I think this is the ninth time I’ve been on the Great London Rideout. Ten if you count the time I turned up on a bicycle to watch – a brief and unpleasant encounter with a Camden bus the week before had rendered me temporarily scootless (1967 Sprint V ‘Sophia’, RIP).
Numbers seemed to be slightly down on previous years, perhaps the credit crunch making its presence felt in a desire for a family holiday rather than essential repairs to clutch or exhaust. Still, there must have been 400 or so scooters in Regents Park, buzzing like a swarm of angry bees (or more properly, wasps) farting two-stroke when the organiser blew his horn half an hour late. A PHd could be earned working out how all theses scooters somehow all avoid each other in the initial melée – it’s like a two-wheeled ballet.
These things are always badly organised, scootering being an essentially amateur pastime, but that’s half the fun. As usual, nobody knew where we were going, just that Southend was the ultimate destination. On Regent Street – to the delight of dozens of goggling tourists – half the péloton took a left on to Carnaby Street and immediatly parked up, while some of us did a U-turn and joined the rest of the pack through Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square and along the Embankment, Upper and Lower Thames street, Tower Hill and the Mile End road. We eventually lost the biggest group somewhere near the Bow flyover, though their huge cloud of blue smoke could clearly be seen in the distance, like a b-movie monster on its way to devour Southend.