PREVIEW: Cyclists brake for ESO show

There’s a misconception about the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra that it’s really only meant for people who earn over $100,000 a year.

And there’s another misconception about cyclists that they all wear form-fitting Lycra, even the ones who ride to church.

So if you combine the two stereotypes and have heard about the Bike to the Symphony event organized by Edmonton Bicycle Commuters on June 1, you might imagine the sweaty cyclists showing up at Winspear Centre and making the millionaires’ monocles drop out.

“I thought it would be fun to show that you can bike in fancy clothes without special cycling gear and without the need to shower at your destination,” says Chris Chan, the president of Edmonton Bicycle Commuters, about why he organized the event.

This is the second year for the Bike to the Symphony, and like last year (see video of the event below this story), it’s the first official event for Bike Month in Edmonton, which runs throughout June.

The plan involves about 60 cyclists in suits and dresses gathering on the south side of the High Level Bridge in front of Da Capo Caffe for cappuccino, followed by a group ride across the bridge to the Winspear for a concert featuring cellist Pieter Wispelwey.

A group of ESO musicians, many of whom are cyclists themselves, will don bicycle helmets in addition to their formal wear and will greet the riders as they arrive with a welcoming fanfare.

“A lot of times people think the symphony is an elite thing and I think this helps break that down — that you don’t need a limousine to come to the symphony,” says Melissa di Natalie, the ESO’s education and community events co-ordinator.

As part of the event, the ESO provides a discount on the tickets for the cyclists attending the event. A backstage tour also follows the performance.

Last year’s event drew a lot of curious looks from regular symphony attendees, but despite being visually-friendly, attracted little media attention.

The event might face the same problem this year, as TV and newspaper cameras could be lured away to covering the long-awaited U2 concert at Commonwealth Stadium the same evening.

Chan, who regularly attends the ESO, said the event introduces the symphony to cyclists who wouldn’t ordinarily have thought of going, and hopefully gives ESO regulars the idea that maybe they can ride bicycles to work or concerts, too.

“We feel that Edmonton is a cycle-friendly city 265 days of the year. In the past, it was always the most-visible person in your office who cycled to work was the one who showed up in Lycra,” Chan says.

“You don’t have to wear special clothes. You can wear your regular clothes and if you don’t ride too hard, you won’t get sweaty.”

“They looked at us as a bit of a spectacle. People thought it was entertaining,” he recalls of the reaction to last year’s ride. “I hope a few of them realized that, ‘Oh, you can do that.'”

Other Bike Month events include bike-to-work breakfasts, a ride-in screening of Triplets of Belleville at Victoria Park, and bicycle jewelry making. A complete list of events is available at