Rides of Silence, & Otherwise
0 comment Monday, October 6, 2014 |
This Wednesday I picked up a cycling buddy and drove out to Virginia Beach for the Ride of Silence going on there. I felt like a poser for driving to a bicycle event, but that shit is far, and through many un-enjoyable areas. I'll ride forever through safe, pretty, semi-quiet streets, but Virginia Beach doesn't have any of those things in abundance.
The Ride of Silence is "a silent slow-paced ride (max. 12 mph/20 kph) in honor of those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways." It takes place all over the country and was started in 2003 after a cyclist was killed by a school bus mirror. By word of mouth 1,000 cyclists showed up to a memorial ride. The creator thought it would be a one time deal, however the idea caught on and now hundreds of locations across the country join in.
I've never done one of these before and knew only that we'd be rolling slow and that we weren't supposed to talk. I figured it'd be hard not to talk in a group ride, but before we started instructions were given to ride single-file and that definitely made it easier. If you've ever tried to talk to someone on a bike riding single file you know how frustrating it is.
They had black armbands for all of the riders but we showed up only a few minutes before the start and they had already run out. We signed a consent form, donned our helmets (my friend had brought one just in case; I don't think they would have let him ride without it) and were off. Despite the fair number of cyclists obviously shaky from a winter season sans-cycling or planted on indoor trainers we got into single file and out on the busy road without incident.
Our route was about 13 miles along quick and busy roads that show up as thick yellow lines in Google Maps instead of the thin white ones of smaller streets. The shoulder was clean and wide almost the entire distance and besides a tandem bike taking a spill very early on and getting split up by traffic lights there weren't any problems. The weather was perfect and the scenery was surprisingly pretty.
No one honked or asked us what we were doing (at least not in my end of the line) but one young woman did yell, "I looove bikes!" as a full car sped by. The pace stayed nice and slow and many different types of cyclists showed up, from shaved-legged serious types to people on cruisers and commuter bikes. A lot of people came out in full race kit looking ready to race, which I thought was a bit silly for a 10mph memorial ride.
I get bored easily, and the slow pace and silent cyclists got to me. I spent my time experimenting with different settings and strap configurations for my newly acquired camera to see what worked best for on-bike photography. I took 100 pictures and only kept about 17. Figuring out how to keep the camera attached to my body but still have the ability to move and point it wherever I needed was interesting. I didn't come to any definite conclusions, although I did get some awesome pictures of the ground, my hand, and a couple of my face where you could see perfectly up my nose and not much else.
Besides that, my buddy and I appeared to be the only fixed-gear riders in the crowd and found ourselves turning the whole ride into a subtle foot down contest. Track stands at stoplights during a memorial ride could seem a little inappropriate, but it broke up the oppressive atmosphere, at least for me. I know we were taking part in a kind of bicyclist's funeral procession, but I'm a firm believer that if you're doing something un-fun on a bike you're doing something seriously wrong. And if I were one of the faceless fallen friends the ride was meant to honor I'd want people to be enjoying time on their bikes, not trudging along all serious and emo with "Needle in the Hay" playing in their heads.
Once we got back to the starting point armbands were collected and people disbanded without much to-do. One of the riders (who was an elderly gentleman in full matching spandex and was at the front of the procession) yelled that if we were going to ride in a turn lane we'd have to stop and wait for traffic to pass before we could get back into traffic. He seemed upset. And that was basically it, no hanging out, no story sharing, no goodbyes. Maybe I'm used to my group rides being like Critical Mass and alley cats, but this thing was just blah. I don't want to talk smack about what I think is a lovely idea, but I won't be doing this again next year.
In more succinct and upbeat cycling news, the weather here has been awesome and I'm forming tan lines and getting used to the heat already. We had ourselves a bike race recently and for the first time I was the first one across the finish line, which felt rather awesome. A lot of cyclists are out and about and I've gotten over my grumpiness concerning them, at least for now. My kid is due any day now (Monday is the actual due-date) but already I'm looking at bike seats for him or day dreaming about riding around in the sun with him in one of those sling thingies. More on that as it develops.
Have a safe Memorial Day weekend, ride a lot!