“Zürich recently held it’s first Style Ride, our “man” on the ground Swiss Bob a.k.a. AK not only attended the event on our behalf shamelessly promoting The Guvnors’ Assembly but also providing us this wonderfully witty write up. On behalf of the GA thank you very much”
Having joined the Jubilee «Pashley Picnic Ride» in Stratford, the «London Tweed Run», and one or the other Guv’nors’ Assembly jaunt in Britain before, I had finally managed to partake in a “Two-Wheel Extravaganza for Elegant Bicycle Lovers” in the very city I have lived in for many years: I joined the «Saturday Style Ride» in Zürich mid June!
Organized by the same folks who brought into being the annual «Gentlemen’s Run» two years ago, the «Saturday Style Ride» makes clear it’s not meant as a rival happening – quite on the contrary, as the two events’ ulterior motives are basically identical. However, taking advantage of the summer that had eventually made itself felt in Switzerland as well, one simply felt the need to bridge the time to this year’s «Gentleman’s Run», which had been postponed to early autumn, with another bike jollity.
I admit, I needed some gently (or gentlemanly?) pushing by the GA’s headquarters (“You must go – you have a mission, madam!”), and I shall furthermore also credit the very organizer of «Saturday Style Ride» himself – Jeroen van Roijen – for inciting my final resolve, since I realized a fortnight before the event that Mr. van Roijen is actually one of us: However “broad” that “church” might be – the chap is a fellow Guv’nor rider! Hence I ultimately determined to join the adventure… on my very own Pashley Guv’nor named «Archie».
Now before my humble account of the actual event, let me add a word or two: As you might – or might not – have noticed, this report is written by your very own “Swiss Bob”. And just as the “Basket Brigade”-ladies might have their troubles squeezing all their shoes into their far too small suitcases, the start to the «Saturday Style Ride» for a Swiss “Bob” should not actually start at the start of the ride… if you get my point (*harrumph?). As ladies had been explicitly welcomed, I asked two… well… two… what you’d probably call “fillies” – the charming ACP and Pu Li – to accompany me. And they did so enthusiastically! However, the usual proceedings should consequently have gotten a bit more complex. Frantic text messages had been exchanged in the morning and up to lunchtime, where and when the ‘trio infernale’ should meet beforehand. After I perked up my Archie with pink ribbons and flowers, eventually some hysterical phone calls about nail varnish not yet having dried and last minute changes of one’s outfit needed in-depth analysis and discussion. In short: The closer the starting time of the official ride approached, the more we three postponed our own personal meeting time, eventually delaying it as much as to the actual point in time when we should all have gathered with the other «Saturday Style» riders at Jean Tinguely’s «Heureka» sculpture at the Lake of Zürich already.
Nonetheless, the three of us – impeccably dressed and made up – eventually paved our way on our bikes through the overcrowded lake promenade, where masses of people were having a weekend stroll on one of the first very hot summer days. Finally we reached the official meeting point, where we were greeted by dozens of fellow cyclists. We all queued (admittedly not quite as civilised as perfect British paragons) to register and collect our starting numbers, which had been beautifully prepared by Mr van Roijen and handed out by his lovely wife Nina. The latter also concomitantly issued some rather sophisticated looking fake bank notes, having written “Very Unusual Ten Pounds” on them (we were told that we might want to use them as vouchers at the end of the ride), and subsequently we were being offered a (notably Swiss) Tonic Water, resoundingly called “Gents” by one of the ride’s sponsors.
Since I had been told by the GA’s headquarters that I had a mission, I not only dutifully did some cunning guerrilla marketing (GA’s card in bowler’s hatband, and the like), but I also tried to spot just about every Guv’nor on the grounds, hoping to find its respective owner. And so I did: Karl and his graceful partner (on a beautiful green Pashley Princess) came all the way from Basel by train (yes chaps, “by train” … that’s how we people actually move around in Switzerland when we’re not cycling), the fellow who did l’Eroica on his Guvnor, and of course Wolf – another official GA member, and a familiar name on the forum.
