normal everyday, I ride a decidedly non-vintage Jamis Ventura. For Tweed Ride I use a Raleigh Londoner bicycle. [Seen left, mid-umbrella-joust, at the Tweed Olympics. Another Tweed Olympics is being planned for this fall.]

MGB: Could you explain your safety note about hats v helmets?

CF: It’s a topic that has come up from time to time. Myself and most riders don’t wear helmets during the ride, and the ride itself, in a sense, encourages people not to wear helmets.

Some who are strongly pro-helmet take issue with that.

Personally, I wear a helmet all the time except during the Tweed Rides. Though I also take less risks with traffic during the Tweed Rides. I think that encouraging people to ride bikes is more important that enforcing a helmet rule or law. We get a lot of people on the tweed rides who don’t ride much, and I like to think I’m encouraging them to find joy in cycling.

It is safer to ride in a group and there are definitely some people who join who are normally too afraid to ride city streets. Whenever people ask about riding the streets and safety, I encourage them to check out the SF Bike Coalition classes, which are great.

There are some studies that show that enforcing helmet laws actually discourages cycling, which overall is bad, as safety increases with the number of riders on the street–when there are more riders, drivers get used to looking out for cyclists and sharing the road. However, I am aware that helmets are safer than no helmets, but it’s a choice, and I’m more pro-cycling enjoyment than enforcing people to be safe.

MGB:  So, the bike route is spontaneous, correct?

CF:  The route is planned, though I don’t release it. There are a few tricks about riding in a large group: It’s easier to turn right then left; some streets are easier than others to share the road with cars and a pack of cyclists; train tracks suck; some roads are more scenic than others. I take all those factors, and try to make a route that takes people through parts of town that they may not normally ride–but nothing too hilly. So it’s planned with all that in mind.

Thanks to Mr. Fahrion for his time. To join the ride, visit sftweed.com, or just convene on Justin Herman Plaza, Sat., at 1pm.

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David is Wingtip's storyteller. In addition to editing the Modern Gentleman's Blog, he has written for Wax Poetics, The Source, SF Weekly, and the East Bay Express, and others. His inspirations include Rumble Fish, Paul's Boutique, and Balzac. He studied English at the City University of New York at Hunter College and journalism at the University of Southern California. He lives in Berzerkeley with his wife and daughter.

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