Critical Mass

Now, I don’t want to sound melodramatic or anything, but I think Critical Mass may have been one of the reasons I moved to Joburg almost 12 years ago.

Although I only heard about it a few months back, I think all this time and all this Joburg loving reached it’s peak on Friday night.  Rather magically, the night of a blue moon.  A Spring blue moon.

Critical Mass, an unofficial bike ride on the last Friday of every month, is held in cities all over the world.  People and their bikes, and the night sky.  Just that.  For the people, by the people.

I arrived in Braamfontein with my bike, my skateboard helmet and not one but two Kelloggs Special K bars.  Cyclists were milling around wearing everything from full branded riding gear to jeans and t-shirts.  And there was beer.  I had been worried about my level of cycling fitness (which is just above zero) but when I saw the jeans and the beer and the fairy lights wrapped around bikes, I knew I would be just fine.

I stood outside Kitcheners in Braamfontein (the meeting point) and watched in wonder as the streets very, very quickly went from this:

To This:

And then we rode.  We rode through Mayfair and Fordsburg and into town.  Past Mary Fitzgerald Square, through the banking district and across Ghandi Square.  All the way to Arts on Main where we filled the streets, and the pavements and the restaurants for a pit stop.  There was beer and water and Special K bars and lots of talking about the city and the people we had seen along the way.

We set off again back through town and across the Nelson Mandela Bridge.  I am not ashamed to say that I brushed away a tear or two as I rode across it (okay and also as we rode out of Braamfontein).  The warm night air, the people, their bicycles,  music mysteriously coming from somewhere, our beloved bridge.

I rode some of the way by myself (well, by myself surrounded by about a thousand friends) and most of the way with my Aunt and Uncle, both very experienced and very patient riders.

At one point in Mayfair, I heard a guy on the street yell out, ‘Hey, what’s this for?!’ and a cyclists yell back, ‘For fun!’.

There were marshals too.  Volunteers, angels of the city really,  who arrived on the night and rode with us on their motorbikes and bicycles, holding the traffic back and helping keep the group together.  A huge part of the success of the ride goes to these anonymous volunteers.

Here’s the thing I never realised about Joburg before.  It smells.  Not bad, not good, but just, it does.  I guess it has the normal smells that come with being a heaving, big city.  But I have always rushed from my car to a building, from a building to my car, I’ve never stopped and let Joburg attack my senses.  Perhaps that is part of what makes Critical Mass so incredible.  It’s so simple.  Spending time in your city, on your bike is a total endorphin fiesta.

Fortunately for us Joburgers, Critical Mass happens on the last Friday night of every month.  I really can’t think of a better way to experience the city.  Check out their facebook page for details.

Here I am, riding through the city, taking an almost not blurry self-portrait, all high on endorphins, Joburg love and Special K bars.

And Kitcheners Bar – All beer and bicycles:

I can’t wait for the last Friday in September.



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  1. rose says:

    welcome to the wonderful freedom that is bicycle riding so glad you could join us. now you are not just passing through your in environment you are part of it, wicked hey?

  2. Bailey says:

    Sounds amazing! I have a month to find a bike…

  3. Ms. Ameezing says:

    Rose, it’s the best feeling.
    Bailey, beg, borrow, steal. It’s totally worth it!

  4. Movan says:

    Well done!
    To begin something new always takes courage.
    And what fun! :-)

  5. I love this post so much. I want to get my bike and try this, like, right now.

  6. Ms. Ameezing says:

    Natasha, it’s a great, great experience :)

Your thoughts/feelings?