"We need to keep on cycling, and keep on meeting new and wonderful friends, just as Willy, Mark and Kay were, our wonderful friends." (Terry Semmens, Morrinsville Wheelers club president)
Phil and I were fortunate enough to be able to attend the Morrinsville Wheelers Ride for Remembrance and Reflection on Tuesday night. The club arranged this ride, with the support of the Morrinsville community, police and fire service, after three of their members were killed in a horrible accident.
We hoped that other cyclists in the community would be behind the ride, but didn't really know what to expect. It wasn't until we got out of central Hamilton that we realised the ride was going to be big. The roads were peppered with people on bikes, travelling in groups (...in single file, haterz, in single file), in club gear, shop kit or hi-vis, and they were all heading in the same direction.
We parked in a shopping centre carpark in central Morrinsville and prepared to ride to the starting point. The carpark was buzzing- the mood was subdued, but still somehow electric- with mountain bikers and roadies of all shapes, sizes and ages. We headed out to the start (about 2k away) in dribs and drabs, and soon found ourselves crowding into a paddock with hundreds of other people with bikes. I've been to cycle events before, so it's not the first time I've been around hundreds of people with bikes, but the sense of camaraderie mingled with sombreness made it something completely different. We were shepherded towards the back of the pack, where we found ourselves next to Bike Fit David (aka cyclenutnz). We identified jerseys from all around the Waikato- Te Awamutu, Hamilton, Kaimai Cycles, Tokoroa- and even some from Auckland. I think the youngest person-on-bike I saw was about 11 or 12, and the oldest was about as old as time.
The ride started with a short memorial ceremony, where we heard from the President of the Morrinsville Wheelers and the husband of Kay Wolfe (one of the people-on-bikes killed in the accident) and then a race briefing from the police and ride organisers. The memorial was incredibly moving, and incredibly optimistic. The quote above particularly resonated with me- and there's nothing quite like the sound of 1000 cycle gloves clapping!
We slowly filed out in our pairs. I'm not accustomed to bunch riding, but I'm comfortable enough with Eric now to handle a group, at least at snail's pace! The ride took us about 21km around a gorgeous country route. It was mid evening, and a perfect summer's day- just spectacular. Unfortunately, people will be people, and the ride was not always as orderly as it could be. I found myself very frustrated by people who insisted on passing, apparently just for the sake of gap filling (typical Waikato behaviour- exhibited frequently by people-in-cars too). Particularly frustrating were the bunch of local cyclists who passed us (we were just moseying along behind a much slower group), and proceeded to fill the road at about 15 km/h for the next good 20 minutes. We had to scream our heads off every time a car came up. I almost don't want to write about it- this should have been an opportunity to be BEYOND REPROACH.
But people are people, and people are dicks sometimes, whether they're on cars or bikes or neither
Finally we got past- we weren't in a hurry, but we were feeling a bit lonely right at the tail end of the long, long line, and there was empty space for miles in front. From then on, the ride went from momentous to awesome rad fun. We were pretty much alone for hundreds of metres at a time, so we could play around (safely... duh!) with random power intervals until we caught up with another pair. There's nothing quite like playing catch up to make you feel awesome!
Towards the end of the route, we moved back into lifestyle block territory. The locals were amazing! One woman stood at her gate and whooped and waved, and another sat in her car in her driveway- she had plenty of room to leave, but it seemed like she just decided to stay and show her support (that's what I'm believing, anyway). We passed a "Wheeler" counting people- we were 463 and 464, and we guessed there were 30 or so still behind us (we weren't far off- they counted 505 in total).
We'd left our front lights in the car, so we decided not to stick around for tea/coffee and chat (especially since we had to get back to Cambridge for dinner). We made our way back to the carpark, and headed home, giving all the people on bikes a wide berth and a wave.
I'm very grateful to the Morrinsville Wheelers for organising this ride. It was so painful for so many people, but so heartwarming, and so valuable for our riding community. We will keep riding. We will keep meeting wonderful friends and awesome people. And one day, we will see this wonderful country turn into a safe and wonderful place for all of its residents.