Peddling in vogue

“Happy Friday” was the common salute at the door of the 14th Chicago Bike Winter Art Show, an annual exhibit hosted this year by the Chicago Urban Arts Society (CUAS). The response was usually something like, “There’s beer inside, right?”

The expression (not the one about beer) was the greeting of choice among the riders of Critical Mass, a grassroots movement to take back the streets of Chicago with monthly bike rides throughout the city. Their route, which always starts at Daley Plaza on the last Friday of every month, ended this past Friday at CUAS to celebrate the closing of the exhibit. “We had over 500 people come out for the opening, so this is great,” said Lauren Pacheco, co-founder of CUAS.

The two-week show featured an array of art installations, all made and submitted by cyclists and cycling enthusiasts. But the main event of the evening was the Winter Bike Fashion Show, hosted by Rapid Transit Cycleshop to showcase the acme of style from all the city’s local bike shops.

By 7:30, the Critical Mass riders had arrived and gathered in the parking lot across the street. Most chose to lock their bikes up to the fence outside despite the $1 “Bike Valet” offered within. Before checking out the artwork (and the $2 PBR), cyclists and spectators circled around to watch the first performance of a six-girl dance troupe formed at the show’s opening, the Racketeers. As the girls pranced alongside their bikes while dressed in flamboyant tutus and stockings, a bystander blurted out: “Is this what bike porn looks like?”

The Racketeers took center stage again at 8:50, this time performing inside the gallery to Lady Gaga. Ten minutes later, construction on the lighted runway had begun and an MC, dressed in royal blue formal attire, started to warm up the crowd.

As the lights went down, models strolled (and rolled) out onto the runway show off white leather seats, zebra paint jobs, chrome fenders, aluminum water bottles, reflective spokes, pedal straps, and of course all sorts of bells. Towards the end, fashion devolved into theater as a post-apocalyptic biker used a baseball bat to repel pedestrian zombies, who roamed through the crowd before descending on the MC, knocking him to the ground and splashing PBR across the runway.

“It’s fine,” said Pacheco, “Two weeks ago it was Goose Island.”