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Aya O'Connor Hunts LeadAya O'Connor hunts for big game as Miss August in the 2010 Thought You Knew Bike Pin-Up Calendar.
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Aya O'Connor Black and WhiteAya O'Connor poses.
By Greg Borzo
The 2009 Thought You Knew bike pin-up calendar – featuring glamour shots of dolled-up women cyclists from Chicago – was a trial balloon that really took off. It created quite a buzz and the print run of 1,000 calendars sold out within a few months. Orders came from as far away as Sweden and Japan, and bike fans from Milwaukee to Beijing clamored for their own calendar.
This year’s pin-up calendar, plus a new superheroes calendar featuring male cyclists in comic-book-inspired get-ups, proves the project has legs. As of mid-November, more than 400 calendars had been pre-ordered and sales were growing rapidly.
Alexis Finch, who created the calendar, formed a limited liability company to produce it and plans to do one or more calendars every year.
“We might create calendars for other cities or even franchise the idea,” said the former consultant for GIO Global Intelligence, a firm that analyzes foreign markets and product-line-extension opportunities around the world.
The one thing about this project that will not change – either this year or the next – is Finch’s strong commitment to challenging stereotypes of women. “With our chick calendar, we want to say that being sexy and capable is not mutually exclusive,” she said. “Cute girls can fix flats.”
That’s one reason Daphne Karagianis posed as a pin-up. “I’m always in bike mode: cut-offs in the summer, layers in the winter and shoes that look like football cleats year round,” said Miss October 2010. “It was fun to be portrayed as girly.”
None of the 13 women who posed for the calendar this year are models, and all are avid bikers. The “vital statistics” listed online describe their bikes' mechanics and gearing rather than the women’s physiques. To drive the point home that these photos portray serious bikers, each glamorous calendar page includes small black-and-white photos of the “real” women, and information about their relationship with their bike(s) is listed online.
Karagianis, for instance, bikes to work everyday, races at the Ed Rudolph Velodrome in Northbrook and is just getting into cyclo-cross. She dressed up for her glamour photo as a Russian spy in a short black dress and short black trench coat.
Pairing reality shots with each fantasy shot is key, Finch said. “We’re not exploiting women’s sexuality but rather giving women who bike a way of expressing their femininity.”
For the men, the ideals were a bit less lofty. Based on the success of the pin-up calendar, some guys suggested a “dude calendar,” said Christopher Dilts, who shot the photos at no charge – as did Michelle Nolan for the pin-up calendar. “At first we talked about taking a hairy-scary approach, with guys eating steaks,” Dilts said. “Then we settled on superheroes – not the commercially popular ones but superheroes of their own making.”
The whole project is run on a shoestring using volunteer help and borrowed props (except for the working Thompson submachine gun, which had to be rented). Last year, the calendar raised several thousand dollars for the Chicago Women’s Health Center; this year it promises to raise much more.
Said Finch: “It’s cool to be hot for a cause.”
Thought You Knew: thoughtyouknew.us