Sunday steampunk bike ride embraces apocalypse with style

Steampunk is first and foremost a literary genre, a 19th Century view of the future – steam powered, mechanical and pre-electronic. And everyone dresses well.

“It’s like Mad Max meets Marie Antoinette,” explains Cory Richards, a salesperson at Sanctuary Curio Shoppe (10310 81 Avenue), which is hosting Edmonton’s first steampunk bicycle ride on Sunday, June 24. The ride starts at Sanctuary at noon, meanders at a civilized pace through the river valley, and finishes with high tea at the Clever Rabbit (10724 124 Street) at approximately 3:30 p.m.

Steampunk rides in other cities tend to feature men in coats and caps and women in dresses. They pedal vintage-looking bicycles that are decorated to resemble what your great-great-grandparents might have imagined transportation in the 21st Century would look like. The bikes have wood and brass levers mounted in strange places, giant horns with rubber bulbs, and whirligigs that spin as the bikes move forward.

Jackie Pearce, one of the event organizers, describes steampunk as “a flair for an older era and a fusion of styles and ideas.”

Styles such as the Victorian theme in “A Clockwork Orange” blended with the spooky undertones of Jack the Ripper. Movies such as “Wild, Wild West” (starring Kenneth Branagh as the bad guy, top picture), “League of Extraordinary Gentleman” and “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” also display copious amounts of steampunk style.

Richards notes that steam punk can also embrace a post-apocalyptic theme. In a world absent of gasoline and computers, people would have to build their own gizmos from recycled materials. But unlike post-apocalyptic sci-fi, she notes that post apocalyptic steam punk people still “shower and dress well.”

If all else fails in society, we may still maintain style and good hygiene.

Richards’ suggestions for decorations and attire include “browns and gears, leather highlights, grommets and buckles.” Other possibilities include goggles and gloves, clocks and corsets. Sanctuary Curio Shoppe also has a wide selection of steampunk-appropriate attire, and will open an hour before the ride at 11 a.m. for anyone who wants to pick up something last-minute.

Local rider Molly Turnbull, a fan of steampunk subculture, says it’s the contrasts in steampunk that she finds enchanting. She says steampunk morphs the dark gloom of the beginning of the industrial age with a hope for a shiny and spontaneous future.

“The ‘steam’ for me is my parents and grandparents. British carefulness, wartime conservation of things and feelings; appreciation of the mystic beauty of the orient,” Turnbull says. “The ‘punk’ is in me: rash and unguarded, knowingly flying in the face of constraining social norms.”

Katherine Delay, another area steampunk enthusiast, says the inherent beauty of steampunk is “its emphasis on re-purposing objects from the past and creating new pieces… it is also highly artistic and eco-friendly. While there are some wondrous outfits available for purchase, some of the most inspired pieces are those that can be made from found vintage clothing, woven together into a unique historical tapestry.”

Others who are newer to steam punk have different ideas. Adrian Pearce, who is Jackie Pearce’s father, deliberated for a while when asked how he plans to appear in Sunday’s ride. His eventual answer is that his bike will be “steam” and his outfit will be “punk.”

The event is part of the Bike Month activities in Edmonton in June. On Monday, Bikeology presents the premiere screening of the Edmonton-filmed feature movie “The Bike Heist” at Metro Cinema at the Garneau Theatre at 7 p.m. Gig City told you about this movie last year, and now it’s finally done. Better still, admission is free.