Where, where do I even start with The Tweed Run? An event so quintessentially English that it should, as my friend Hannah suggests, be sponsored by Waitrose?
It’s described by the organisers as “a metropolitan bicycle ride with a bit of style. We take to the streets in our well-pressed best, and cycle through the city’s iconic landmarks” but that doesn’t even scrape the surface of what it’s all about.
Imagine 1000 bicyclists on machines that run the gamut from Penny Farthings to Boris Bikes taking to the streets of London en masse, dressed in traditional British cycling attire, with an emphasis on tweed plus four suits.
This year was the tenth anniversary of the inaugural Tweed Run in 2009 and it was clear that it was going to be celebrated in style. I was a Tweed Run virgin – last year Chloe took part, and I watched the vintage-clad riders stream past on their decorated bicycles, ringing their bells and waving grandly, by as Tara and I walked home from lunch in Borough and I thought it looked like so much fun.
I’m far too disorganised to sort anything like this out in advance so there was joy unbounded when Chloe offered me a spare ticket a week beforehand. Happily I already have the most beautiful, dark grey sit up and beg Pendleton bicycle with a leather saddle and handles, a gift courtesy of my friends at Halfords, and last year I bought a special dog box so that Lettice could travel about the city with me.
So far, so good. Except I’d never actually ridden anywhere on it with Lettice on board, and I didn’t feel that a black nylon box was doing much for the vintage theme.
Happily it appears that there is nothing you cannot order via Amazon Prime.
I ordered several metres of fake white rose garlands, and a vintage cocktail hat (made in China) for a tenner.
Then I realised that if Lettice was in the dog box on the front, then I’d need a box or pannier on the back for water, first aid kit, Lettice’s water bowl etc etc. Goodness, this was getting complicated. Manic Googling revealed the existence of this brilliant vintage style pannier bag at Halfords. Done. Happily Cycle Republic and Halfords are actually the same company these days, so I did a frantic Click & Collect for the Euston CR store and belted down there to pick it up ten minutes before the store closed.
I also drew the line at wearing tweed when the weather forecast was 25C and blue skies. My beautiful Suzannah tea dress seemed appropriate but then I had second thoughts – bespoke silk dresses belong at Ascot, not on bicycles. A frantic riffle through my closet revealed a pretty green viscose tea dress I bought last fall from M&S but had never worn (this summer’s would also have been perfect). Christopher Kane sunglasses, Grey Falke ankle socks, pearls, LK Bennett burgundy leather crossbody bag (gifted) and my brown leather brogues finished the look, along with scarlet nails and lips, and my high class £10 titfer, complete with veil.
I spent the evening before attaching the garlands to the back carrier and to the dog box, along with a good hour trying to remember how to fit the bloody thing onto the front of the bike. When you’re carrying precious Lettice cargo, it’s vitally important that it’s secured properly…
We set off early the next morning, testing the waters with a ten minute bike ride to St Pancras – I figured that if Lettice could cope with that then we were home and dry. All was good and she coped admirably well, even when I wheeled her into the lift down to the train platform.
We were starting the run at the Imperial War Museum in south London, but I drew the line at bicycling five miles before we’d even started so I caught the train across the river to the Elephant and biked the half mile from there.
And goodness what a sight upon arrival – hundreds of people dressed in their vintage finest. There were Harris tweed-covered bicycles, suffragettes in purple and green sashes, dog trailers, portable music systems playing Big Band music, tea dresses, and tweed plus fours as far as the eye could see.
I had brought along Lettice’s LoveMyDog tweed deerstalker, and her tweed winter coat, so I popped them on her for the photos. (No, I’m not some kind of insane dog owner – they were on and off in ten minutes otherwise she would have sweltered.)
Here’s me and Chloe
All props to Chloe for wearing tweed!
Each time I looked around Lettice was surrounded
by twenty or so people at dog height trying to photograph her
Within minutes of starting we were heading over Westminster Bridge, and over the road onto the Embankment. All credit to the brilliant marshals for getting hundreds of us streaming across the traffic from Parliament Square. It was quite the sight.
Lettice sunbathed for most of the run
We biked up to the Aldwych – that nearly finished me off going up hill with Lettice’s weight in front, and all the water in back in my pannier. It was, however, the only time I walked and it was just for 50metres or so. Then it was up towards Holborn, and through Southampton Square to Russell Square for tea. In tea cups, naturally.
Tea taken, we continued up north past UCL, then crossing into Marylebone, then up to St John’s Wood, and onto the Regent’s Canal.
I’m very enthusiastic about this custom Laurent Perrier Champagne bike basket
A little light snoozling started to happen in front of me
Well, hello Millicent Fawcett!
Lunch was at the converted gas tower park behind St Pancras on the edge of the Regent’s Canal.
Everyone carried their lunches with them – except us. Naturally. Chloe’s darling friends Andrew and Jeff had organised an entire sit-down lunch, with everything a hungry bicyclist could want, from refreshing Pimm’s to cucumber sandwiches.
It was heaven
Fully refreshed, we rescued our bicycles from the hundreds piled up, and set off again.
This final part of the ride was very short, as we were just heading down to Clerkenwell for the finish – around 3pm. I was quite ready to stop by this point. Not because I was tired, but because it was becoming uncomfortably hot, and I still needed to bike home afterwards.
The final brilliant marshal of the Run, directing us to the finish.
I loved this group of suffragettes who I stopped for photographs – they were very keen on Lettice too.
Chloe and I headed to the Eagle on Farringdon Road shortly after for a pint of Coca Cola and a nice sit down, before parting ways. I hadn’t quite appreciated that it would be uphill all the way to Pentonville Road so I’m afraid I dismounted and pushed Lettice and my bike up the gradient.
We hit the canal just after King’s Cross and had a wonderful push home along its banks, with a lovely surprise when I whizzed past Maria Grachvogel and her family en route. As I passed, I heard her say ‘that’s Sasha!’, so we stopped for a chat, and afterwards she sent me these sweet pictures that they took, below – and the one of me on my bike at top.
Then it was bath time. I poured in a cocktail of every muscle relaxing oil I could find and soaked and soaked. Even so I was walking like John Wayne the next day.