Tweed Run 2010: a genteel gathering of riders decked-out in tweed, leather, wool and facial hair. Photograph: Matthew Sparkes
Tweed Run brings cyclists on to streets of London to celebrate an era when lady and gentlemen riders ruled the road
Some journalists would have you believe that a certain Doctor, recently returned to the BBC, has done wonders to revive the street-cred of tweed. But a bow-tied Matt Smith has done nothing for Harris et al that 400 cyclists in London had not already been planning for months.
The Tweed Run genteel gathering of riders decked-out in tweed, leather, wool and copious facial hair, started last year on an internet forum for fixed-gear riders, the brainchild of Ted Young-Ing. The idea was simple: dress up in retro clothes, climb aboard retro bicycles and ride a weaving route through the capital for fun and charity.
The turnout was so good that this year it morphed into a more formal, officially organised event with marshalls, sponsors and a safety car.
It set off from the Rootstein Hopkins Parade Grounds at the Chelsea College of Art & Design on Saturday in glorious sunshine (a little too glorious, perhaps, for a tweed suit and hat), paused at a pub for a marvellous moustache competition, grazed on cucumber sandwiches and tea in Kensington Gardens and pulled-up smartly in Saville Row for a best-dressed prize ceremony.
Along the way it took in miles and miles of central London, with riders insulated from all those dreadful modern motor vehicles by a wonderful team of suave but firm stewards.
I had been fretting over my costume for weeks, and others had clearly gone several steps further; growing huge handlebar moustaches specially for the event, ordering custom-made suits and acquiring vintage bicycles.
The atmosphere on the day was giddily jovial - somewhere between a fancy dress party and a Critical Mass ride. A mood possibly aided by the vintage safety car, which was handing out free gin and tonics.
Blogger Mark from iBikeLondon summed it up nicely, I think, when he said: "On Saturday London felt like the most friendly city in the world; tourists gawked and took photos as we passed, people cheered and applauded, children watched wide-eyed as the spectacle rolled on; even London's famous drivers were [largely] hospitable."
What at first looked like being the only ugly incident actually turned out to be one of the best and most memorable. A pedestrian, who may have been enjoying a drink or two in the sun, stood yelling "Gay!" at the peloton and pointing out riders as they passed. "Yes, yes, we are all very happy," replied one of the quicker-witted riders, doffing his tweed cap and flashing a grin. Being laughed at in public by 400 people in fancy dress will quickly quieten any heckler.
Not only was this one of the most brilliant and unusual days I have had on a bike in ages, it also raised £1,400 for Bike4Africa, a charity that takes second-hand bicycles to the continent for redistribution.
Thankfully, organiser Ted promises that another event is on the cards for next year, but since this year's 400 tickets sold out in under an hour, I may register my interest now.