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Dec 21: Deck the Bike with Boughs of Holly – Critical Christmas Monterey

Most of the info below will still be relevant for the December 21, 2014 ride, so skim over it if you’re coming in 2014.

For 2014 updates, refer to the Facebook page put up by organizer Jim Wrona:  https://www.facebook.com/CriticalChristmasBicycleRide

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Bicycling Magazine knows where 8 great holiday rides are in the USA. And yes, one is Critical Christmas Monterey!

Sun, Dec 22, 2013: Annual holiday ride…

organized by Jim Wrona, a member of Velo Club Monterey, riders and bike advocatesDetails below. Rain cancels event.

Review CA bike laws, prep your lights, and come ride with new and old friends!

All ages, locals and visitors, are welcome to participate in this annual holiday celebration.  Be a great ambassador for bicycling as you demonstrate safe riding practices and having a blast on a bike!

Cali bike laws and riding skills/personal safety tips:
  1. Options for all ages/abilities: Event organizer Jim Wrona reminds participants that there is no pressure on any individual or family to bike beyond the Custom House Plaza and the bike/multi-use path.   Some people, especially those with children pedaling their own wheels, may prefer to drop out when other people bike on the streets.
  2. Sidewalk riding? It’s not permitted on Alvarado Street. Besides, sidewalk riding is often less safe than biking streets. See sidewalk info in CA Bike Laws and Personal Safety.
  3. YES: Biking is allowed on both Wharf II/Commercial Wharf and the Coast Guard pier.
  4. NO: A City of Monterey ordinance prohibits bike riding on Wharf I/Old Fisherman’s Wharf.  It makes sense many people miss seeing that “no biking” sign posted above eye-level at the top of Wharf I (as with many signs, it’s posted high to prevent vandalism). If any Critical Christmas riders choose to bike down Wharf I, you can easily abide by the ordinance; simply wait at the top of Wharf I to rejoin the others.
  5. “Same roads, same rules, same rights.”  Unless you are part of a calvacade/procession that is formally excused (by the presence of a directing police officer) from obeying traffic lights and stop signs, California traffic laws apply.
  6. Cruising with tunes? Remember to keep one ear bud out–because it’s the law, and because it makes you and those around you safer in a group ride situation. 
  7. Refer to one or more of the following to prepare for this ride:
Bike lights

For info on decorating your bike, see Jim Wrona’s tips below, and contact Jim with questions.  Of course, avoid decorations that could get caught in spokes or otherwise cause injury to you or others.

Critical Christmas Monterey – Gather by 5:45 PM. Ride rolls out at 6:00 PM and continues until approx 7-7:30.
Start and Finish at Custom House Plaza, Monterey

Which plaza is that? Click here.

Photo contributed by Jan Valencia, Velo Club Monterey’s Answer Man

Critical Christmas Monterey

by Jim Wrona

Critical Christmas Monterey is very loosely patterned after, and an amalgam of, Critical Mass plus that goofy event they do in Ukiah where truck drivers decorate their 18-wheelers and parade through town. Critical Christmas is intended to get adults and kids out for a leisurely, fun, and goofy bicycle ride, although not necessarily in that order.

One goal of our local Critical Christmas is to ride either the worst bicycle you can get your hands on, or a classic bicycle (Schwinn StingRay’s are highest on the pecking order), decorate it with as much Christmas stuff (also known in popular culture as “bling”) as you can duct tape in place, and ride and sing your way through Monterey. The Critical Christmas motto is “More of Everything,” which pretty much sums how much wattage you should be considering when buying those battery powered LEDs. This is, after all, Critical Christmas, where it’s not the bicycle but the decorations taped to the bicycle that really count. (Caveat: anyone sporting a racing bicycle will be made fun of relentlessly.)

The event starts at Custom House Plaza at 5:30 or 5:45 p.m. for the ceremonial decorating of the bicycles (bring lots of tape and batteries, please). We will roll at 6:00 p.m. out in some random direction. The only known along the route: hot laps in both directions around the Custom House Plaza fountain. We usually finish riding in less than an hour.

Dress for the weather. Rain cancels. Food and libations follow at a local establishment [Dutch treat]. Critical Christmas is free, however complimentary pints of post-ride beer will be accepted by the organizer, Jim Wrona. Call  (831) 633-1819 with any questions.

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Please help maintain and expand the Bicycling Monterey website and projects by making a financial contribution. Any amount is appreciated.

To contribute via PayPal: Click button in the right-hand panel.

For other ways to contribute, see About Contributions.

  • Looking for more group rides? For starters, check Bicycling Monterey’s Master Calendar.
  • For more winter holiday tips–including about free Bike-and-Ride option to First Night Monterey, click here.

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History of Critical Christmas Monterey

How long has this annual event been going? Jim Wrona commented on his Facebook event page that 2014 will be the 15th annual. And the Monterey County Weekly likewise acknowledged the longevity of this event in their 2004 story.

Read the Monterey County Herald’s 2011 story (12/19/11) by Kevin Howe, “Light on Wheels:  Cyclists maintain unofficial bike parade tradition.”  (Update from organizer Jim Wrona: A total of about 75 participants turned out for Critical Christmas 2011, Jim’s count taken on the return trip from Cannery Row.)

As Howe’s story noted, Girl Scouts [of the Central Coast/Northern Region] were represented by at least one troop leader and a cadette.  Curious to learn more about Critical Christmas 2011 participants?   Read 13-year-old Rebecca and 11-year-old Justine Warwick’s story, “Campfires and flat tires:  The Warwick sisters on keeping up with Dad.”

Two days after Critical Christmas 2011, Salinas High Cowboy Racing’s Jim Warwick–coach of the first organized public high school mountain biking team in Monterey County–and his daughters returned to the same spot to share with friends the pleasures of the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail and other bikeways by daylight.  Below they are at the Custom House Plaza on the morning of December 20–a bright, beautiful morning and early afternoon that brought out a lot of people on bikes; click here for a gallery of others out biking Monterey on 12/20!

Dec 8, 2013 – Critical Christmas Practice Ride
by Jim Wrona

The Monterey Lighted Boat Parade is Sunday, December 8 at 5:30 PM. Let’s have a Critical Christmas practice ride and join the boats. Meet at Custom House Plaza [gather approx 5:15-5:30] for a planned departure of 5:30 PM. [Note this is an earlier departure time than on December 22.]

Bling up your bikes and kids and dogs. Yes, the real Critical Christmas will still take place on December 22, weather permitting. The December 8 ride is a “practice.” Local TV media are expected to be there. Should be fun if the weather holds.  Rain will cancel this practice session.

Monterey’s annual lighted boat parade will take place Sunday Dec 8th, beginning @ 5:30.
The only West Coast parade that leaves protected waters. Boats will leave Monterey’s harbor at 5:30 sharp and proceed along Cannery Row to the Aquarium and turn back along Cannery Row to the judges. The judges will be on the balcony at Massaro and Santos restaurant [above Bayview Deli BBQ & Market] located at the Coast Guard Pier.  The boats will then parade by the end of Wharfs I and II.
Prime viewing spots will be by the judges’ location and at the end of the wharfs. The “Taste of Monterey” will be staying open late for the parade and should offer spectacular viewing, along with all the other great waterfront establishments along Cannery Row.
Interested bicyclists are encouraged to decorate their pedal power and “ride-the-rec-trail” at the same time.” A truly unique event!

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This post has been updated from the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 editions.

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