Have you experienced bicycling in a group of 5? Fifteen? Fifty? One-hundred and fifty? Five hundred? Five thousand?
I was in Melbourne in February and experienced being one of over five-hundred bicyclists for Bike Rave. It’s quite an amazing feeling being surrounded by so many people all on bicycles. And where were we going? We were creating our own rave on bicycles.
At first glance, one might be surprised to see someone like me at a rave. A married middle-aged woman and mother of two? But I love music and have a particular fondness for discovering new music and am a sucker for an awesome mix. (As I write this blog, I am listening to Justin Timberlake’s new song “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”) And I like bicycles. They help me go from place to place easily.
The organisers sent out progressive details via Facebook. They also sent a link to download the mix which would accompany us on our rave through Melbourne. I wasn’t sure how the music would accompany us on our ride but was certain that it would be awesome. And it was!
Sadly, I missed out on the heyday of the rave culture in the UK in the early 90’s. I had the opportunity to go to Tunnel in New York City with my banker friends in the mid-90’s. I always suspected that I had missed out on something. By the time I moved to London in the late 90’s, the rave culture was well and truly mainstream. I stood in the queues with my Australian friends and we went clubbing all over London, despite having missed out on being a true “raver.”
Of course, I had two crucial questions in mind before Bike Rave. What to wear? With whom to go?
I decided on a black jumpsuit and I went alone after a friend bailed. Bicyclists are a friendly bunch and everyone was very welcoming. Several groups invited me to ride with them. As darkness approached, food and drink appeared from pannier bags and coolers strapped on back racks at each of our stops. Someone passed me a drink which contained minty vodka. Conscious of my body’s ability to dehydrate quickly (and resulting painful foot cramps on bicycle), I stuck to my steadily depleting water bottle.
Two significant memories of going clubbing with friends in London have stayed with me. One is of standing in the queue with my friends and chatting with some Spanish girls behind us. Later in the club, one of them approached with a smile and then bit me on the arm. It was hard enough to bruise the next day. I shouted at her over the noise of the club, “Why did you do that?” She said she didn’t know. Then there was the time that my friend M met her now-husband P. He was slightly off his head and with his lovely mates. We all became good friends that night. However, it was obvious that P was attracted to M. When we were going to the ladies toilet, he expressed concern and asked me where we were going. I said, “The toilet. Do you want to come along?”
The organisers had done a great job of choosing large wide-open spots where the crowd could dance. Many people had attached large speakers to their cargo bikes. Simpler versions included bicycles with mounted speakers on the back rack. The numbers of speakers were significant enough to create a moveable rave environment not to dissimilar to being in an underground venue.
People had dressed in fluoro and reflective gear and had lights and glow sticks mounted on their bikes. Some lovely girls gave me a few to attach to my bicycle with sticky tape. We made our way to the Docklands at sunset and there was a toilet stop on the way. Several people had recognised me and shouted “Vélo-a-Porter!” And then the crowd began to dance on the pier. I chatted and danced with several people in the crowd.
When we departed, it was an exhilarating feeling. There were only bicyclists around me. No other traffic to contend. Everyone was intent on moving together and making space for one another. I was alone yet surrounded. Suddenly, I heard someone shouting my name. It was my friend E.
I hadn’t expected to meet anyone that I knew tonight. It was a wonderful surprise and with matching appetites at 10:15pm on a Friday night, we went together to Chinatown in search of a late dinner. How did get get there? By bicycle, of course!