Another one in from our Far East Correspondent Response. The Ride of Silence event occurred several weeks ago. I’m a little late in posting this. But, I’ve been a bit buried with this bar review course I’m taking this summer. Better late than never, right?
Last night I busted a move to Tsim Sha Tsui (often abbreviated as TST, an ultra urbanized area in southern Kowloon , Hong Kong), to attend the 4th anual HK Ride of Silence. 7:00 pm sharp.
So I screwed around till the last second getting my shit ready. It looked like rain, so I packed raingear. Also, I grabbed a camera, a bike tool, a stack of peacesupplies bike stickers and a kaleidoscopic overkill of lights and reflectors for the night-time ride and slammed them into my bag. Oh yes, and I donned my “head trauma sucks” helmet.
The event was to begin at the TST clock tower. Just getting there from my house is running the gauntlet. I diced it up with cabs and busses as per. Of course my front tire was nearly flat (I checked the back one before I left). I am getting bullied by cabs (the fucks) only to blow past them as I split lanes moments later. Then of course I set my sites higher and started going outlaw to keep pace with some kid on his crotch rocket. He ain’t so tough when it comes to running red lights!
I get within 200 yards of the clock tower and drop my chain. Fucking 1×9 nonsense! Now I am trying to dig my chain out of my bottom bracket, but it’s wedged in there really good and the bolts on the crank are hindering progress. Not a big deal, unless you’re in one of the most heavily populated places on Earth. I have thousands of people trying to squeeze around me as I sweat and curse my chain and grind dirty grease into my bleeding knuckles. Since I am was creating a big sidewalk obstacle, there are now people gathering around me, standing in the lee that I’ve created in the dense foot traffic. I feel like some kind of human reef as people on cell phones and shoppers gather next to me and stop to rearrange their belongings or rest. A symbiotic relationship emerges as they begin to shield me from the bumbling masses.
With my now bent chain back on track, I limp to the Clock Tower with 15 minutes to spare. There are a few hundred bikes gathered already. There’s a BIG folding bike crowd, with their subway friendly rigs. There’s the MTB crowd, sporting carnivorous knobbies that look way out of place on the ultra urban TST boardwalk. There’s the hyper race fags in their team weasel suits and NASA designed helmets riding road bikes that weigh less than the shit took this morning. There’s even a guy on a super raked out chunk666 rig. Of course people are falling over themselves to take pictures of his $40 rig, much to the chagrin of the high dollar boys.
I find myself talking to a couple of big brits. One of them is nice enough to help me pump my front tire to a usable level. Next thing I know I am getting chatted up about everything from Cyclecide, to Drunk Cyclist to Slayer by the local cats. This is thirsty work, but there’s no beer anywhere as this is a ROS. The mood is serious, but still festive.
I thought that I had clearly established myself as being disreputable, however, an event leader handed me a florescent reflecto vest and christened me a marshal. It figures. Maybe I should have worn my “EMERGENCY BUKAKKE” T-shirt so they could have made a better character judgment about me.
The organizers had a small PA system. Our white boy shouted about bike safety awareness and how the guvmn’t needs to do something. I was feeling embarrassed. As a guest in HK, I have no political ambitions good or bad. Our boy handed the microphone to his Cantonese speaking cohort who was a bit more animated. He proceeded to get the crowd (95% Cantonese speakers) whipped into a frenzy of shouting and clapping. We then knelt by our bikes and had a few minutes of silence.
The police presence was significant but light hearted. HK police are not big tough guys. They tend to be polite, firm but fair. I believe there were even an off duty cop or two in our midst. The cops wanted to divide us into packs, in one coned off lane between the numerous stop lights. They had prepared for an estimated 400 riders, but there was an easy 1000.
I took position in the rear as a wrangler. I made big circles, making sure people were alright, picking up a little trash (from tourist, not us!) and keeping an eye on our progress. It took about 45 minutes to get our whole pack on the road. The big brit, a bigger local guy on a folding commuter bike and me brought up the rear, right behind a group of newly fixed kids. There’s an HK fixy girl in front of me, she’s clumsy and halting but she’s so cute I can hardly stand it. Her fixed cycling bro pulls a wheelie and spins his handle bars to pass time.
I felt a little uneasy being in the very back as we had the cops all over our ass. A giant police van and 5 motorcycles were revving their motors in frustration behind us. Just then the cops started yelling at a girl who was foundering. She had no lights, no reflectors or helmet and her $100 suspension rig was fucking up. I grabbed my pants leg reflector from my handle bars and slapped it around her wrist with a satisfying snap and curl. Then I grabbed her kickstand that was rubbing her rear tire and muscled it into the proper position. “No thanks needed darlin’, I’ll circle back and hump you later” I say with a wink.
We continue at a snail’s pace. Alternately riding and walking. The group is getting stretched out now. The usual choked auto traffic on Nathan (the main north south drag) has now ground to a satifying halt. (behold the greatness mutherfuckers!) There’s a van full of Middle Eastern dudes trapped next to us that are tripping out on the bikes and cops. They are blasting this super groovy mid-east music. This is upsetting me, because despite the somber event mood, I feel in danger of a spontaneous dance party breaking out. I groove inwardly to pass the time..
The people in double decked busses and the teaming hordes on the sidewalks are snapping pictures. A Chinese lady runs into the street to have her friend take a picture of me. I smile and wink at the photographer and then flash a hail Satan and try to stick my tongue in the ladies ear. Everyone was amused. I wish I had that picture.
The cops were taking about 200 riders per group into the street and they had coned off a lane. Since there are traffic lights every 200 feet and traffic is always less than 10 mph, the cops decide to try and keep us grouped a bit better, so they are having us run the red lights!!! I grin as our session becomes a slow motion interval gig. Crawl, and then sprint through the lights. I do this with both hands in the air like I’m crossing the finish line to the delight of the pedestrians.
Just then, my fucking bent chain exploded. I could hear the pin shoot out and ping off a cab door. Now I have gone from Marshall, to casualty. Fucking 1×9 bullshit! My Brit buddy inspects the damage and agrees that my night is over. I hand over my fluorescent marshal vest and bid them farewell.
I stood on my pedal and scootered a few miles towards home which incidentally was the same direction as the ROS. I found myself passing one of the groups. They looked impressive.
I didn’t see the end of the gig, however I don’t think it ended up at a pub. No harm no foul. I’ll do it again next year, however I am going to throw a full size bike pump in my bag and crush a few beers prior to launch.