After working from home on Friday, it took some effort to drag my bones out of the house to join the first Critical Mass ride of the year. But drag my bones I do, and cycle my flesh over to Waterloo for what will be my first ever ride on a Critical Mass.
After one of the Lewisham Cyclists warned me that they were a bit crazy, and a bit too confrontational for her liking, I’m quite excited by the prospect, but also in a weirdly anti-social mood. (That’s what working at home all day with no human contact does to you.) I’m also late, which makes finding the London Beer & Bike’s pre-meet in Bernie Spain Gardens a bit tricky. By the time I’ve got there, they’ve already gone.
Not entirely sure where the main ride leaves from, I cycle around Waterloo until eventually I spot them. They’re not hard to miss, whatever sense you’re using – the sight of 100s of flashing bike lights, the din of the competing sound systems, or the smell of herbals being smoked liberally.
I don’t recognise anyone, so I just start cycling, but this time I’m not making any particular effort to socialise. We head over Waterloo Bridge – there must be around 200 riders in total – and it’s a pleasure to be slowing up the traffic again while listening to one of the filthiest track ever recorded (to much hilarity…)
As we approach the Strand, rather than go over Aldwych we head into the normally ‘cars-only’ underpass. This is one of the roads/tunnels I’ve always wanted to do on a bike, but never had the balls to do alone, so cycling it in a big group is amazing. Bells ringing, people whooping and cheering. I open my can of cider on the way out to celebrate.
We carry on up Holborn, and I help ‘block’ at the junction outside the tube station. One taxi driver is getting particularly wound up. When I tell him we’re blocking the junction for his safety and ours (with a can of cider in my hand) his eyes almost pop out of his head. Taxi drivers need to chill out.
It’s a similar story at Euston, with the traffic on the Euston Road not liking it one bit when we block them, even though we’re basically just stopping them for a couple of minutes as they sit in a traffic jam anyway. This is the strange thing about driver aggro at being ‘stopped’ by a load of bikes.
The mood on the ride is good natured and fun. Sure, there are a few naughty kids in bandanas and there are a few riding BMX’s etc doing pretty stupid stunts and jumps in the path of oncoming cars – ducking away at the last minute. It’s not particularly dangerous or scary though, and for the most part Londoners seem either bemused or are supportive, with plenty of cheers from onlookers and the odd honk from drivers going the other way.
At Camden I decide to call it a night as I have to be back in south London in about 40 minutes time (I’m late, needless to say). Cycling back south, having to stop at red lights and generally behave, is definitely less fun than being part of a Critical Mass. I reckon I’ll be back for more next month.