Machines for Freedom launch at Western Bikeworks

Introducing The Irondelles, a tall-bike gang for the ladies

Posted by on June 10th, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Skye Blue
(Photo: Carole Giraud-Sevigny)

If you’ve ever ridden a tall bike, you can understand the attraction: Finally, for the first time in your bike-riding life, you’re not just traffic, you’re above traffic.

There’s something exciting and fun about pedaling at such heights. Do it with a few friends and it’s even better. That was the basic inspiration that led southeast Portlander Skye Blue to create Portland’s newest bike gang, The Irondelles.

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Blue and member Emily O’Connor
at the recent Zoobomb Pyle
unveiling.
(Photo: Dan Liu/BikePortland)

Blue fondly remembers her time riding around NE Alberta Street with friends from the (now defunct) Alberta Street Clown House and she wanted to share that experience with other ladies. But The Irondelles are more than just riding partners, Blue has offered up her shop (she’s a seamstress by day) and driveway as a dedicated workshop.

The goal? Teach women how to build their own tall-bikes, without the usual, male-ego-laden testosterone flare-ups that can sometimes creep into other bike-building sessions she’s been around.

Oregon Manifest Bike Show Day 2-202

Irondelles member Emily
O’Connor riding a tall bike.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Blue describes The Irondelles as, “A tall-bike gang and a group of women who empower each other and have fun riding tall bikes.” They meet once a week to teach each other bike building and welding skills.

So far there are eight members. Blue says five of them just recently learned how to ride. “We taught them one-by-one, in a parking lot. It took a while, but now that they’ve all got the bug they want to build their own bike.” Blue says building their own bike is “stage two” in the process of becoming an Irondelle.

According to member Emily O’Connor, The name Irondelles comes from the French word, Hirondelle. The inspiration comes from France-native and friend Carole Giraud-Sevigny (who happens to be married to one of Portland’s veteran and highly-decorated tall-bike jousters, Corey Sevigny). Hirondelle means “swallow” in English and it’s the name of a rare type of bicycle used at the turn of the 20th century.

The group plans to make their big debut at the upcoming Cirque du Cycling event, which includes pro-level racing along with a community bike parade.

Stay tuned for more from The Irondelles. Blue says they look forward to sharing their skills and leading tall bike rides with the general public.

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13 Comments
  • BURR June 10, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    F Yeah! You go girls!

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  • Ayleen and Team Cirque June 10, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Watch the Skye Blue tonight on KGW (ch.8) at 7:00pm! Way to go, Irondelles. Can’t wait to see you in the parade.

    The parade rolls at 3pm on Saturday.

    There are still slots to march/roll with a group, see website for details.

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  • justa June 10, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    tuff ladies! y’all rule!

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  • bigd June 10, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    pretty sweet, but ya’ll shoulda went with muffia.

    <3 your rival not-a-bike-gang member

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  • Dutch June 10, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Emily sure does look pretty on that tallbike!

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  • solid gold June 11, 2009 at 8:32 am

    lookin’ good!

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  • shantastic June 11, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Y’all rule my world. Can’t wait to see you in the streets this summer! Thanks for making Portland and ladies proud!

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  • David Feldman June 12, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Did they intend the pun on the old bike brand “Hirondelle”?

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  • solid gold June 12, 2009 at 11:01 am

    yep. in french, you don’t pronounce the “h” sound, so the english phonetic spelling of ‘hirondelle’ (swallow, the bird) would be Irondelle. it’s puny on a lot of levels.

    also, in turn of the century france, cops round around on bikes and they wore capes that were split at the bottom (for riding). the cops got the nickname “hirondelles” because flying down the streets with split-capes flapping behind them, they looked like swallows. and now you know…

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  • Jason June 12, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Here’s the link to the Irondelles on the news:
    http://www.kgw.com/video/thesquare-index.html?nvid=370286&shu=1

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  • Noisy August 1, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    Can’t wait to get together in the street soon!

    Ladies! Ladies! Ladies! PROUD!

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  • Kevin Wagoner February 8, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Great group, it is exciting to see them doing some many things. I was lucky enough to take some pictures of this group this last summer.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinwagoner/sets/72157621966148843/

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  • Mini Bike Winter X « BIKELEPTIC February 7, 2013 at 10:48 am

    […] <p style="MBW is a Portland bike punk tradition, put on by ZooBomb for the last ten years and includes events such as “Chariot Wars” (formerly called Ben Hurt) where teams would build mini bike carts and battle it out. The “Cupcake Challenge” where participants ride off of a dock on a ramp and fly into the river. Dance party, morning brunch, craft night – the whole thing is pretty organized.  Back in 2010 they did a carnival theme and I did some pretty stellar artwork for the party that they held at an art gallery with local headlining Russian-Gypsy-Klezmer-Punk band Chervona. That year the party was hosted by local Tall Bike ladies club, The Irondelles. […]

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