What ho! 400 of London’s most sartorial Gents and most finely attired Ladies gathered in Chelsea on Saturday for the Tweed Run 2010. Following the success of last year’s inaugural event which spawned a raft of ‘copy cat’ rides around the world, this weekend brought bright sun and blue skies for a truly unique group ride around London.
Riders of all ages and abilities came in their finest tweed to set out and raise money for Bikes4Africa, all whilst having a most splendid time. Competitions were held for finest moustache, best dressed rider, most gentlemanly conduct and most enviable vintage bicycle. Sponsors provided copious quantities of gin and cucumber sandwiches and a fine time was had by all. On the ride around, passing Big Ben and the Palaces of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Saville Row, Kensington Gardens, St Paul’s Cathedral and many more of London’s finest sites, I caught up with some of the riders and asked what makes a Tweed Run rider tick?
Adrian, attired in a sharp light blue suit, cap and spats, brought his family all the way from Paris to take part in the Run. “I think it’s a certain idea of England, that everyone around the world admires, this smart look and conduct. We think cycling is getting very ugly so perhaps it is time to do something about it, maybe this ride will help? I brought my whole family, including my 7 year old daughter; it’s a unique opportunity for her to cycle across London, see the city and do it safely.”
There were a bevy of beautiful bicycles, including one ridden by a stately gentleman called Ted who’d left Honiton in Devon at 6AM to join the ride; his bicycle was a 100 year old Sunbeam. Neil, who writes for The Chap magazine had a mini Penny Farthing (a half farthing?!) “I’ve brought a rather foolish choice of bicycle; it’s a mini Penny Farthing, the Smart Car of the urban Penny Farthing world! No brakes, very easy to ride up hill but very difficult to ride down hill; if one’s feet come off the pedals they basically turn into rotating blades: I’m already looking forward to a pint if I make it to the end of today.” Marc, who’d come down to London from Northampton, brought his Kirk Revolution with him – built in Essex in the 1980s they were one of the first bicycles made using computer aided design, and the frame is cast magnesium. His outfit was pure tweed however; old met new perfectly.
And what outfits there were on show! All of the riders had clearly invested masses of time and effort in ensuring that they looked their best on the day, even down to the last detail; Hannah, and her friend George, visited no less than three tobacco shops in order to find cigarettes small enough to fit in their vintage cigarette case. Said George: “It’s nice to be able to make a difference and get dressed up a bit, and hark back to a smarter era. It’s just so pleasant; it’s not like the usual hustle and bustle riding experience you usually get. Everyone has made such an effort, it’s brilliant to see.” There was Harris tweed, woollen plus fours, silk ties and cycling capes aplenty. Hannes, from Karlsruhe in Germany, had his girlfriend help with his outfit: “I’m very lucky, my girlfriend is a fashion designer and she took my measurements, searched all of the charity shops and then adjusted everything for me. She’s here today and we’re going to have a great time.” Eloise from Kings Cross is more used to working the cloth “I make Bobbin Bicycles’ bowler hats and deer stalkers, so this event really appealed to me. It’s nice to dress up and go for a ride!” The gentlemen all looked wonderful, and most respectable indeed. Benjamin from London had sourced his socks from Barbour, his cravat from Hermes and his boots were original 1950s. Where people couldn’t find something to wear that was quite right, innovation and craft won the day; Clara from Old Street had been busy with needle and thread. “I think that tweed stuff for women can be quite hard to come by, so I went to loads of different charity shops, got off-cuts of tweed and different bits, cut them all up and stitched it together myself. It took quite a long time ‘cos I’m not very good at it! I’m really looking forward to seeing the public’s reaction and raising lots of money for charity is good of course, especially when there is free gin at the end of it. And come on, look at everyone, they look fabulous!”
And so it was that the Tweed Run, impeccably turned out and smart in its manners, wound its way through the streets of London. Cucumber sandwiches were served from the (vintage) safety car as we rolled down the Mall (it doesn’t get more English than that!), and tea and cakes were served in china tea cups beneath the bunting strung between the trees in Kensington Gardens as a small orchestra entertained. At the end of the ride there was great gaiety, dancing and celebration at the closing party, held in a restored Victorian Turkish bath house – there was jive dancing and the musical stylings of Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer. A great time was had by all.
This event, which for me shows more than anything else that cycling can be a sartorially splendid affair and need not be solely the reserve of those clad in sports apparel, also helps to show cyclists in a good light too. 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. Everyone taking part enthused what an incredible event it was; indeed even those I saw fixing punctures at the very start of the race did so with smiles on their faces.
That the Tweed Run was better organised than one of Her Majesty’s Ships was self-evident, but all that was down to the hard work and dedication of Jacqui and Teddy, the event organisers. They in turn, I am sure, could not have done it all without the help and selflessness of their team of volunteers and marshals. All should be equally proud. Congratulations and I doff my cap to you all.
* Where people's names appear highlighted, I have linked to a photo of them that I have from the day. My full set of Tweed Run 2010 photos can be be found here, and are covered by a Creative Commons License; please check conditions before re-producing.