Miles of smiles: The Tweed Run 2011

I say! What do you get if you take a fist full of sartorial elegance, a flock of fine vintage bicycles, a flair of sunshine and the roads of central London on one glorious spring Saturday? The Tweed Run 2011, that's what!

After the huge success of the ride in 2010, competition for places on this, the third Tweed Run, was tough. As a result everyone there on Saturday seemed extra pleased to be taking part and everyone had gone to extraordinary lengths to show off their incredible outfits and beautiful bicycles. Riders had come from near and far in their finest attire, but this isn't just a unique jaunt about town of course; it's all in aid of Bikes4Africa, too, which ships bicycles to African children so they might get to and from school.

The riders gathered in the shadow of magnificent St Paul's Cathedral at the start point, and there was plenty of time to admire bikes, outfits and talk to some of the participants before we set off.

Chris and Deirdre had cycled up from Peckham. Said Chris: "It is my second year and it’s like no other ride in London! There’s a genteel attitude, a kind of politeness that is so different to regular commuting in London."  Deirdre agreed; "It’s almost a surreal atmosphere, but it’s a lot of fun."


Rena had been scouring vintage shops to collect together pieces to make the perfect suit for the day, whilst Stephanie had gone for a white number and what had to be one of the best head pieces on the day. "I’ve not done the Tweed Run before; my son introduced me to it. I ride my bike everyday because it’s easier and quicker to get where I want. And this is all I have left in my dressing up wardrobe, so it all seemed appropriate!"


I spoke to Nick through a cloud of pipe smoke; "I wear side burns all year round, so it wasn’t so hard for me to look the part. I love to see other people dressed up and at their best, I’m not a regular cyclist but I think that bikes and style are a wonderful combination."


Fleur and Jennifer looked like they'd just stepped out of some fabulous time machine and were attracting lots of attention (including that of two local Policemen who were only too eager to have their photographs taken with the girls!) Fleur said "I loved it so much last year, and Jenny and I were the only ones amongst our friends who were able to get places. The weather is so beautiful, almost too beautiful, I’m not sure our pale and interesting skin will last too long in this sunshine!" Riding matching Pashley Princess Sovereigns their bikes at least looked set to last the course.


Rob had brought along 8 year old Grace for the day, and she looked excited and ready for a fun day out on central London's roads on Rob's tandem "I came for the bikes more than the clothes for me, I love vintage bikes, all the retro rides – today we’re riding a tandem from the 30s."

As the riders assembled, it soon became apparent that there was more bike porn than one could waive a clammy palm at. From every type of upright, to some beautiful fixed gear bikes, from vintage trikes and tandems, to Dursley Pedersens (want!), Bakfiets cargo bikes (want!) and my favourite, a Mercian which was ridden by one of the marshals which had the most amazing cream and green paint scheme. (Want! Want! Want!) Sometimes, rather ordinary looking ordinaries belied their astonishing history. Jackie had come from Biggin Hill in Kent, and was particularly looking forward to riding past Buckingham Palace for one very special reason; "My bike originated from Hythe Militaria, an old military base, and apparently – so the story goes – Queen Elizabeth II used to ride this very bike in her youth. One of the Old Boys there had it put away for years and years, and he got chatting to my husband so we rescued it and it’s still going strong today so we thought we’d bring it up for today."


The sun was obscenely hot for April, but Ralph had come prepared - the basket on his old butcher's bike was packed with strawberries, cucumber and a bottle of Pimms. Sadly, Marks & Spencers had sold out of mint so it would seem he wasn't the only one planning on mixing a few Pimms and lemonades...

Others had taken relatively modern bikes and added their own personal touches - Stephen from Ashburton in Devon had taken a British bike that's made in the West Country, a Charge Plug, and added a Brooks saddle, moustache handlebars and a frame mounted thermos flask holder.


Iain and Liz looked excited on the steps of St Paul's as the crowd of 500 or so riders gathered for the group photo. Liz explained that though she only lived up the road in Hackney, she'd actually come a long way for the ride; "I arrived back in London from Hong Kong this morning, so Iain brought this Tweed jacket from a charity shop while I’ve been away and I’ve matched it with a summer dress – I wished he’d checked the weather forecast though, it’s warm!"
Iain obviously had checked the weather forecast though, as he'd taken the tweed theme and re-interpreted it to suit the unseasonably sunny weather we had on Saturday; "Because it is so hot, this year I’ve decided to come as a working class boy from Hackney. Aside from the vest, the trousers and braces are pure Tweed Run, though I’m not sure you can get vintage SPDs..."

