Every great movement needs a manifesto, a creed to follow, words to live by. So, too, does it need a charismatic leader, someone for the masses to emulate and admire, a cult of personality around which to orbit.
In the case of Sacramento Cycle Chic, a loose affiliation of mostly midtown denizens who are dedicated followers of fashion and proponents of two-wheeled transport, the leader came slightly before the manifesto.
She is Lorena Beightler, an elegant, 40-something midtown habitue originally from Venezuela. She's a landscape designer by profession, bicyclist by choice, fashion maven by predilection and blogger almost by accident.
Beightler has combined all her loves to produce not just a blog featuring candid shots of fabulously dressed and coiffed bike commuters, but also to host a monthly Sunday ride in which participants are judged by fashion sense, not speed, and the purpose is to slowly take in the wonders of the area.
She and her adherents view the wearing of clingy Lycra cycling "outfits" - the kind Tour of California riders will don in town Monday - the same way PETA members see the wearing of fur. C'est horrible!
Like most movements, Sac Cycle Chic started small in early 2008, just Beightler and her camera, until her boyfriend suggested a blog (www.saccyclechic.com). The blog begat the rides, which have grown in attendance to several dozen monthly participants - folks donning everything from lederhosen to tuxedos, frilly sundresses to leather and chaps.
Her influence extends to fashion - she recently hosted a Velo & Vintage fashion show at Hot Italian restaurant - and bicycle advocacy through the unusual means of trying to make biking voguish for fashionistas and hipsters.
Which leads, then, to the Manifesto.
It came to Beightler from Copenhagen, Denmark, courtesy of one Mikael Colville-Andersen, a journalist and film director who started posting his photos of his city's cycling culture on his website. Soon, the popularity grew to include "Cycle Chic" sites in more than 20 cities worldwide, from Barcelona to Dublin and Helsinki to Atlanta.
Flushed with followers, Colville-Andersen set about codifying his beliefs into a "Cycle Chic Manifesto," rules of the road adhered to by Beightler and her Sacramento devotees.
1. I choose to cycle chic and, at every opportunity, I choose style over speed.
Even in sweats, intending to squeeze in a run later, Beightler oozes style. Her raven hair in jaunty pigtails, her dark-brown eyes obscured by oversized Donna Karan sunglasses, her toned legs from decades of dancing and bicycling covered by stretchy ("but not Lycra") capri pants, she crossed her legs and sipped a lemonade.
"I don't dress for the trip; I dress for the destination," she said.
Beightler is quick with such pithy pronouncements. And here, on the (4-inch) heels of the last, came another: "I don't sweat on the bike; I sparkle."
She was talking about the practicalities of "cycling chic" and how it's not only acceptable but "fabulous" to dress to the nines while heading to a fancy dinner or just going around town running errands.
"I wear high heels (on the bike) all the time," she said. "What is the big deal? The idea is to demystify the bicycle. This is very American, this thing about needing to be dressed in (workout) gear. I want people to stop being afraid and get on their bicycle and use it as a transport."
2. I embrace my responsibility to contribute visually to a more aesthetically pleasing urban landscape.
Someday, in a more perfect world, Beightler can picture one or two streets in the midtown grid available only to bicyclists. She talked about that wish right as a diesel-emitting delivery truck rumbled past the corner of J and 26th streets, forcing her to raise her voice.
"Too many cars," she said, hands fluttering. "Wouldn't these streets be far more interesting without cars?"
Rick Houston, a local bicycling advocate who organizes the annual "tweed ride," said he's noticed an appreciable uptick in bike commuters in midtown in recent years. The fact that many of them are dressed in suits or skirts or fashionable attire, rather than T-shirts and cutoffs or the "hideous" Lycra, can be attributed, in part, to Beightler's efforts.
"There's been a sense of fashion, and Lorena's setting the example," Houston said. "What Lorena has done for me now is, every once in a while, I'll see a well-dressed person on a bicycle and I go, 'Oh, too bad Lorena's not here to take a picture of this.' "
Cyclists of all shapes and fashion sense are captured on the blog: women in canary-yellow dresses with plunging necklines, government workers in suits, doctors in scrubs, scruffy faux-bike messengers in strategically torn jeans and canvas bags.
3. I am aware that my mere presence in said urban landscape will inspire others without me being labeled as a bicycle activist.
The word "activist" doesn't sit well with Beightler. Her take: She's a bicycle rider just spreading the word, not some sign-carrying protester. Yes, she gave up her car in 2007, when she moved to midtown Sacramento from Folsom, but she can explain that.
"I mean," she said, "how many car activists do you see out there? It's just a mode of transport. I gave up my car because it made sense. My car sat for a year in my parking space. Even if I were going to San Francisco, I'd take the train. It's too expensive to have a car. Does that make me an activist?"
