Siti Baik: Bikes, Fashion, and Heritage

During my time here in Jogja I’ve been hanging out with a bike fashion group, which is something new and different for me. I’ve never been one to participate much in bike groups centered on fashion; partially because it just hasn’t been my jam, and also because there are many aspects of the Cycle Chic type bike fashion movement that I find problematic (Elly Blue provides a thoughtful critique of the Cycle Chic movement here).

But I’m also of the mind that you shouldn’t knock it til you try it – and while I’ve been here in Jogja I’ve been hanging out with a bike/fashion/heritage collective called Siti Baik (which roughly translates to Woman Good and also sounds like City Bike in English). And it’s been awesome. They have been super welcoming and kind to me, and it’s been really interesting to participate in a group that’s really different than anything I’ve done before.

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Siti Baik organizes rides where everyone dresses up (often in batik), rides on upright bikes with baskets, and they go for rides to cultural sites around Jogja (there are an infinite number to choose from). The rides are laid back, slow, and meant as a leisurely way to show that biking is possible at different speeds, with different types of bikes, and in all sorts of attire.

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I think adding in the heritage aspect to the group’s mission really distinguishes the group from other bike fashion groups. It isn’t just about how to look fashionable on a bike (but as one the founders is quick to point out – every bike ride is a catwalk); it’s about celebrating the culture of Jogja and having local pride. For example, their idea of fashion in Siti Baik is not western fashion; it’s about local fashion – like batik. I think that’s cool because it’s not centered around western thinking/fashion, and it asserting local identity. Sometimes I’m concerned with how western bicycling culture is exported around the world (I’m especially thinking about fixed gear culture here) and can displace local biking culture, and so it’s cool to see a place that is really taking pride in local biking fashion and culture. And it isn’t just Siti Baik that is doing this. There are all sorts of bike communities in Jogja (tall bikes and the traditional bike community are two that come to mind) that similarly assert a very distinctive Jogja identity.

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The other thing that I really like and respect about the type of biking fashion that Siti Baik is promoting is that it’s the same biking fashion as working class cyclists in rural Yogya province. As you ride around the rice paddies lots of people move by bike, especially women, and they are wearing batik, and riding upright bicycles. It’s a type of bike fashion that is inclusive across gender and class in Jogja.

So thanks Siti Baik for hanging out with me, teaching me about Javenese culture, and getting me to think more deeply about inclusive bike fashion and local bike culture.

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