The Raw Ride

Let me tell you about my behavior at this year’s big group ride for the city.

The have been apparently focused remodeling of late, and that project doesn’t appear to have an end in sight. This doesn’t mean we aren’t occasionally having fun or doing things that others think of as strange. (Note: some links are NSFW)

Just this last weekend, we went on a free, late night bike ride with a large number of intimate friends. As a comparison, the BridgePedal is a bike based fundraiser that has published routes up to 24 miles in length and costs $40 to join in, and garners 12,000 riders each year. This other ride is also an annual event, but its only about 7 miles of slow riding, yet when we leave the starting place, the riders don’t know the exact route. Actually, the police officers that hold traffic at the intersections also don’t know the route until it starts (I assume their supervisors know). Still, the gawkers knew were we began and lined the streets. And stepped off the curbs. And into the lanes where 10,000 bikers are trying to pass.

Now, I’ve done years of bike patrol, including the starting line up of the Chequamegon Fat Tire 40, where we spend some time working the crowd before the ATVs fire up their engines to lead the pack of racers down Main Street. Just before the gun, we get the high sign and ‘race’ down the curb lines, encouraging the spectators to step back least they get hit not by our few bicycles but by the dense pack of 2500 determined souls come up behind us. When we are passed by the ATVs, we dive off into the crowd. I’m pretty sure we’ve prevented some ugly accidents by being the gentle reminder that the road is reserved for the event.

Not everyone at last weekend’s meandering Portland event has the bike handling skills to break suddenly, nor the crowd handling skills to ‘scare’ a gawker back onto the sidewalk from the middle of the car lane. I do.

I have to admit, I kinda reveled in being an ass. The bars open up and tipsy travelers step out to watch and make a nuisance of themselves, so I returned the favor.

I aimed for them.

I was at least half way back in the pack, but I gave up avoiding them and rode the curb line, ringing a bell and verbally reminded the crowd that there were a bunch of riders stuck in the bottleneck because the 4 lane road was constricted to about 1 lane because of them.

Many of them thought I was joyfully swinging close because I wanted to glad hand or high-5, and maybe 1 or 2 still had that notion once I passed. Really, John Q. Public: think before you step out into the way of traffic.

No, I didn’t actually hit anyone. But they got the hint.

Beyond the starting blocks, the crowds thinned – this isn’t actually a parade, the event is for the participants rather than couch potatoes (sidewalk spuds?). At various points, some crowd gathered, but rarely did I need to repeat the act of citizen traffic enforcement.

As always, it felt like we spent more time coasting downhill than working up a sweat going uphill, and therefore kinda chilly. The group is a spectacle but not particularly erotic or lewd (though the gawkers were trying to be – there’s a reason I call them that rather than ‘spectators’ like CFTF fans). Costuming was great, with a prevalence of flexible glow sticks and flashlights in surprising locations and interesting paint jobs – I thoroughly enjoyed the creativity of my fellow participants, even though I was only bedecked with my bike pirate flag and a blinky green light. Of my immediate party, we had a tail light that made a smily face on the wearer’s back, a couple of gals who were a bit tied up, and a few just being theirselves.

Eventually, the pack meandered back near its start, and we peeled off to find the vehicle we’d stashed. Dropping off our biker brethren, we made it home extremely late – or early, depending on your view.


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