Yet, with the blog and the monthly rides and her gliding down city streets in spiked heels, Beightler does exert influence.
"You can do all the bicycle advocacy you want, but at the end of the day, these fashion bloggers who take photographers of regular people riding bikes actually seems to make the most difference," said Cassidy Castleman, co-owner at Practical Cycles in Old Sacramento. "It creates a culture that it's cool to ride a bike."
4. I will ride with grace, elegance and dignity.
Whether she's pedaling on her midnight-black Dutch-import Gazelle cruiser, her functional Bromptom folding bike or her sleek Cannondale road bike, Beightler carries herself as if on a fashion runway.
"I ride with an upright posture," she said. "That's very elegant and I look charming. If you're hunched over, you don't see things. I notice everything. If I stop at a light, somebody will roll the window down and say, 'How do you ride in those heels?' "
Quite elegantly, thank you very much.
5. I will choose a bike that reflects my personality and style.
It's been more than a year now, but Beightler still mourns the passing of Sofia, her powder-blue Electra bike festooned with white flowers. Sofia was stolen at the Amtrak station in Davis last year. Even now, the details make her too wrought up to revisit.
Castleman and his father, Tim, were so moved by Beightler's blog post about Sofia that they've let her test-ride new models for months at a time. Scarlett, a red Worksman bicycle for Practical Cycles, followed Sofia.
Now, she's astride a black Gazelle, a Dutch import with a closed chain case, dress guards, lacquered steel frame with chrome detailing and a Brooks leather saddle.
No name yet, but the bike "does have quite a personality," Beightler said.
6. I will, however, regard my bicycle as transport and as a mere supplement to my own personal style. Allowing my bike to upstage me is unacceptable.
Beightler has this friend, whom she doesn't want to name, who visits her aboard a fully stocked racing bike that must cost close to $10,000. She clucks her tongue.
"He dresses so, um, well, casual but he comes by with this bike you can see a mile away," she said. "I'd be scared to ride that bike. It's the cost of a car. It doesn't take a lot of money to ride chic."
7. I will endeavor to ensure that the total value of my clothes always exceeds that of my bike.
Once, years ago when she was married and living in the Bay Area, Beightler was a clothes horse - expensive designer garb. Now, on her own, she's become an enthusiast for affordable vintage fashion.
But don't think she doesn't cut a fabulous figure around town. Beightler's boyfriend, David Abrahams, remains amazed.
"When I first met her, I asked, 'Why do you always dress up?' " Abrahams said. "She said that in Venezuela everybody dresses like that wherever they go. We'll go out and she's dressed, you know - wow - and I'm just off work in what I wear."
Added Chris Tafoya, one of the most dapper of the Cycle Chic Sunday riders: "If you really want to see Lorena dressed to the nines, come to the rides. She's incredible."
But Beightler said she doesn't judge others. She's no fashionista.
"You can just sense style in a person," she said. "Even if it's a pair of jeans and a T shirt, there's just something they exude. It's being comfortable in your own skin."
8. I will accessorize in accordance with the standards of bicycle culture and acquire, where possible, a chain guard, kickstand, skirt guard, fenders, bell and basket.
Beightler can talk bike components with the best of 'em. But she laughed when it was suggested she is an expert.
"I was 25 years old and the mother of two young kids the first time I ever rode a bike," she said. "My ex-husband gave it to me as a birthday present. I was bruised from head to toe from falling off."
It wasn't until she met Abrahams and went mountain biking with him that she really took to cycling, even though she fell 20 feet down an embankment at Salmon Falls on her first try.
"She had that tenacity," Abrahams said. "She kept going."
9. I will respect the traffic laws.
Beightler once dedicated an entire blog post to photos of different midtown riders stopped at traffic lights, one foot on the ground, the other poised on the pedal. It was her way of promoting bike safety.
"You see (cyclists running stop signs) a lot in this town - and people riding against traffic, too," she said. "It is unfortunate. You should not be a crazy rider."
10. I will refrain from wearing and owning any form of "cycle wear." The only exception being a bicycle helmet - if I choose to exercise my freedom or personal choice and wear one.
So, Lorena, what's so wrong with Lycra?
"Nobody, not even what's his name, Lance Armstrong, looks good in Lycra," she said. "You could be (a model). It does not matter. You don't look good in Lycra."
And, yes, that extends to Beightler herself. She'll wear knee-high red boots with spiked heels and black fishnet stockings for a ride around town. But Lycra? Perish the thought.
"This bike-wear thing is new," she says. "I mean, look at pictures from the early 1900s. Our great-grandparents were riding around in regular clothes. They looked fabulous."