December 24, 2013

Night Pedal Cruising Christmas Ride Deluxe 2013 Report

It began on the ride home from Nude Pedal Cruising in the Summer of 2013 after I'd just enjoyed my first ride with the Night Pedal Cruising Crew. We cycled Tokyo all night ending up in Odaiba to watch the sunrise before heading back to Shibuya for the Pedal Day celebrations. I began formulating a plan to attend the Christmas ride on the most outrageously decorated bicycle Tokyo had ever seen. I'd ride my commuter bike as it has a rack upon which I could pile high wrapped Christmas presents and I'd drape the whole thing in tinsel and Christmas lights. Up front on the handle bars I'd mount some antlers and a flashing red nose .. I mean light.  I would ride on the middle, between the reindeer and the presents, dressed as Santa, thus completing the illusion of Santa in his sleigh. Brilliant!

In my mind it was awesome, in practise it was flimsy cardboard held together with string, ribbons and sticky tape and I wasn't entirely sure it would last the duration of the ride without falling apart. With fragile decorations complete, I donned some cycling tights two layers of HeatTech tops and my Santa suit before climbing carefully into my sleigh.

I have to admit to being very self conscious as I cycled to the ride and in addition to that I was worried the decorations would fall apart. I was convinced I looked totally insane, but as I cycled children smiled, people waved, some cycled along side me wishing me a Merry Christmas and before long I began to loosen up a little smiling and waving to anyone who made eye contact.

Less than a kilometre into the ride, while waiting at a set of traffic lights a female voice called from behind "I saw your bicycle on twitter. I think we're going to the same ride" and that was how I met a fellow Night Pedal Cruiser with whom I cycled to 246 Common in Aoyama for the start of the ride.

246 Common was a sea of red with roughly 50 cyclists in attendance, the vast majority dressed as Santa, or sporting a Santa Hat at the very least, we even had a few reindeer among our ranks.  I was surprised and a little embarrassed to notice that while many bicycles and riders were decorated nobody had gone nearly as Clark Griswald on their bicycles as me. Before the ride began I had posed for more pictures with my bike than I could count and received many generous compliments on my bicycle. I was very happy that the illusion held and all people saw was Christmas magic, no gobs of glue and countless meters of clear tape holding together hastily wrapped, and totally empty, shoe boxes.

The ride got underway on time at 17:00 and we wound our way from Aoyama to Roppongi. As you can imagine 50 riders dressed as Santa, a handful of tall bikes with loud Christmas music blasting from countless bicycle mounted stereo systems causes quite a spectacle and if that wasn't enough we were frantically ringing our bells to garner even more attention from the people we passed. (So much bell ringing in fact that I almost gave myself a blister within the first 15 minutes of the ride.)

Amongst all the other Santas and decorated bicycles any feelings of self consciousness or embarrassment quickly evaporated and seeing the look of joy a simple wave or "Merry Christmas" would bring to the faces of people we passed encouraged me to make sure everyone we passed got a smile a wave or a wink from Santa. Who knew that dressed as Santa all it took was a simple wave to send someone over the moon with enjoyment? One forward thinking rider had chocolates which he passed out to children and adults alike on the ride, even pulling up alongside cars with the windows down handing sweets to the children inside. Why didn't I think of that?

We stopped for a break in a beautiful tree lined avenue near Roppongi MidTown where we posed for photographs with each other and with passers by. Being on average 20 years older than most of the riders, and being one of the few foreign Santas on the ride, I was in particular demand for photo opportunities. I'm normally a shy and reserved person, but tonight I was Santa Claus, and enjoying the kick everyone got out of having their photo taken with Santa started to draw out my inner Santa. There are no shy Santas and I'd be doing him an injustice if I didn't get all jolly and festive with everyone who wanted a photo or a wave.

I was really beginning to enjoy myself and started to understand that our Christmas ride was about more than just a group of cyclists having fun together cycling the streets in Christmas costume, it was about making those around us happy. It was about getting peoples attention, making them laugh, smile, wave, and about spreading some joy around the city. I think we did a wonderful job.

We continued on in this manner, getting louder and bolder as the ride made its way to our destination, a park near Tokyo Tower.  At the park the Champagne (non alcoholic beverages provided) flowed and everyone took turns trying out each others bicycles. Many a brave soul tried their luck on the tall bikes. As it was still early impromptu track stand and fixie skid competitions were hastily organised with speculation that the winner of the first ever Night Pedal Cruising track stand competition would not win a second time after he downed his celebratory drink.

With Christmas music still pumping from the stereos, and wine flowing, we whiled away a couple of hours eating, drinking and chatting. Many a person came to photograph Tokyo Tower lit up for the evening only to end up in a picture with Santa Claus and many a group of young ladies dressed in skimpy Santa costumes, stockings and heels came to pose for a photograph but in the end just who was posing with who became impossible to determine.

It was a quick and boisterous ride back to Aoyama. Our numbers reduced made the ride faster, the beverages consumed made us louder and we continued to draw attention to ourselves and spread the Christmas cheer.

With a successful ride ending in Aoyama myself and another Santa costumed rider made our way down to Harajuku station just as the Christmas illuminations were being turned off. Being but a pair of Santas we weren't confident that we could raise excitement amongst the crowds of pedestrians heading home after a long night of festivities. But those doubts were put to rest when we were all but surrounded by merry makers all wanting to pose for photographs.

Eventually we broke free and continued on our way home only to have carloads of young women scream our names (Well, OK, Santa's name) and take photographs as they passed by. I was beginning to feel like a rock star and commented to my cycling companion that it would be hard returning to work the following day as just an ordinary guy.

In short it was a great ride. It was amazing to see so many riders turn out and that the vast majority of them got into the spirit of things by wearing a costume. But to me the best part of the ride was the reactions of people we passed, the smiles, the waves, the countless photographs and calls of Merry Christmas. It made me so happy that a group of simple cyclists just having fun among themselves could bring a smile to so many people along the way.

I can't wait till the next ride.

Merry Christmas everyone. Enjoy the holidays, ride safe, and I look forward to writing for you all in 2014.

For more stories, news and information about cycling in Tokyo and around Japan follow @tokyobybike on twitter.

1 comment: