Follow @wuba
Late Night Bike Tales

by Vanessa Bell

Photos by Mati Kalwill (color) & Flavio (B&W;)

The day of the Critical Mass dawned grey and threatened rain. Buenos Aires has a micro climate, with annoyingly unpredictable weather patterns, so I knew that any decision making would be left until last minute. I badly wanted to start cycling again, and this was to be my first venture out on the streets of the city, yet on a bike I was unfamiliar with, I was taking the fair-weather cyclist stance. Buenos Aires is a mad bad city, where rules and conventions are flaunted at every light, cross section and turn, and that’s just on the traffic front. But as luck would have it, the soot black storm clouds and torrential rain dissipated and made way for the afternoon sun. I threw caution to the wind and embraced its warm early evening gusts to make my maiden voyage on my newly serviced vintage steed down Salta street to the meeting point, the Obelisk on 9 de Julio Avenue.

Critical Mass started in BA two years ago, and a month ago the idea of a nocturnal event by the light of the full moon was trialed successfully. It doesn’t parade as a politically motivated venture and prides itself on not being represented by any one individual, rather as a body of like minded cyclists, involved in spontaneous gatherings which create social space via the bicycle. Originating in China for purely practical reasons, cyclists would negotiate busy cross-sections where there were no lights by pooling together and forming a ‘critical mass’ thereby crossing the road in relative safety.

As the minutes passed and more and more people arrived, the mounting sense of anticipation and excitement was palpable, not knowing exactly when we would pull off or where we were heading, destination very much unknown.


Late Night Bike Tales

As the ring ring of expectant bells reached a crescendo, it was clear that the start of our adventure was imminent. We pulled off onto the main road encircling the obelisk, to the dissonant beeping and honking of the cars whose flow we’d interrupted, something we’d quickly become accustomed to during the two hour pedal around the city. There was a varied collection of bikes, ranging from vintage sit up and begs to fixed gear, with racers, mountain bikes and ‘playeras’, the ubiquitous beach cruisers, with high arching handlebars, and a counter pedal breaking mechanism. Some people had come on skateboards and there was even a jogger giving Forrest Gump a run for his money, who kept up with the mass throughout.

The silly grins and euphoria was infectious. As we turned onto the main strait of Leandro Alem Avenue my friend Mati Kalwill pulled up next to me on his folding Boardwalk bike, on the back of which he’d strapped his parents old JVC boombox and rigged it up to his iPhone, earning brownie points for both style and ingenuity. We weaved in and out between other cyclists, Of Montreal providing an ideal soundtrack.

Late Night Bike Tales

The general feeling I got was one of invincibility, in spite of the fact that at one stage I was at the tail end of the group, with the aggressive cars and buses nipping at our mudguards, I still felt this sense of safety in numbers, and that together we were achieving something wonderful, seizing the streets and making them our own, albeit momentarily. There were seasoned participants of the mass who took it upon themselves to oversee the safety of the group, cycling up ahead to form a human barricade to halt the traffic on either side whenever the lights turned green.

We’d pass under bridges and whoop and shriek in a childlike regression. We’d wave at passersby, some who waved back, others who clapped and cheered with approval. Friendships were forged along the way, with animated conversations played out between boys and girls en route, a hotbed of flirtatious activity, with one smitten participant’s quest to track down a mysterious girl in a red cape played out on the Facebook page in the days to follow.

Late Night Bike Tales

The crowning moment was when we peeled off onto the motorway, making a brief ballsy claim for both carriageways of the Libertador underpass, a steep incline which we tackled, to then to be rewarded as we doubled back on ourselves and made the most of the delicious steep drop to freewheel and howl wildly in unison.

The mass ran out of steam when it reached the Planetarium, it was clear that some were flagging from the evening’s exertions, although I got the impression many were game to continue pedaling well into the night. The lure of an impromptu full moon party was the deciding factor, with a guy selling ice cold beer from a cool box providing the much needed refreshment and tribal drumming the soundtrack into the early hours. For all that the mass had dispersed in physical terms, the energy it created continued to unite and lingered for hours and days after, many already counting the days until the next gathering, others waxing lyrical about the experience on blogs and social networking sites. I ended up going for late night pizza followed by a gentle ride home with Mati, his friend Flavio, the boombox and The Tallest Man on Earth for company through the deserted streets of Palermo, grinning like a cheshire cat as I played out in my head the magical experiences of the last couple of hours.


To keep up on future Critical Mass events, you can visit the official website here.

