Tour de Tweed - when the pedalling is slow and very stylish

IT IS an inspiring sight: a dapper chap sitting erect in the saddle; mutton chops on his cheeks, tweed jacket on his back. The kind of man who prefers capacious plus fours to ghastly crotch-crunching lycra.

For this man - or indeed this woman, for she is his sartorial equal - cycling is a languid pleasure, not a bug-eyed adrenalin rush.

Impelled not by performance-enhancing drugs and a cash prize, but sandwiches and the vivifying contents of a hip flask, these retro riders tip their woollen caps to a simpler age before derailleur gears made cycling so horribly competitive.

''We travel at a leisurely pace and enjoy ourselves,'' said Susan Goodwin, 32, one of the organisers of Sydney's Tweed Ride. ''There's simply more drama and poetry in the old style of riding. And people really dress up. Last year we had people sticking their heads out of cars in George Street shouting 'you look fantastic!'''

The first Tweed Ride was held in London in January last year, the brainchild of an online cycling forum devoted to ''fixies'' or fixed-wheel bicycles. The idea caught on quickly. Paris, Tokyo, Boston and San Francisco are among cities that have hosted the rides for hundreds of cyclists in tweedy attire traversing the inner-city at a leisurely pace.

Sydney's first Tweed Ride last year attracted about 70 people. Organisers are hoping this year's event, which departs from Town Hall at 9am (free registration from 8am) on Sunday, June 27, will be much bigger. The 90-minute ride finishes in Alexandria with a brisk game of bicycle polo. Prizes will be awarded to the best-dressed man and woman, and the most elegant couple or duo.

Naomi Morris, resplendent in a herringbone blazer, crochet vest, vintage blouse and brooch, is a fan of vintage bikes as well as vintage fashion. Not that you need to own a period bike to enter a Tweed Ride. A brand-new mountain bike is fine as long as you dress up to the nines and enter into the spirit of the event.

Ms Morris, 29, loves the easy pace - ''I call it tootling'' - and the friendly atmosphere. And she didn't find it at all hard to put her tweed outfit together.

For more information go to www.sydneycyclist.com

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