Should the DJ Dom Whiting ever visit a city near you for one of his Drum & Bass on the Bike rides, my advice is that you shouldn’t pass up the chance to pop along with your bike – the latest one, in central London yesterday, was an absolutely joyous occasion as a couple of thousand people joined him on his journey past many of the city’s most iconic sights in a carnival atmosphere that also brought smiles to the faces of passers-by on a gloriously sunny early summer afternoon.
It’s the second Sunday in succession that I’ve been on a ride with thousands of other cyclists around the centre of the capital, though there are some stark contrasts with the previous one, the RideLondon FreeCycle the weekend before last.
An estimated 50,000 people are estimated to have taken part in that, but that was over several hours on an eight-mile circuit where you could choose your start and finish point, as well as when to begin and end.
So while just a fraction of those numbers turned out for yesterday’s ride, the fact we were moving as a (perhaps at times fairly chaotic) unit, with what I’d guess was somewhere north of 2,000-odd riders forming a massive bunch that took around 5 minutes to pass any given spot, meant that you really got a sense of being part of something big.
Last Sunday’s RideLondon FreeCycle also took place on closed roads, whereas yesterday, the traffic-free Constitution Hill and Mall apart, we were on the same roads as buses, cars, vans and taxis though on the whole – and perhaps due to the music – we got a good-natured reception from the vast majority of drivers and passengers whose progress we held up temporarily, with plenty of beeping of horns in support and high-fives from many of the vehicles we passed.
On the pavements, pedestrians – both locals and tourists – also stopped to clap and wave as our cavalcade went by, with lots of smiles and many whipping out their phones to film us passing.
At the rear of the ride, four Metropolitan Police officers on bikes kept a watchful eye throughout, and if they had any complaint, it was most likely to be that while most of us were in t-shirts and even bare-topped as we enjoyed the soaring temperatures, they were sweltering in their hi-viz uniform jackets.
The vibe yesterday was similar to that of Critical Mass, held on the last Friday of each month with participants meeting at 7pm outside the National Film Theatre on the South Bank beneath Waterloo Bridge, and something I’ve been taking part in regularly now for upwards of two decades.
But unlike that ride, which has no fixed route and in effect heads where the riders at the front of the group decide, sometimes on a whim, where to lead it, the Drum & Bass ride followed a fixed route –another difference being that there was something special about taking part in a ride where the sun got warmer as the afternoon went on, rather than the temperature cooling and the light fading as happens later on during a Critical Mass ride even at this time of year with its long-drawn-out evenings.
Certainly, there were a good few familiar faces (including Sigrid the cat and her owner, Travis) from Critical Mass and other rides out on the streets yesterday.
Awesome time at @dom_whiting drum and bass ride, as always! 😺🎶@simonmacmichael #drumandbass #dnb #gatos #michis #kissa #pishi #pusa #kot #kit #chat #kedi #katze #gatto #katt #貓 #ネコ #고양이 #kucing #london #cyclinglife #cyclingphotos #fixedgear #trackbikes pic.twitter.com/8t0DKvN12V
— Travis and Sigrid (@sigirides) June 5, 2023
The ride began at 2pm at the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner then followed a route that took it past Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament before crossing to the South Bank briefly via Westminster Bridge and back over Waterloo Bridge to head towards the Tower of London via Aldwych, Fleet Street and, after turning right at Ludgate Circus, Cycleway 3.
That was where what I was later told was the highlight of the ride took place, the cortege stopping in the underpass on Castle Baynard Street, the tunes Dom was spinning bouncing off the tunnel walls as the procession came to a halt for a while.
As bad luck (and, to be honest, poor planning) would have it, that came at a time when I’d detoured off the route to get back ahead of the front of the ride to film it going past the Tower of London, where I spent 20 minutes or so wondering where it had got to before heading back west to find it again as it came down Lower Thames Street.
From the Tower, the ride turned towards Aldgate then followed a more or less straight line westwards past the Bank of England, the Old Bailey, over Holborn Viaduct and towards Oxford Street, turning left at Marble Arch to head down Park Lane and back to the start point – more than four hours after we had set off.
While it may have been billed as a bike ride – and certainly, there were all kinds of bikes and trikes on show, including families with cargo bikes and a lot of people on Santander or Lime hire bikes – you didn’t need a bike to take part; there were a good few rollerbladers and skateboarders, a couple of women enjoying themselves thoroughly on a mobility scooter, and plenty who simply followed the route on foot.
Back at Wellington Arch, there was a feeling of euphoria at what we’d all just taken part in, a shared afternoon of music, bikes and fun in the heart of London as we spread out on the grass in the centre of Hyde Park Corner, the sound system continuing to pump out tunes and the man himself, Dom, mobbed by people wanting to express their thanks and appreciation, as well as grabbing a selfie or two.
Dom regularly updates his website and social media channels with details of his upcoming rides, and as I said at the top, I can’t recommend highly enough getting along to one and experiencing it in person – though even if you can’t make it, you can follow the fun in real-time through live broadcast on his Facebook page. Personally, I can’t wait for the next one near me.
In case you missed it, ahead of the London ride we spoke to Dom about how he came up with the idea, what the logistical challenges involved are and what the future holds, among other things, and you can read what he had to say here.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.