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Kansas City 'Tweed' Bicycle Ride Favors Style Over Speed

The fall air was crisp on Saturday morning as Steve Conard lifted his 1940s era Western Flyer from the back of his car.

"Today the weather is absolutely perfect for this kind of a ride," said Conard, dressed in a large, vintage tweed jacket and plaid pants. He said he had been looking forward to joining the Kansas City Tweed Ride since the day he found the rusty bike frame for five dollars at a bike swap this summer. It had taken him six weeks to rebuild the bike from salvaged parts.

While Conard tinkered with his bike, about 70 tweed-clad riders gathered beneath the arches of the Colonnade in Kessler Park. In its fourth year, the annual Tweed Ride raises funds for BikeWalkKC and attracts riders from around the city.

"Even for those who haven't ridden a bike in months or maybe even years, they are able to get out and ride," said BikeWalkKC's Rachel Krause. "With Cliff Drive closed on the weekend, it is a very family-friendly event."

Sporting a vintage Harris Tweed jacket he found at a thrift store, Mark Rainey, of Groody Bros. Bicycle Restoration, said he was glad to be out in the brisk air. Rainey organized the first Tweed Ride in Kansas City four years ago.

"In the era before the age of the car, the bicycle had been invented. They would go out on Sunday afternoons and promenade down the avenues in their Sunday finest and just have a grand time," said Rainey. "The motto at that time was style over speed, elegance over exertion, so that is the theme of the ride."

Crooning love songs beneath the Colonnade, Brian Werner fingered tunes on his antique accordion. "The accordion will probably stay in the car during the ride," said Werner. "But I always like to dress up in costume and combining costumes and bikes is always a great time. I love the picnic at the end, and we've got a pretty killer picnic planned."

Sheila Swearngin's outfit paid tribute to her mother who came to America from Scotland in 1959. "This is my mom's kilt and jacket," said Swearngin, as she touched the lapel. "She's long gone, but I still get to wear it."

BikeWalkKChosted the fourth annual Kansas City Tweed Ride on October 5, 2013, at the Colonnade in Kessler Park at St. John Ave and Gladstone Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.

Julie Denesha is the arts reporter for KCUR. Contact her at julie@kcur.org.
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