All too soon it was time for the ride proper to set off. After the obligatory group photo, a bugle was sounded and cries of 'Mount Up!' were heard. Soon, the air was filled with the ringing of hundreds of bicycle bells as the riders set off down Ludgate Hill, with well wishers cheering from the road side and tourists snapping away furiously from the deck of open top bus tours.


And goodness, wasn't this year's Tweed Run route fast?! Of course, there were the snares and bottlenecks you'd expect when you try to squeeze 500 odd cyclists through London's ancient road network at the same time, but by and large the marshals did an incredible job of keeping the traffic at bay as the ride whizzed through.


Indeed, so fast was the ride at times that getting ahead to try and take photographs proved exhausting. Subsequently I apologise in advance for the somewhat shakey nature of my video of the day, below, but you try racing up Regent Street and keeping a steady hand at the same time... The ride passed all of the London landmarks; the London Eye, Westminster Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly, Saville Row (where Huntsman had a wonderful Tweed Run-themed window display), and Oxford Circus before stopping for afternoon tea in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Last year we were served gin and tonics from a vintage car as we rode down the Mall and I didn't think it could get more English than that, till I saw the epic cue for tea and cucumber sandwiches this year - possibly the most English thing I've ever seen! It's all in the video, as is a little cautionary tale for anyone who rides a vintage bike with rod brakes like mine who tries to film other cyclists and not look where they are going...

After tea, the ride wound its way from Holborn to London’s East End. Crowds of contemporary cyclists getting coffee at Look Mum No Hands bike cafe cheered us on, and navigating the Old Street roundabout is a pleasure when you're in the company of 500 other two-wheeled well-dressed bods, as opposed to the usual fight for space with buses, cabs and juggernaughts. All too soon we'd reached the end of the ride in Bethnal Green where drinks were served, cake was eaten, and people danced in the dance hall, or just lingered outside in the afternoon sun.


Samuel was pleased to have been able to complete the ride; "I’ve come from Helsinki in Finland, and this is my first time in the Tweed Run. I’ve been really looking forward to this, but the airline lost my bike en route to London – nobody knows where my bike is, but I didn’t miss out completely, I rode a Boris Bike instead."


Sandra and Lydia, still looking entirely composed in their outfits after the 10 mile ride, and without a glint of sweat between them, summed up their day; "I’m an avid cyclist, and I really like the vintage scene and swing dance and all that so for me it’s all my favourite things in one event" explained Lydia. Sandra agreed; "I saw it last year, and had to do it this year."

They both agreed they'd had a wonderful day, with Sandra hitting the nail on the head as to why the Tweed Run is just so special; "I’ve really enjoyed the politeness of the day. If anyone was a bit irate being held up along the way, shouting or blowing their horns, everyone on the ride gave them a waive or doffed their caps and wished them a ‘Good day Sir!’ London ought to be like this every day!"


Ted and Jacqui, the Tweed Run organisers, and their team of volunteer marshals, tea pourers, sandwich makers and behind the scenes helpers should be immensely proud of themselves for organising such a superbly well-oiled day which clearly brought happiness to many hundreds of people. That in doing so they might also bring joy to African school children through the medium of the humble bicycle is immensely inspiring. What's more I think the Tweed Run has proven once and for all that style and cycles can go together.
Thank you, Tweed Run! Pip pip!

Names highlighted in orange indicate a link to a photo of the individual mentioned.  These photos and many more of the day can be seen at my Flickr account here.


Anonymous said...


Lady Vélo said...

Fantastic blog Mark!

Without a doubt, the Tweed Run was the the best experience I have had to date on my Pashley ever! The vibe was amazingly friendly & the organisation of the whole event was immaculate - hats off to Ted & Jacqui & the Marshals for such a wonderful experience. I've never seen so many Dapper and Chic Ladies and Gentlemen (including your good self Sir - was lovely to meet you!) in one place...

I'm already hoping I can do this again :)

Lady Vélo (the smiling lady in the LV scarf)

ibikelondon said...

It was wonderful to meet you too LadyVelo - I agree it really is an incredibly well organised event considering it all takes place in public space with no police escort or any heavy handed authority involvement. And the atmosphere was most congenial!

Looking forward to meeting you again, we should go for a ride sometime!

Thanks for your kind comment, you look great in that photo above.


Paul van der Hart said...

Wonderful blog about a wonderful ride. Too bad I couldn't be there!

