What is “Tube Riding”?
I actually got asked this the other day, so I thought I would explain to you the rather dangerous practice that is at the centre of my dystopian novel, The Tube Riders.
## Disclaimer – “Tube Riding” is a fictional sport performed by a very small number of people in 2075 London. It is highly dangerous. DO NOT attempt to do it for real. You could quite possibly die and I, the author of The Tube Riders, will not be held legally responsible. Trust me on this. Just watch the movie. ##
A “tube” is a nickname for a subway/underground train. The Tube Riders are a group of young people (there could be older people, but they probably wouldn’t be able to handle it) who “surf” the sides of these trains. However, while the novel opens with them tube riding in the London Underground, it is possible to ride any train providing the prerequisites are met.
Prerequisites for Tube Riding –
1. A wooden board, known as a “clawboard”. Any flat piece of wood will do, but it must have metal handles or leather straps (preferably both) attached to one side, and a curved hook on the other. Some clawboards have two or more hooks, others have one big one.
2. Somewhere you can jump on the side of the trains without getting arrested. The Tube Riders in the novel use the abandoned London Underground Station of St Cannerwells. Now, don’t go looking for it, because St Cannerwells doesn’t exist. Yet (the novel is set in 2075).
3. A train. Obviously. Preferably one going pretty fast. The benefit of St Cannerwells is that it is abandoned and thus the trains don’t stop. They move through the station at speed, meaning the Tube Riders get a very exhilarating ride.
4. Some old mattresses or pillows to land on when you jump off. This is non-essential, as with correct technique it is possible to leap off and roll. However, as Marta explains in the book, “it hurts like hell”.
How to Ride and Dismount
As the train enters the station, you must run at a diagonal angle in towards it, as demonstrated by Marta in the first chapter of the book. You hold your board out in front of you. As you come alongside, you leap up towards the train, angling your board towards the metal drainage rail that is just above the window. Not all trains have this, so check beforehand.
If successful (and you really don’t want to miss), you stand with your feet braced apart just below the window, leaning back. Give any commuters a little grin, then get ready for the dismount.
It is very important that you get off before the train goes into the tunnel. Some of the tunnels are very tight and you could die. When you are nearing the breakfall mats at the end of the platform, push your board in and up. It will be held against the rail by the force of motion and you have to counteract it.
Immediately duck your head and arms in. Land on your back on the breakfall mats and be thankful that you are still alive.
The Aim of Tube Riding
While in the book, Switch describes Tube Riding as "better than any drug", obviously, the main aim is not to die. Several deaths have occurred, mainly when a rider misses what is known as the “hook” or the “mount”, and gets caught between the edge of the platform and the moving train. Some platforms have smaller gaps than others, but you really want to make that hook.
However, once successfully on the train, the aim is to dismount as close to the wall as possible, as indicated by painted or chalk marks on the platform edge. A score over thirty feet is novice, fifteen to thirty good, ten to fifteen exceptional. As mentioned in the book, no one has done under ten feet and lived.
You can check your own scores, but a score is not official unless it has been verified by at least one other Tube Rider.
More than anything, though, for the Tube Riders, their dangerous sport is something that holds them together in the chaotic days of Mega Britain. None of them have much family left, so it holds them together. It will also be needed to save them when they fall foul of the government.
Lastly, that disclaimer again. Remember, Tube Riding is a FICTIONAL sport. DO NOT try it EVER. NOT ONCE. I am not responsible.
September 4th 2012