April 13, 2010
(photo courtesy Oleg Skrinda – http://skrinda.com)
If you were in London’s Kensington Gardens on Saturday, you may well have been puzzled by a rather dashing group of tweed-clad cyclists sipping tea, eating cucumber sandwiches and listening to a three-piece string orchestra at the top of the hill. This curious spectacle was the mid-way tea break for participants on the 12-mile Tweed Run – a leisurely annual cycling event with much more than the ‘bit’ of style its organisers suggest.
From the starting point at Chelsea College of Art & Design, the participants peddle past many famous landmarks including Trafalgar Square and St Paul’s Cathedral, finally finishing at The Bathhouse in Bishopsgate. Traditional British cycling attire must be worn. This means lots of tweed plus four suits, flat caps, knee-length socks and moustaches. Single gear vintage bicycles are also a must – I even spotted a few penny farthings!
I only found out about the event by chance from a friend who suggested it would be right up my tweedy, vintage-loving street. It was surprisingly difficult to find out details of the event however and, more specifically, where we might catch the tweedies having afternoon tea. The Tweed Run website is vague. No route details – not even a time! – are given for the event. Only the date is given. After frantically searching on the internet for any indication of the route, we were saved by a Twitter post that suggested a good viewing place would be Kensington Gardens at 1:30pm for tea time.
While enjoying Saturday’s sunshine and chatting to some participants, we find out that the Tweed Run organisers keep details of the event deliberately vague, like a close-guarded secret, to keep it small, exclusive and away from the eyes of the masses. There are just 400 spaces and the cyclists were only informed of the route the night before. It all feels like a secret society, but a welcoming one and one that I must join. So secret in fact that I almost feel like I shouldn’t be writing this but it’s just too exciting to keep to myself.
The event only began last year but it appears to be gaining quite a following already. Next year I fully intend to be part of the tweed action.