By Tony King Photos by Scott Duncan
Sacramento has become a seriously burgeoning bike-centic burg. These days, the River City is experiencing a two-wheeled renaissance that’s made biking easily accessible to just about everyone. For Lorena Beightler, an avid cycling commuter, blogger and fashionista, this recent velo-lution is a perfect fit.
Beightler is the voice behind SacCycleChic, a blog she began in 2008- modeled after the world famous CopenhagenCycleChic – which endeavors to highlight the virtues and benefits of bicycle riding in fashionable and functional attire. Beightler, a youthful and exuberant grandmother, lives for both fashion and bicycling. It seemed only natural, then, for her to start Cycle Chic Sundays – a monthly bicycle tour that educates riders about Sacramento’s history while demonstrating that cycling doesn’t belong strictly to the Lycra-clad set.
“The idea for Cycle Chic Sunday Sacramento is to actually get together, create community, meet new friends, and learn about what makes Sacramento Sacramento,” explains Beightler. “What better way to create community than to go back to your roots? If you start learning about those things, then you go, ‘wow, we really live in an amazing place.’”
“The first [Cycle Chic] ride took place out of Huntington Beach,” explains Beightler. “And then all of us – the Cycle Chic bloggers – started to create their own Cycle Chic Sundays. And now it’s happening all over the world.”
Beightler’s version , which takes place the third Sunday of every month, highlights a different historic Sacramento landmark that locals may not be familiar with. For the inaugural ride last August, Beightler led her fashionably-clad crew of 28 cyclists from Old Sacramento to the Leland Stanford mansion for a docent-lead tour. On the way back to Old Sac, Beightler steered the tour over Ed Cox’s recently repurposed freeway overpass, the R Street bicycle bridge.
One of those riders was elementary school art teacher Libby Bowles, who was recovering from a serious motorcycle accident that had left her feeling depressed and lethargic. When a friend suggested she attend the Cycle Chic Sunday ride, Bowles thought, “Why not? I needed to get out and do something.”
Not knowing what to expect, Bowles showed up on her cruiser and assumed she’d be the newbie in a close-knit crowd of regulars. To her surprise, however, “Everybody was really friendly and I felt welcomed right away. Lorena was just so warm, she just makes everyone feel like you’re an old friend, and that makes you feel like part of the group right away.”
After the ride, Bowles sent Beightler a personal letter of appreciation, noting that the ride not only inspired her to start cycling every day, but shook her out her funk as well. “It broke the spell,” Bowles declares triumphantly.
While there is no set dress code for the Cycle Chic Sunday ride, Beightler encourages her riders to wear what makes them feel comfortable, yet fashionably forward. “Don’t show up in your flip-flops and look like you just rolled out of bed,” laughs Beightler. “Show up looking cute.”
“So many people think when you ride a bicycle you have to wear a racing helmet and spandex,” says Andrea Lepore, an avid cyclist and owner of Hot Italian restaurant. “Lorena and Rick [Houston, organizer of The Sacramento Tweed Ride] show that cycling can be part of your everyday lifestyle.”
“Cycle Chic Sundays is not an exclusive event,” stresses Houston. “It gets people who may not have thought about getting on a bicycle by themselves feel safer and more capable when they’re with a group. You can go in your normal clothes and have a really great time on a bicycle.”
“We can wear our cute shoes or our boots and our newsboy hats,” chuckled rider Toni Noto during Sac Cycle Sundays’ September ride, which coincided with SOCA’s home tour of “Bungalow Row” on 16th and Q streets. “I think this ride really symbolizes Sacramento’s growing cycling community.”
Indeed, for someone who moved to Midtown in 2005, Beightler has proven to one of Sacramento’s most vital ambassadors for local bicycling advocacy. Whether she’s snapping pictures of stylish cyclists for her blog, organizing her group rides or co-founding Velo & Vintage (Sacramento’s premier bicycle-related fashion event), Beightler’s wheels are always spinning.
This assessment matches that of Kari Shipman, a sustainable fashion enthusiast, blogger, and Beightler’s collaborator for Velo & Vintage (a now-annual event held exclusively at Hot Italian). “Meeting Lorena and doing the show with her opened the door to dressing fashionably and riding my bike,” she says. “She always looks amazing. Every single time I see her, she’s on her bike in high heels.”
“I like the fact that we can ride on the city streets and be safe,” notes Tricia Hedahl, the incoming Executive Director of the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates. “Sac Cycle Chic allows people to experience Midtown in a way they’ve never experienced it before.”
“It reminds folks that bicycling is not just about racing,” adds Chris Morfas, a legislative liaison to the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District and an advisor to the California Bicycle Coalition. “It’s about community.”
For Beightler, that’s the name of the game. “Your community is upgraded by cycling,” she explains “A vibrant, happy community is an inviting community, and who wouldn’t want to live there?”
For next month’s Sac Cycle Chic event, Beightler is planning a tour of the historic City Cemetery on Broadway and Riverside Boulevards. If the previous two rides are any indication, this should be yet another fun-filled and educational tour.
Given Beightler’s elan and confidence, it’s not surprising that she still has bigger ambitions for her event. “I want people like our Mayor and people of note out there experiencing our roads so they can see what’s going on. I would like Kevin Johnson to join us.”
If anyone can make that happen, it’s Lorena Beightler.
Cycle Chic Sunday, October 17, Old City Cemetery Tour, Meet at Fremont Park, 10:45AM