Che Polo Welcomes 2nd South American Bike Polo Tournament
Damas Represent at this Year's BAFIM
Ladies of New Folklore Live
Extranjeros #5 - Liza
A Day with Bandoleiro
Video Premiere for Olga's "Avalancha de Sonrisas"
Extranjeros #4 - Adélaïde
Skateboarding in Alpargatas: A Visit to the Republic of Mataderos
Chili Arrives to Buenos Aires
Daisy Gate
A Home for the City's 'Jazz-os'
"Listen Online, Buy It at Mercurio"
Video Premiere for Chancha Vía Circuito's "Amelia"
The Mixed Grill
Future Sounds of Buenos Aires
WUBA Releases First Print Edition
Extranjeros #3 - Gabi
Lulacruza Releases Road Trip Documentary "Esperando el Tsunami"
An Interview with Rolando Bruno, or How to be a Modern Sandro de America?
Moacir, For the Love of Music
Extranjeros #2 - Evy
Discovering the City Through a Lens
Diary of an Unsophisticated Girl at a Sophisticated Film Festival
Toto la Momposina, Queen of the Cumbia
Bomba Estereo Returns to Buenos Aires
Listen to: Paloma del Cerro
Border Hopping: Astro releases first LP
Extranjeros #1 - Estefanía and Paz
Los Hermanos McKenzie present "Siamés"
Javi Punga, The People´s Singer
Sofía Viola, This Year´s Revelation
My Favorite Night Out: La Fiesta Muda
Val Veneto, Making the Dancefloor Vibrate
Organic City, Pt. V: Green Guerrillas
Party with WUBA
Happy Sundays at the Vuela el Pez
Tomi Lebrero, A Voice for the Curious Porteño
Catnapp, Breakin' All the Rules
Passionaria: Passionately Losing Control with Soema Montenegro
Countdown to Universo Kerpel
Niños en Casting
Organic City, Pt. IV: Community Tune-Up at La Fabricicleta
A Street Art Renaissance
They Call Him Lolo
Pompeya Shakes Up Winter
Fede Lamas and Mónica Heller open BRUTAL
The Bondies present their album "Stereotrip"
Mind Blowing Circus? Yes.
WUBA RADIO: Vol. III - The Lulacruza Mixtape
Behind the Scenes with Flamboyant Paradise
Los Labios
A Night with Marc Van der Aa
Springlizard, Acoustic Dreams
Organic City, Pt. III: Recycled Art at the CC Recoleta
Dietrich Takes Over the IMPA
Systema Solar Closes "Colombian Invasion" Series
Viva Elástico, Pop´s Little Beast
WUBA RADIO: VOL. II - Free Music Weekend
WUBA Raffles Tickets to Bag Raiders
WUBA RADIO: VOL. I - The Colombian Invasion
On Sale & Delivering - Tranq - al - Gatas!
Sidestepper Kicks Off Colombian Invasion
Ulises Conti - Little Concerts
Lustre - A Live Cinema Experience
The New Queen Bee
Hippies and Happenings at the MALBA
The Importance of Singing Falsete
Vincent Moon - Temporary Buenos Aires
Kumbia Queers Are Back with New Album !
The Art of Therapy
When All That's Left is a Loaf of Stale Bread
Organic City, Pt. II: A Piece of the Country in the Middle of the City
ZZK's Tremor Brings the Future Sounds of Buenos Aires to WOMEX *Updated!
San Telmo's Secret
Ulises Conti: On the Frontier
The History of Fire
Little Concerts for a Single Listener
The Digital Underground
Dreams for Sale
Be A Part of a Record Label - Support Buenos Aires Emerging Culture!
The Time Bomb
A Film from the Other Side of the Tracks
Between Love and a Hard Place
ArteBA - A Few Observations
ArteBA - Who Said the Art World is Stuffy
Tremor's Search for Sounds
Agriculture in an Art Space?
Lysergic Cumbia
Photographic Paintings
Dirty Dancefloor
Organic City
If You Build It...
Buenos Aires plus Cape Town equals Cross Cultural Fun
Unreal Night @ Aula Magna
Limbo Fest Second Edition
FeatBA Launches
Adelantados: Primal Scream Journei
The (BA) Expat Hustle 2.0
Down by Hipodromo: Illustrating Queer Structures & Actors in Buenos Aires
Tranqui Yanqui Keeps it Rockin
Villa Diamante releases "Empacho Digital"
La Internacional Argentina
Graffitimundo Opens in Buenos Aires
Behind the books: Eloisa Cartonera interview
Casa L'Inc
Zizek Club Hits North America Again
Get Out! With WUBA & The Herald
Mamushka Dogs - Indie en la City
Style Me Buenos Aires - My First BAF
Whats Up Santiago
Riding as a Collective
History and the Universe
Festival Buen Dia WUBA & ZZK Style
Twitter With Us
Chillaxeando w/ Animal Collective
Tremor Drops ZZK Mixtape Vol. 5 & Plays Zizek Club Tonight!
Argentine Urban Art @ You - Part 2
Lola Arias & Ulises Conti: Straight to the heart.
Tranqui Yanqui
Argentine Urban Art @ You
King Kerpel
Get Up on Argentina´s Illustrators, Street Artists & Graphic Designers
Zizek North American Summer Tour
Buck Hunter and the Pig City Porkrollers
Desde Buenos Aires Argentinaaaaaaaaaaaa...El Hijo de la Cumbiaaaaaaa
Gulliver: an artist at the door.
Street Food Buenos Aires - Whats Up?
Barrio Chino - A Weekend of Flavors & Images
Lines, Points, Music, Videos!
Nuevo World Order
Da Rin & Estol @ Benzacar
Zizek on Tour - Starts Today!
The Art of Todd Shalom
Sucio - Tropicore Mix
WUBA Turns 3!
New Rave Made in Argentina
Pop-Art in the Pink House
Puta in loveyou* (clothes, not sex)
Shakespeare was Argentine
Living with a Porteño Roomate - Part 2
Advanced Mixology 101
Fran Di Gianni Mix: Yo Soy Así
No al Cierre de Ciudad Abierta
BASE-V @ Hollywood in Cambodia
Disco Shawn´s Argentine Sabbatical
Refusenik Mix: Kold Krussian
Daleduro is Taking Over
Diplo @ Zizek This Wednesday!
Festival Season a Comin
BsAs by Moise Torne
Zizek Blows Out 1 Year Candle
Chau Old Site!
Living with a Porteño Roomate
Mercado del Progreso