Isabella Cawthorn is so ardent in her praise of couture biking you could almost believe you were hearing about a foolproof new religion - get on your bike, in a pretty frock, and you will be blessed.
It has certainly done wonders for her. It has trimmed her down, kept her fit, made her happy and boosted her bank balance. She and fellow bike-enthusiast Leah Murphy started Frocks on Bikes only two years ago but the fairly informal organisation now has hundreds of women in eight 'flocks' across the country.
Flock is Isabella's word. And, yes, she says, she is "a kind of bike disciple". "We're a cycling advocacy group but not as we know it, Jim. We don't go out proselytising."
They just go out for a good time, she says, take their bikes where they want to go or need to go, at their own pace, in their usual skirts - or jeans.
"I originally got into cycling because I needed the transport, and trying to lose what my mum called 'puppy fat'. The cycling win-win was, for me, saving money on transport, meeting fabulous people and looking good doing it. I can eat what I like. If you go to a party and get sozzled you can walk your bike home. It's a no-brainer for me and it struck me that many women could have a great time but they don't, because they think you need to be a card-carrying cyclist."
By that she means someone in Lycra bike gear, approaching the road with a "warrior mentality," seeing cycling as a sort of endurance sport.
Lots of people don't look good in Lycra, she says "and it shouldn't be a barrier to getting on a bike".
Leah and Isabella met at a bike-to-work breakfast in 2008. Leah was biking off to her policy job at the Research Science and Technology Ministry and Leah, trained as an accountant, to her job at the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. It was a nice, sunny day, recalls Isabella, and there were only about five people, all girls, including them, not in Lycra.
"People were giving us funny looks. Why is this, we thought. All these people will have to change at work, and all that cycling gear is not so attractive. We wondered if more women would be keen on cycling if they didn't have to get into the gear. There are still far fewer women because they're probably scared of it. The road warrior idea, girding yourself to go into battle, probably has something to do with it."
From that meeting came Frocks on Bikes, set up voluntarily with a manifesto, a website frocksonbikes.wordpress.com and themselves as a "mother ship" in Wellington. "If you want to set up one in your area, we can get you started."
Groups get together to do whatever appeals. Last year Wellington Frockers held a Wheel Stylish fashion show for charity. More than 150 people, "and a dog", turned up for the 2010 Valentine's Day ride. Celia Wade-Brown was one.
"She was an early supporter. She's been riding around in her normal clothes for 10 years. She's the quintessential Frocker."
Isabella can't see what the fuss was over Wellington's mayor biking to meet Hillary Clinton. "If riding a bike means turning up in clothes you would to meet someone special, why would you not?"
Frocks on Bikes is fundamentally fun. "We're not environmentalists. I suppose we like to think it's sensible if you need to go to the dairy that you don't move two tonnes of metal. It's so much nicer and more fun to move 10 kilos of bike."
There's no necessity to look rugged, sweaty and gritty.
"That presumes you have to ride fast. You can cycle at any speed you like, even get off at hills and walk the bike. Drivers do get aggressive at slow cyclists, even more than at slow drivers. There is this hurry, hurry thing in New Zealand.
"Bikes are just a part of local traffic, not special road-users with a disability." She deplores increasing aggression by both car drivers and cyclists and a "them and us" attitude.
Occasionally she bikes out to Plimmerton to see her parents. "My mother says I have a great figure, and 'how can you eat so much?'.
"It's the bike, Mum. You get really nice endorphins and you get to enjoy life."
- © Fairfax NZ News