What is Critical Mass?

A leaderless group of good-time cyclists, Critical Mass meet on the last Friday of every month to tear up streets around the world. We checked in with some London massers as they set off for a spooky ride.

Taken from the new print issue of THE FACE. Get your copy here.

Critical Mass is a leaderless cavalcade of fixies, Choppers, Bromptons, scooters, roadsters, racers and off-duty Deliveroo riders. Founded in San Francisco in 1992 and now spanning 300 cities, the group meets on the last Friday of every month to draw attention to the ever-present dangers of cycling, providing safety in numbers to skirt traffic, pop wheelies and celebrate a central article of faith: two wheels good. Whether the pedallers in this punky peloton are there for a bit of anarchy, the environmental message or just a love of bikes, their involvement has created a thriving, whirring subculture that feels like family. Critical Mass go hard and fast, together, as London Massers – assembled for their October night-time ride-out – confirmed to THE FACE before their grand départ from under Waterloo Bridge.

Chay, South-west London

What was your first experience of Critical Mass like?
Brilliant. A bit of anarchy and a bit of joy. It does upset people on the roads a little, but it’s only a 10-minute wait [for us to pass through] and it’s a good spectacle. It’s a thing that’s good about London.

What’s the atmosphere like when you’re all together on the road?
It’s lovely [and] incredibly supportive. We’ve seen cyclists who are clearly tourists on a Lime bike swing in and say, this looks fun, we’ll go this way with these guys”. It seems to work. The police and pedestrians seem alright about it and we all get out of the way if there is an ambulance. It’s a really good vibe. A nice party, in a way.

Dominic, South London

What brings you to Critical Mass today?
I’m here to ride around with my friends. I come here pretty much every time. I don’t have anything [else] to do, so I just come here.

Who taught you to ride a bike?
My mum. We were riding in Streatham and we were going down a hill. She let go of me and I was screaming. She was just riding behind me.

Carlos, East London

What is Critical Mass?
It’s everyone coming together to have fun and ride about. People are friendly, it’s just a vibe.

Who taught you to ride a bike? My mum taught me when I was three with the stabilisers and all of that. I never really fell off of my bike because of that. When we took them off I could just ride.

So, you’re a natural?
I don’t wanna seem like I’m showing off… but yeah, kind of. I just can’t wheelie yet. Hopefully I’ll be able to next time. I’ve been practising.

Jerome, South London

What is Critical Mass?
A bit of everything. There are road bikes here, Bromptons, electric scooters… It’s a community thing.

Where’s your favourite area to ride?
Central London, 100 per cent. South London roads are not it. Riding central is fun. There is nothing like London. Out of all the places in the UK that my mum could’ve raised me in, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

What do you think about while cycling?
My main thought is trying to predict other people’s movements. There are a lot of people in London that definitely bought their driver’s licence and didn’t do their test. Bare dead drivers, I can’t lie.

Palave, South London

Describe Critical Mass…
It’s a weird anarchist cycling group of loads of random cyclists – every type that you can think of. It’s nice to have a solid cycling community in London.

Who taught you to ride a bike?
My dad taught me. I have a core memory of thinking he was right behind me and turning around and he was a mile away. No stabilisers. I was 10.

Jessica, South London

Do you normally come alone to Critical Mass?
I do. I make new friends who I only see at Mass. It’s really nice because you can ask what they’ve been doing for the last month.

Do you listen to music while you’re cycling?
Yeah, I either have my speaker with me or I’ll put my headphones in. When it comes to Mass, my favourite song is Forbidden Feelingz by Nia Archives, [I like] the ones that get you going. And a bit of Shygirl, IAMDDB – a mixture of artists.

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