Doing #moonlightmass right

2012-10-26 15:35

Every full moon Cape Town's streets get an extra sprinkling of magic as hundreds of bikes, boards and wheels of all sorts take over in a mass celebration of the city and the unique joy of navigating it using only eco-friendly energy. 

Going by the name of #moonlightmass, this invigorating community event started in January 2012 when Daniel Graham and Elad Kirshenbaum decided that a full moon ride along the promenade would be quite dandy indeed. "We turned to twitter... and started as a social experiment. We tweeted about the ride, time and date, and waited patiently to see who would join us on our debut #moonlightmass," the two co-founders explain on the webiste.

While the inaugural ride saw only a handful of eager cyclists, the word soon spread and by April participant numbers had grown to around 900,  drawing a diverse crowd from all corners of the city, including Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.

So what's the point, you may ask?

Well, apart from basking in the glow of the full moon, enjoying that special sense of community and taking in the beauty of the Mother City while making use of your limbs, the event also aims to raise awareness about cyclists' safety in urban areas, as well as the environmental benefits of commuting as opposed to driving your car everywhere.

Basically, it's a fun variation of Critical Mass, a worldwide cycling event that takes place on the last Friday of every month. 

But is it safe, you may ask next? 

While taking to the city streets at night on something as unrobust as a bicycle may sound slightly risky to most sane people, it's actually pretty safe. Firstly, the organizers have involved the local authorities to help direct traffic and block necessary roads for parts of the event to keep cyclists as safe as possible. Secondly, you're part of a large throng, so muggings and that sort of thing are highly unlikely. Despite this, you do remain in a vulnerable position, so remember to be vigilant.

How far and how hard? 

It starts at the Green Point circle - usually just after 9pm - and wends its way all along Granger Bay Boulevard, Beach Road, Moullie Point Promenade, the Fan Mile cycle lane, and comes to an end at Greenmarket Square. The route is approximately 12 kilometers long and takes an easy hour to complete. 

When's the next one?

Well, we're glad you asked! It happens to be tonight (Monday 29 October) and if you're planning on going, you better dress to kill in your most frightening Halloween-themed garments!

If it's your first time, check out our seven tips:

Bring your friends - even the unfit ones

While you could go alone and probably enjoy it just as much as the next cyclist, the event really is actually a rather social one and best experienced in the company of fun-loving friends. Because of the relaxed pace and the large crowd, it's quite accessible to those who haven't even touched a bicycle in years, so don't allow "I'm not fit enough" to excuse anyone from joining in! On the last ride there were even a few little kids on bikes of their own riding along with their parents. 

Dress up


Photo: Inside Access

Well, Monday's ride is going to have a Halloween theme, so go wild with your outfit. However, even though most #moonlightmass events are unthemed, a lot of cyclists tackle the dress code with the same fervour festival-goers do with Rocking the Daisies. Basically, leave behind the Lycra and wear something fun - tutus, funny helmets, colourful t-shirts and glowsticks are all popular accessories. But, if you're not the dressing up type, you're fine just as you are too... (as long as you leave behind the Lycra).

Decorate your bike


Photo: They all hate us

Seeing you're going to be riding at night, stocking up on reflective gear is a very good idea. However, why stick to the conventional lights and reflectors, when you can dolly up your bike with battery-driven fairy lights? Yup, people actually do this... and it looks awesome! 

Ride something other than a bike


Photo: Shutterstock

While it may have started out as a cycling initiative, #moonlightmass is open to anything with a wheel that uses your own energy to move forward. So, haul out those old roller-skates, borrow your brother's skateboard or steal your little cousin's scooter! And if you can find a way to make an office chair ride along the route comfortable, go ahead - you'll steal the show!

It's not a competition

So, there's no rush. Take it easy, breathe in the delicious salty air while riding along the promenade, admire the twinkling lights and don't forget to admire the big, round moon! When you get to Greenmarket Square, don't rush back home immediately (even though it is quite late), but wind down with your fellow riders - grab a beer at one of the restaurants, or enjoy coffee and a free cupcake at the Central Methodist Church that looks out over the cobbled plaza. 

Safety first


Photo: I'll get you my pretty

Yes, the ride does take place at an exceptionally slow pace, but that doesn't mean nothing bad can happen. Stay on the safe side, wear a helmet and make sure your laces are tied tight, so they don't get stuck in the chain or wheel spoke sand make you fall. 

Have fun

In the end this is really what it's all about, so just let go!

Check out the #moonlightmass website for more details. 

Similar events take place in Johannesburg and Durban. Check out the #moonlightmass Durban Facebook page for more details. and also the Critical Mass Johannesburg Facebook group.

If you attend any of these events, or have before, please send us your snaps to pics@gotravel24.com, we'd love to share your experience!

Come join the News24 Travel community on Facebook and Pinterest or follow us on Twitter, otherwisesubscribe to our weekly newsletter for more useful travel updates.

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