I'm curious about the music in the video: who/what is it?

ibikelondon said...

Thanks Paul!

The music in the video is a remix of the Puppini Sister's cover of Beyonce's Crazy in Love. The Puppini Sisters are a London-based 40's-style close harmony group and they do all sorts of covers of modern songs. The sing feel just seemed to suit the day!

Freedom Cyclist said...

Jealous! Jealous! Jealous! - in fact 'tweedy-green' with jealousy!

Looks so beautiful - fabulous photos!!!

ibikelondon said...

Thanks Sue, you're too kind!

Antonia said...

That VIDEO is brilliant! Brought tears to my eyes. Perfect tribute to the happy day. Who did the song?

ibikelondon said...

Thank you so much Antonia, that's really kind of you. The remix is a mash up of the Puppini Sister's cover of 'Crazy in Love' and an old recording of 'Puttin on the Ritz'. I'm afraid I don't know who did the mix, 'cos I found it on Youtube, here:
I just though it worked perfectly and matched the atmosphere of the day so well!

Sam, aka The Minx said...

I think my favourite part of the whole day was the friendliness and civility of it all. I spotted so many people in the video who I ended up chatting to as we wound along the route; the only ones I'm surprised not to have seen in there were the lads on the tandem which was as well stocked as any bar! I kept bumping into them (not actually, thankfully), most notably during the Tea Break when they were teaching two St John's Ambulance gals the basics of tandem riding. I grabbed a snap or two as evidence then left them to it.

Sterling work by the Tweed Run team (and yerself with all these fab pics) - I can't wait for next year's to roll around, although I'm sure everyone who helped organise and cover it would like a well-deserved break.


Anonymous said...

Lovely report, enjoyed the video, really want to do this ride and travel down from the Midlands, how does one register for the ride?

Keep up the good reporting!

John K-K

Anonymous said...

Just another thing what is that cracking background music to the video?

John K-K

Ben said...

My only criticism would be they should publish more details of the route on their website. as someone who wanted to attend but couldn't trying to follow the run with the timings from their website was impossible and frustrating. I got to Oxford street half an hour early but they never showed up.

ibikelondon said...

Hi Ben,

I think the route was kept deliberately ambiguous to stop people from gate-crashing the ride. Numbers are strictly limited by the authorities because this is the only self-policing rolling stop ride in central London (other than Critical Mass, which is all together different legally) so participant numbers are a bit of a sensitive subject. What's more, those who were taking part had paid a donation to Bikes4Africa as it is a charity event.

I promise we did get to Oxford Street though! Timings are a bit lucid because squeezing 500 or so cyclist through London is a bit stop and go to be honest.

Try registering next year, and good luck!

@John KK You'll have to follow the Tweed Run website for details of how to register for each event. It's not widely publicised, but word of mouth is a powerful thing - this year all 500 places were snapped up within 10 minutes of registration opening. I'll send you a message about the music.


Paul Kramer said...

Great post.
I'm the publisher of Riders' Collective, a free monthly online cycling journal that aggregates choice content and repackages it into a magazine format. I would love to include this post in my next issue and am wondering if you would give me permission to do so. I would include attribution and a link back to your blog and, if you'd like, bio information. My latest issue is a year-end photo portfolio, so a past issue would give you a better idea of what R'C is all about.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Paul Kramer
Riders' Collective
/by us/for us/about us/

The Owl Of Derision said...

Awesome photos! I tried to register for the ride myself, but unfortunately all places were gone already. It looks like a good time was had by all!

I've actually only discovered the joys of genteel cycling recently, and it's inspired me to write a blog post on the joys - and frustrations - of being a Lady Cyclist in London

Hope you enjoy it!

Kim said...

This is utterly shocking! How dare these people go about riding bicycles and enjoying them selves, without the use of safety equipment!! Don't they know that the Highway Code says all cyclist must wear high visibility clothing and helmets!!!

Anyone seeing these images might get the mistaken impression that riding a bicycle is a safe and fun activity, which anyone can do. Good God, they might even take to doing it to go to the shops, and in so doing, get in the way of far more important people who are driving cars! People riding bicycle should know their place, which is in the gutter!

I feel so out raged I might have to write to the Daily Mail about it. Why, these people weren't even wearing Lycra! How can we possibly vilify people wearing tweeds?!?!

ibikelondon said...

@Kim I know, a disgrace, isn't it? ;-)

Chandra said...

Awesome photos!
Peace :)