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Sunday, July 31, 2016

July Critical Mass (Don't Blame Me)

I keep getting asked if I'm in charge at Critical Mass. It's because I'm always taking lots of pictures and for seven months running I've made and handed out spoke cards commemorating each one.

According to Wikipedia, which knows all and is never wrong, Critical Mass is a xerocracy. According to me, and I consider this one of its virtues, its anarchy. I realize a lot of people don't see anarchy as benign or even noble, but it's beautiful when the real thing (which is not a bunch of violence, as enemies of freedom try to make it out to be) manifests itself.

And it manifests itself on the last Friday of the month whether it's a pleasant 80 degrees or a nasty six degrees. Critical Mass goes where the rider out front goes unless the rider behind decides not to follow. In some instances, this causes a schism, though a peaceful one. Sometimes when the weather is foul, a contingent stands around at Scumfresh until around 7:00, then rides to Buzzard Beach, effectively tailgating a ride across the street.

The ethos varies widely from city to city. I hear when Daley was mayor of Chicago, he rode it, and they'd get like 700 riders, and there was a police escort corking the intersections because the goddamn mayor was riding. I'll bet whiffs of reefer were pretty scarce on those masses. And I've heard of cities where the cops got a hard on to make it go away and effectively killed the party. Kansas City's Critical Mass has tendencies to the wild side but not so much that people don't bring their kids, and I mean young, young, kids. I can't remember a fair weather mass that didn't include some diaper changes.

And there is an alcoholocaust element to be sure, there's a bit of Animal House to all the Critical Mass rides I've enjoyed. And that's where I get a little antsy when someone mistakes me for being 'in charge.'

I'm like, dude, this was not my idea. I barely take responsibility for my own choices this evening, let alone the rest of these clowns.

So no, I'm not in charge. I make spoke cards because I like spoke cards (just look at my bike, it's like aero discs at this point), I like Critical Mass, and I'm a graphic designer who works in a print shop. Spoke cards are a snap. And the back side is an easy way to promote the upcoming Post Modern Pentathlon, an event I regrettably must claim responsibility for since it was my idea, but if you're competing I'm making you sign a waiver—coffee is hot, ice is slippery, drivers are maniacs, it's not my fault or the fault of our sponsors.

Speaking of which, the whole Pentathlon thing is coming together. B-Cycle is letting us use their rental bikes gratis, and I think there's a beauty to racing these things: the Olympic Pentathlon makes you ride a horse that's not known to you, B-Cycle fulfills that, plus the bike is totally unsuited to racing. It's just a matter of who knows the city well enough to route smartly and who can generate watts, if you can mash pedals you're in it, no matter what you can afford in the way of a bike. And there's four other events you can win points in even if your slow old ass can't compete at bike racing. Velo+, Family Bicycles and Midwest Cyclery (three of my favorite bike shops) have all ponied up generous prizes, so there will be prizes for men's and women's divisions, and for winners of the five sports as well as the overall.


And as usual I had fun taking pictures of the folks I'm so not even remotely in charge of at Critical Mass.

And that's not me being in charge, that's just me documenting the beauty of these people, the gorgeous anarchy.

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