Naomi Thompson shows us how to elegantly ride a bicycle in a vintage dress at the Tweed Run in London last month
On Saturday 9th April I was delighted to attend the third annual Tweed Run in London. Contrary to what the name infers, this is not about donning your finest yarn and galloping around our capital as fast as your vintage trainers can take you. The 'running' is done on a much more sophisticated contraption, the 'steel steed', aka the not-so-humble bicycle. The aim is to whizz around a 10-mile tour of London on your best wheels and in your finest tweed - Harris or otherwise - and to have a jolly good time in the process. All the proceeds go the Bikes4Africa Charity, which does what it says on the tin.
Unfortunately, my beloved 1950s rust bucket had been 'appropriated' some time previously, so borrowing a bicycle was a necessity. I've been dreaming of a Pashley since mine was stolen. Fortunately the delectable Jack from Tally-Ho! Cycle Tours
came to the rescue and lent me a lovely black Princess complete with basket. I pedalled off happily with two Americans in tow, who were here for their 20th wedding
anniversary and needed guiding to the starting point. Note to readers: do not attempt to cycle along the Embankment as it almost cost us £90 in fines! Note to the police: thank you sirs, for letting us off and not ruining the day.
We arrived at St Paul's Cathedral to the magical sight of over 500 tweed runners. As well as every classic bike imaginable, there were tandems, a good dozen penny farthings and even a full-size piano on wheels. Snippets of overheard conversations went something like this: 'I say squire, is that a biggledy-boo bi valve loop chain? 'No, no dear chap, it's a two-bit crankset gusset from the West Indies'.
I met my co-riders, Jeni
, who, as I, had eschewed tweed on the hottest day of the year for bright vintage frocks and matching accessories. We decided to liven up our bikes by filling the baskets with flowers. A quick dash for supplies, a group photo on the steps of St Paul's and then a lone bugler announced the start of the ride.
And we were off to the cries of 'Tally ho!'
Our tour took us over Westminster Bridge towards The Mall. I wondered if anyone at the palace caught a glance? We received a rapturous reception from Savile Row traders, who had turned out to see the human wave of tweed at speed. Special mention goes to the chaps at Ozwald Boateng
who looked resplendent in their bright magenta and dark blue tailoring - us girls certainly appreciated it! The real 'wow' moment came when we managed to block Regent Street from Piccadilly right up to Oxford Circus. A man from Hamleys
shouted ' you look magnificent', to which 500 people spontaneously applauded and tooted their bells in happy unison. A quick pitstop at Lincoln's Inn Field and we found ourselves heading towards Shoreditch, in East London.
This year there was a rather famous tweed runner in our ranks. Ewan McGregor looked dapper in his tweeds and even had a matching tweed teddy attached to his bike. Fleur had been previously acquainted in her role as up-and-coming film starlet and Mr Obi Wan chatted away quite happily to our trio and even coined the term 'Pashley pile up' as we wobbled along somewhat precariously towards Old Street roundabout.
It was over all too soon and we found ourselves bathing in the late afternoon sun outside Bethnal Green Working Mens' Club. I decided to round off the evening by learning to smoke a pipe (don't do this at home kids). It was a perfect day, and I have heard many describe it as 'euphoric' or 'better than Christmas'. It was certainly an amazing experience to be surrounded by so many fantastic contraptions and outfits. The organisers, Jacky and Ted have created something really special that brought together a lot of like-minded (and like mannered) people all in aid of a good cause. Their skilled marshalls did a nigh on impossible job of keeping everyone safe and the cabbies calm as we cruised seamlessly through the traffic. I think for the next one people would be happy to donate more to participate.
That said, there is talk of an autumn run....I am already planning my outfit.