Cyclist of the Week: Bekka Wright

Do you have a bikeyface?

You do – you just might not know it yet.

Simply put, a bikeyface is the face you make when you ride a bike. Whether smiling dreamily as you soar along the Esplanade or screwed up in concentration as you bike up Beacon Hill, it’s completely different from the face you make in a car.

I wanted to come up with a new phrase that would be unique and not gimmicky, but simple and like a brand name,” says Bekka Wright, 34, creator of the cartoon blog Bikeyface, for which she invented the term.

Artwork by Bikeyface ©2011

Bekka as a cartoon. Artwork by Bikeyface ©2011

When I started thinking about what I was trying to capture, I noticed that when I bike around the city, people on bikes were not necessarily smiling, but they had facial expressions that showed they were much more engaged than people who were driving,” she says.

On Bikeyface, Bekka records her observations about biking in Boston. From bikeyfaces to fancy, girly “cupcake bikes” to the ideal cycling visibility gear (a short leopard print romper), Bikeyface offers a witty, whimsical point of view about cycling – all in comic form.

When Bekka started Bikeyface about a year ago, it was just one of many personal bike blogs on bostonbiker.org. New to cycling, Bekka started blogging as a way to connect with Boston’s bike community.

It started very anonymously and very simply,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting anyone to read it.”

But she found that when she began illustrating her posts with comics – a lifelong hobby — they got noticed, and they got traffic. Lots of traffic.

She still isn’t sure what happened. “I don’t know how people found out about it, and it kept spreading without me having to promote it,” she says.

But she knew how to respond: she moved to her own website, thought of a catchy name, and began posting weekly comics.

And her audience kept on growing.

Now a year old, Bikeyface gets about 38,000 page views a month, and a Bikeyface book is in the works. Readers come from all over the world – in fact, only about 30% of readers are from Massachusetts.

When I started getting an audience, it was kind of exciting,” Bekka says. “And I started thinking that maybe I could change how people thought about things. I could tap into people who were curious about biking.”

Photo ©2011 Lovely Bicycle

Bekka in real life. Photo ©2011 Lovely Bicycle

Although many Bikeyface readers live in faraway countries such as Australia, Ireland, and Sweden, the comics are very much rooted in Boston. In one comic, Paul Revere cries out, “A car is coming! A car is coming!”; another recounts Bekka’s story of nearly biking straight into former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis.

Boston’s geography and landmarks are constant features: Fenway Park, Kenmore Square, and the Christian Science Plaza have all made appearances, and many comics feature smaller ties to Boston, such as a talking bus labeled “Harvard Square.”

I wonder if this is how some people are learning about Boston,” Bekka laughs.

In a year, she’s gone from a cycling newbie to something of a Boston bicycle celebrity: she often gets recognized on the street by her houndstooth helmet, which she wears in every comic, or her bike – she has two, a Specialized Globe Vienna 2 named Tank for its durability and (now fixed) rattling artillery noise, and a Surly Crosscheck named Marlene Dietrich for its “sultry” attitude.

People talk to me at stoplights or come up to me at events,” she says. And of all her readers, “the fun thing is meeting people face-to-face who’ve read it, so I like the local Boston thing the best.”

So, next time you see Bekka at a stoplight, feel free to stop and say hi – and don’t forget to wear your bikeyface.

Want to know more? You can read Bikeyface comics on bikeyface.com and follow Bekka on Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr.

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