No, not that critical mass required to get Ham into space, but on bikes!

In Physics, critical mass relates to the smallest amount of a substance required to create a nuclear reaction. Another definition is the smallest number of people or things needed to make something happen.

Well the critical mass I am speaking of is not the one required to get a Monkee in to space again, but a critical mass of cyclists! Friday 24th June was the first time I have really had the opportunity to get in to the City, to join in on one of the monthly, (last Friday of the month), Critical Mass rides.

The original Monkee Tall Bike!

I had previously been lead to believe that they were an assembly of cyclists who took over the roads, with almost blatant disregard to the road rules, in an effort to slow motorists down, and fight for their rights to reclaim the roads. This was not the case at all, in fact when Bonnie called the group to order for a pre ride briefing, they were all very respectful, and all quietened so Bonnie could be heard.

As there were a number of us new to Critical Mass, this was excellent to see. Bonnie outlined her expectations of the assembled 40+ riders, and her request that they all follow the road rules, all obey the traffic lights, not block the entire road, if there were two lanes, occupy the left lane only, allowing motorists to pass freely and clearly on our right.

So after an obligatory pose for a group photo shoot, we commenced the ride with numerous laps of the Victoria square Fountain. Jim & I were just starting to feel the nausea kick in from such tight little circles, when we broke off and commenced a nice tour through the City. BJ & I decided to ride Lanterne Rouge, apparently a position most often ridden by BJ on the Critical Mass rides, and one with which I am extremely comfortable, as I don’t mind controlling the odd bit of traffic.

Our spin took us in to the Parklands, for a circuit of the Clipsal Track, which was excellent, given that it was pitch black in there, and the only light was from our bikes. It was an awesome sight to see a stream of red & white lights, and the occasional blue light too from some of our wheels!

On the subject of the blue lights, as we were heading down Hutt Street, a Police Officer on the sidewalk saw us passing, and was just reaching for his mike when I pulled over for a brief chat with him, just to let him know what it was all about. He was happy enough to watch then, as the riders continued unimpeded by our friends in blue.

So, a Google search shows that these Critical Mass rides happen globally, and that there are actually designated riders who take set positions on the rides, and they are known as corkers. It is their job to close down the intersections, and allow the group to pass through safely. In theory, this has the opportunity to work excellently, however in practice there can be a number of issues. For one, as a new rider, I was totally unaware of the role of the corker!

For me, when a light is red, I will not progress through the intersection unless I am receiving clear indication from an officer of the law, or a traffic control officer, to do so. The speed at which we were travelling, not getting through an intersection is not a major issue, as it was so easy to catch the group who did make it through the lights. For mine, if a motorist sees one cyclist flaunting the law, we are all guilty of it. Plus, some Adelaide motorists are not quite ready yet to be stopped at lights by some cyclists, to let more cyclists ride through on a Friday night. Sad I know, but I guess that in part is what Critical Mass is setting out to change.

In all, it was an excellent little ride, well lead and structured by Bonnie and her team. My only criticism, and we did speak to Bonnie about it after the ride, is that sadly some riders still ride as individuals, not part of the mass, so were occupying lanes that they should not, or cutting through traffic in a manner that was not to the benefit of either the rider, or the vehicles around him. But sadly just like the impatient motorists, we also have impatient cyclists. I guess we just have to work on them as well.

The ride finished in China Town, where we all gathered, and quite a number of us headed in to the food court for a feed of Chinese! Such a great way to finish a ride! I opted for a feed of Thai rice, but when I saw the sweet deliaght Anya returned to the table with, being crepes, cream, and strawberries, I kind of regretted my decision a little!!!

I look forward to the next one, and I really look forward to seeing this group grow in to an even larger number of riders, but riding as a mass, obeying all of the road rules, and ensuring the safety of all participants, pedestrians, and other road users, which is exactly what Bonnie wants to see too!.

So, a massive thanks to Bonnie Bone Shaker and her team for the huge amount of work they all put in to cycling and skating in Adelaide. If you are keen to learn more about Critical Mass, follow the Facebook Link embedded here.

Keep the rubber side down,