As it is the last Friday of the month, I spend some time contemplatively drinking a beer and repairing last night's damage to my ride in preparation for the mighty Critical Mass. The efforts complete, I mount my steed and ride towards the gathering point, only to be reminded that I forgot to fix that rusty brake that won't release its death grip on my rim. No matter, I anticipated a setback such as this, and have alloted the time necessary to smack the offending component around and lube the shit out of it. Once again I am awheel, and as the gathering point draws near I encounter my comrades on their own choppers, tallbikes, and battlewagons. We hail and are well met, becoming one clot among the many converging from all directions towards the shelter of the Burnside bridge, traditional meeting place for massing cyclists since the days of yore. Pedestrians and motorists mistake us for the Critical Mass ride itself, and we wave to them cheerfully, for it does not matter; whenever two or more cyclists are gathered in its name, there Critical Mass will be among them. In fact, nuts to the ride, perhaps we should ditch it and derby in the park tonight? The idea is debated back and forth with volleys of shouts as we ply the streets, but no, our destination does not change - we wish to be with our people, the people of the wheel. And as we come within sight of the milling throng, we are glad that we stuck with the plan, because there they are: the crusties on their barely functioning found bicycles, the technogeeks on their expensive yuppie rides, the nerdy guy with the basket bike, the clever mechanic, that one messenger, the shy kid, the loudmouth old dude, the ordinary people who just like to ride the mass. They're all there, and we love them all, even if we don't like a lot of them. The socializing ends and the ride begins as we take to the streets once more, and wherever we go, we own. Better yet, we give it freely back minutes later. Is it our fault that the drivers following us can't think of anything better to do with it than what they've been doing every day? We've made our mark. People around us have seen it, and that's swell, but it isn't really important, after all. What is important is that we can feel the mark within ourselves. Critical Mass is a part of of us. When the ride is done, we will still own the streets every other day of the month, and we are still a part of the community of massers, until the month rolls around and it is time to ride together again.
First published in Critical Mass: Bicycling's Defiant Celebration (AK Press).
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