Soon, we all set off on our way back to the city centre, along the crowded lake promenade, yet this time not as a trio, but accompanied by a good 120 spiffing and exquisitely dressed fellow cyclists on their beautiful bikes, amongst them a good handful of proud Pashley owners. This time, people could not miss us, but they would stand back, take pictures and greet somewhat bemused and / or complimentary. Subsequently, we all crossed the River Limmat on the “Quaibrücke” – the very bridge that had been traversed by the “Tour de Suisse” just two days earlier – to later reach our first stop at the “Hürlimann-Areal” – a former brewery – where we were to enter the classy interior design shop “Colombo – La Famiglia” to get generously offered glasses of wine and mineral water, which most certainly had all saved us from dehydration. Here was also the place where the first price – a Foscarini Lamp that went to the “Gentlewoman“ of the ride, Merel Gooijer – was presented. We then proceeded to cross the famous “Paradeplatz” (where all the British bankers make their fortune), passed the “Rathaus” (Zurich’s Town Hall) and cycled up the densely peopled Limmatquai, to make our way from the “Pestalozziwiese”, along the “Europaallee” to our next stop, the distinguished bike shop “Stilrad”.
Here we all got offered beer, before the official bestowment of the main award awaited us. The price was nothing less than a breath-taking first-class “Bella Ciao Bike“, Modell “Cato” in gold (!), which had been carried all along the ride on a bike trailer by Stilrad’s Alberto Friedrich. That specific award filled me with personal joy, since the lucky winner had been the very – and notably only – fellow who in fact dressed in tweed from head to toe. Dominik Arni – who had worn a very fine green three piece British tweed suit – not only looked genuinely dapper, but it only seemed more than fair that all this extra sweating on a very hot summer day ultimately had also been ceremoniously rewarded by the ride’s authorities. (It might seem somewhat ironic though that the only man getting horribly overheated since wearing tweed, had of all prizes gotten the award in the category paradoxically termed “coolest guy” by the organizers).
Finally we cycled through “Zürich West”, the city’s former, yet now booming industrial district, to reach our terminal destination: the «25 Hours Hotel». At long last we could redeem the “Very Unusual Ten Pounds” vouchers to get our free G&Ts, while the rest of the prices had been solemnly awarded: Mr. Daniel Dreifuss alias Maurice de Mauriac offering the prize, a watch, for “The most special bike” to Thomas Neeser, hotel vouchers to the couple Jonas Dreyfus and Mark Sickmann, several Victorinox bike tools to various preppy chaps and chappets and a Pashley handlebar-bag, sponsored by Swiss Pashley importer “Diverso” for the category “impeccable overall style”, given to Donatus Grütter riding a “MAX“ from Zweiradgeber which had actually been built by Sascha Kiesinger, who was the helpful fellow who lent a Guv’nor to EmGee CeCe when he visited Zurich last summer on his “GA mission” from the UK).
First and foremost, our gratitude shall be expressed to the main organizer and instigator of the event, Jeroen van Roijen. A warm applause must further be given to all his helpers who assisted to make the event possible in the first place; and last but not least, our respect needs to be shown to the numerous very generous sponsors who, apart from all the great prices, provided us with plenty of wine, beer and Gin throughout the ride, to ensure that not a single throat would ever risk feeling too dry – with the result that I myself would eventually feel just as ‘juiced’ as after a ‘proper’ GA ride.
To round it all off, I must say that all my initial concerns and misapprehensions had been smothered right at the ride’s start. Neither had there been too many hipsters, nor fashionistas that would make bikes or cycling appear in any way ancillary to the entire event. And although one might generally claim that, in contrast to the folks inhabiting the “land of crumble and lemon curd”, self-irony and eccentricity might not exactly be the (sometimes rather uptight) Swiss male’s forte, people like Mr. Stephan Feierabend, in his bizarre pilot style outfit riding a grey Pedersen bike, or indeed Marcus Tschopp, who secured this year’s distinction for “The biggest freak“ (and who delighted us all with his little ad hoc acceptance speech and dance performance), were perfectly fine counterexamples to undermine the simple generalisation.
Nevertheless, apart from the lack of a proper picnic in the middle or at the end of the event, there was one major difference: Whereas the British would never shrink from the idea of “pacing in grace” in rain, storm or hail, by contrast, the Swiss organizers made it clear even before the ride that one would only embark on such a venture with clear blue skies above.