I have very good memories of the Kidical Mass Christmas ride last year. We often expect lower turnouts in the cold months, but December was an exception and lots of families turned up to ride with Santa. The weather, though cold, was clear and the sunshine beamed down on us.
I’d love to say that we had similar luck this year – in which case this article would perhaps twist towards claiming that the universe is clearly on our side and in favour of us campaigning for safer bike lines and helping kids build confidence on the rides whilst building a community of cycling families. However, I’m afraid, Dear Reader, that the day started out looking like the universe was kindly giving us a chance to prove our dedication to the cause.
The weather forecast had deteriorated overnight and looked totally miserable. Heavy rain was predicted for the whole afternoon, with the possibility of temperatures that were close to freezing. There were many messages flying around the WhatsApp groups as we tried to work out how best to weather proof an outdoor bike ride for an unknown number of children. Several people collected up all the spare gloves they owned to bring with them (it’s surprising how many gloves one child can accumulate, though mine now mostly own many many single gloves rather than pairs). There was very little shelter at our planned end point (Thames Lido) so we discussed a change of route to a shorter ride that could finish at Forbury gardens (which is a short walk from the Lido but a rather longer bike ride if you don’t want to navigate the Vastern Road roundabout), where the now-renovated bandstand would offer somewhere dry to stand. We battle planned how to make the hot chocolate mobile, as having promised it in all our communications we didn’t want to let any children (or adults!) down.
In the end, however, we got pretty lucky with the weather as the worst of the rain held off and the temperature did lift. Perhaps the universe is on our side and wants better for Reading!
I think everyone else was reading a different (and more accurate!) weather forecast to us, as we had one of the best turnouts we’ve had to date. Just under 70 riders showed up to ride with Santa and his elves. Santa rode at the front on a tandem with ride leader Simon, and the marshals were identifiable not only by their hi-vis vests but also by their reindeer antlers. The children were delighted to see Santa, and of course he had to say hello to most of them (with many hi-fives exchanged) before we set off.
I had another issue that almost made me late for the ride, which was that my kids decided they ABSOLUTELY HAD to wear their elf hats. These do not fit over a bike helmet, so I was in our kitchen duct taping hats to helmets and muttering “argh, we’re going to be late,” just fifteen minutes before the ride. Thankfully the kids were pretty motivated to get there in time and see Santa, so we positively flew over Christchurch Bridge and along the towpath (with due care for pedestrians, of course) to join the crowd.
I think we made quite a spectacle riding through town, with many people stopping to watch, take photos and smile and wave. The younger Kidical Mass Intern (Mr just-turned-4) did the first part of the ride on his own bike then came up onto mine at the back of the ride when he got tired. I tasked him with calling out “Merry Christmas” to the people and town, which he did in between yelling, “Look! I’m an Elf!” He got a very high hit rate on friendly replies.
At Forbury gardens Santa’s grown-up elf set up shop to do free bike maintenance for anyone who’s bike needed a tune up. I was personally particularly grateful for his patience with Mr 4 who hung round persistently determined to chat to his fellow elf about all things North Pole related – he got some quite inventive answers!
Santa congratulated all the children on how well they had ridden and passed out presents (bells, lights and reflectors) and a little book that we’d put together as a sort of Christmas card from us to the kids (see next week!). We plied them with hot chocolate and cake and then quite a lot of them decided that what they really wanted to be doing after a long, damp, cold bike ride was to… ride their bikes around Forbury Gardens. I love the energy that children bring (except when they’re mine, at bedtime, when I would rather they bought a little less of it!)
All in all, it was a very successful and happy ride, and I’m feeling all Christmassy after it. So I know it’s a little early, but I’ll take this opportunity to wish for a very happy Christmas season to all of the Kidical Mass People – the kids, the grown ups, the marshals and the organising team. You’re all brilliant!
If you missed out on this ride (or even if you didn’t) don’t forget our next rides: Wokingham will be holding a ride on Saturday 16th December at 2pm, meeting at Elms Field. The next ride in Reading will be around the university campus at 2pm on Sunday 14th January.