Quella rides Critical Mass
Critical mass is often described as an ‘unorganised coincidence’. It happens when cyclists congregate in the same place at the same time and decide to cycle the same way together for a while. A social gathering to meet people and share stories from everyday life. On occasions, it offers individuals the platform to demonstrate more concerning issues in society, albeit of an unorganised nature. Onlookers can do nothing but wait patiently until the procession of riders has meandered leisurely on through, and for a brief moment in time cyclists claim ownership of the streets beneath their wheels.
On the last Friday of every month riders from all walks of life converge under Waterloo Bridge in Central London.
Critical Mass has a global presence. It is said to have officially gained recognition back in in San Francisco in 1992 and has since gained momentum to an ‘unorganised’ event panning over 300 countries worldwide.
The UK summer of 2018 has been hot. The blistering heat at times has been intense and prolonged, however in true English fashion when the day of the Critical Mass came in July the heavens truly opened.
On our way to the gathering, we met up with Matt Derrick friend of Quella Bicycle and owner of clothing brand in the making Paloma Fixie. Matt joined us from Farringdon Tube station as we headed over to Waterloo Bridge.
The weather was changeable, and without notice we faced a downpour supported by huge lightning bolts that proceeded to lighten up the dark skies as we flew fixie style weaving in and out of the traffic in true alleycat fashion.
Still pouring with rain we were drenched to the bone upon arrival at the arches, yet the community vibe that we approached could be seen humming with warmth in the distance. It was an exciting feeling to see so many congregating under the shadows of Waterloo Bridge; the place was a buzz to the eclectic mixture of folk meeting and greeting one another.
People from all walks of life talked in conversation whilst perched proudly next to their carrying modes of cycling transport whether Fixie, MTB, Road ….. All styles were present even the odd ‘Boris’ thrown into the mix.
Right on cue, the rain eased off, the sun poked its face through the parting clouds and the uplift in vibe changed as hundreds of bell’s rang out an unorchestrated high-pitch melody. It was time to head-off as we happily bumped shoulders with others eager to grasp our space and join the moving procession seeking to commence.
Our mass exodus flowed through London, a wave of cyclists that stopped all in their tracks passing landmark after landmark. For a brief moment traffic came to a standstill as without authority parts of the mass broke off and became stewards, planting their roots at junctions preventing the automobile industry from taking ownership of the tarmac that lay before them.
A sense of camaraderie filled the group, the feeling of power to take over and ride the streets of London with no worries about oncoming traffic, a feeling of real exhilaration flowed within.
Everyday, all over the world, people are resisting the problem culture of the car by getting on their bikes and riding, instead of driving. Critical Mass is a celebration of the alternatives to cars, pollution, accidents and the loss of public spaces and freedoms.
Not an organisation or group, but an idea or tactic, Critical Mass allows people to reclaim cities with their bikes, just by getting together and outnumbering the cars on the road.
Every Critical Mass ride is different. With no set route, the direction is chosen spontaneously as people freely cycle along. Everyone is welcome and free to join or leave the ride as it pedals along.
The ride lasts no more than a couple of hours (depending on the weather!) and usually ends in a conveniently placed watering hole, where refreshments are best served by the pint.
Whether in London, San Francisco or Tokyo take part. Most of all, they are peaceful, safe and fun!