We are 12. And still we ride. Not always on time though. It's one of the inevitabilities of being part of 'a random gathering of self organised and independent cyclists.'
'What time does the ride start?'
'What time can you get here?'
Gawd bless you, 'Mam
Waiting around under the Waterloo Bridge arches on the last Friday of every month for the past twelve years is all part of the experience though. This is the Critical Mass social scene. It's a lot more fun than wasting away your money in some poncey West End 'lifestyle' bar on a Friday night. Dress policy is Come as You Are, the only cost is your time and the queues are caused by the Petrol Heads as the cyclists weave through the West End.
Critical Mass IS my lifestyle.
And so finally sometime after 7pm on Friday night, the 144th Critical Mass London started the slow pedal up towards the Imax Island. I think I have got my maths right here.
We were serenaded off by a Samba Band on bikes, as well as free sweets being handed out to celebrate the occasion. All the partying even forced a smile from of the female Bobbies on Bikes. Or maybe she had just seen the truncheon in between my legs?
Across the Ray Davies, down the Strand, we took Trafalgar and then snaked through to St James. Not a great variation on the sound system front this Friday, and I'm sure it was the first time that old school Sisters of Mercy has been heard around SW1. Hopefully the last as well.
Piccadilly saw the first bike thrusting into the air moments - the traditional Critical Mass salute for solidarity. It's the equivalent of having an increasing number of birthday candles on your cake each year, and for the twelfth anniversary celebrations, a fair number of frames were hoisted above heads in the centre of town. I made a secret wish as my Marin was lifted.
The Mass then took a mainly West End route through Soho, Charring Cross Road, Oxford Street, Marble Arch and Park Lane. A little detour to take in the American Embassy and a little paranoia from the Bobbies on Bikes who laudably blocked off the already heavily fortified building, fearing a bunch of Friday evening cyclists were about to inflict some serious damage on the Special Relationship.
We picked up the pace heading towards the Palace, and here's where I took the cue to peddle through Westminster and back to Sunny Stockwell. Just over a week late for Brenda's official 80th birthday celebrations, but I bet she enjoyed the Pistols being pumped out on her front lawn at full volume on Friday night. Gawd Bless you 'Mam, you blue blooded baby eating lizard.
In twelve months time and Critical Mass will be a teenager. Now there's a scary thought. Mood swings, debatable dress sense and minor skin complaints. And that's just the Bobbies on Bikes.