Field Notes: Cycle in Style with the Dapper Royal Hawaiian Tweed Ride
Field Notes explores Honolulu’s vibrant and varied scenes and subcultures. This month: the dashing bicyclists of the Royal Hawaiian Tweed Ride.
Photo: Fernando Pacheco
What It Is
A biannual gathering of bicycling and antiquarian enthusiasts in which participants don traditional British cycling attire, including tweed suits, bow ties, vests, sun dresses and formal hats, and embark on a casual, 4-mile bike ride through Honolulu. Modeled after tweed rides held regularly in various cities around the world, the Royal Hawaiian Tweed Ride is an homage to a bygone era of dapper chaps and chapettes and velocipedic ambulation; a ride in which style most definitely trumps speed.
“The Tweed Ride movement began in England and, as the Kingdom of Hawai‘i had close ties with the United Kingdom, we decided to name it the Royal Hawaiian Tweed Ride,” says co-founder Tory Laitila. “Our annual ride usually occurs in February because it’s the coldest month and the best weather for wearing tweed, but we created a second ride in November, in honor of His Hawaiian Majesty King Kalākaua, when there are special festivities and bunting at ‘Iolani Palace.”
If you enjoy bike rides in the park and high tea with friends, if your wardrobe includes debonair vintage fashion pieces such as bow ties and vests, and if words and phrases such as “’twas,” “jolly good,” “faff” and “smashing” regularly make their way into your vocabulary, then you’ll fit right in with this fanciful bunch.
“Tweed isn’t a costume,” says Laitila, “it’s a fashion statement.”
Photo: Ernest Tsang
The route and routine
Photo: Miho Williams
The specifics vary each year, but the ride always begins with a gathering around 1 p.m. at a central landmark (such as the Louise Dillingham Memorial Fountain in Kapi‘olani Park), departure at 1:30 p.m., a route stop for a group photograph (past scenic sites have included the Queen Kapi‘olani Rose Garden and the Linekona Building), then arrival at a destination (a few times at The Manifest, and lately at the Lounge at the Ala Wai Community Park) around 2:30 p.m. for tea and cookies. By 4 p.m., the ride has officially ended. Laitila, who works for the city, plans the Tweed Ride routes along key streets and destinations where he can impart historical wisdom or anecdotes about the areas they’re passing.
What began in 2013 with three riders and two organizers has grown to between nine and 15 riders and nearly a half-dozen organizers in 2016. The public is cordially invited. Tea is provided, but bring your own teacup, saucer and spoon. In recent years, prize giveaways have included vintage bicycle plates, music by the Royal Hawaiian Band and tea. Frabjous!
Honors and Awards
Oh yes, there are awards. The Royal Hawaiian Tweed Ride presents a medley of medals (handcrafted by co-founder Laitila himself) as voted on collectively among the party. The awards vary from event to event, but include:
The Dashing Dame and Dapper Gent Awards, for an appropriately well-dressed lady and gentleman;
The Toppingest Chapeau Award, for the most captivating head adornment;
The Hotsy Totsy Hosiery Award, for the most fetching stockings worn;
The Stateliest Steed Award, given to a cyclist for the most excellent bicycle;
The Smashingest Tea Cup Award, which goes to the owner of the most charming tea cup (“Don’t forget to bring your tea cup,” Laitila reminds gently. “You’re not going to win the Smashingest Tea Cup Award if you don’t even have one.”);
The Antiquaria Award, presented to a rider for best use of olde tyme apparel and accoutrements; and
The Marvelous Moustache Award, “for the most impressive facial follicles in honor of His Majesty the King.”
Photo: Aaron Yoshino
Type of bike: a “highly capable” Giant
“There are nice bikes and people dress well, but it’s no barrier to entry because really anyone can join!”
Photo: Kristin Laitila
Type of bike: Simple 7 cruiser, “with a front basket, of course.”
“These rides are the perfect balance of honoring Hawaiian royalty and learning about local history with an elegantly dressed yet chill bicycling group.”
Photo: Aaron Yoshino
Type of bike: 1989 Murray Nassau, “affectionately named Lady Murray.”
“This ride isn’t about racing or endurance. It’s the bicycling equivalent of a leisurely stroll, with the added possibility of winning a prize for your socks.”