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Trails

A refined ride's

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Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes. The official guide of the Tweed Run opens with this quote by Henry David Thoreau. The annual race, a unique metropolitan ride with a chic style, is held in the heart of London each spring. The ninth edition, scheduled for 6 May, has already been sold out for weeks and the participants, like every year, must respect a particularly strict dress code. 

Tweed jackets and breeches are strongly encouraged; cycling outfits are also accepted, but only in tartan, in order to be compatible with ties or bowties. For the ladies, being dressed in skirt and cloak is fine. Raincoats are theoretically excluded from the list but, since the tweed ride is an intrinsically British event, they are preferable to umbrellas in case of rain. The details make all the different in the awarding of the most prestigious prizes of the day: Best Male Costume and Best Female Costume. The list of recommended accessories also includes gloves, pipes and knee-high socks.

Naturally, the criteria have greater leeway regarding the bikes allowed in the race: all are permitted although the organizers strongly advise to dust off your most retro velocipede for the occasion (there is also a Best Vintage Bicycle Prize). Alternatively, if your ride is not exactly antique, you can always sign up for the competition reserved for the best-decorated bike.

The Tweed Run was born back in 2009, when on 24 January, 300 tweed enthusiasts met up in Savile Row, where some of the worlds most important tailors are based, for a fun cycle mixing a traditional parade with a critical mass. Over the years, the idea of combining vintage lifestyle with the extreme modernism characterising many passionate cyclists has spread beyond country borders and today there are a number of popular tweed runs held around the world, from Boston to Riga, San Francisco and Pescara.  

The organizers, however, are keen to inform us that London will always be the landmark location. In addition to fundraising (the proceeds are donated, among other initiatives, to the recycling of bicycles to be sent to young Africans), the Tweed Run also has the strong cultural purpose of reviving British identity, and there is nothing more English than stopping to park your bike, adjusting your tweed jacket and enjoying a cup of tea in the streets of Central London, extraordinarily closed. “It doesn’t matter whether you take it with milk or lemon”, Bourne & Hollingsworth tells us. “The most important thing is not to rush, afternoon tea is one of the greatest pleasures in life”. So no one will mind should moustaches (for which there is the special Best Moustache Prize – open to men and women) get temporarily disarrayed or, worse still, dirty. 

Ultimately, if there is a constant in the colourful opinions of the journalists and enthusiasts who proudly become tweed riders each year, there is the distinct feeling that London is far more friendly the day of the race: tourists fall peaceful, children are astonished, drivers become disciplined. Even those who puncture a tyre do not lose their smile. The great strength of the Tweed Run, and the shared reason for its success, is mentioned in the mission of The London Cycling Campaign, one of the event’s main partners: to transform London into a healthier, cleaner and happier place to live, where getting around the by bike is a convenient and safe choice for all Londoners. 

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