Who are you?
I’m Alex Davis. I am the co-ordinator for 15 Queen Street and I also do some freelance stuff, such as marketing for a classical music festival, burlesque and craft workshops. I am also the self-appointed bike matron for Chapeau, although it is really informal, but I help out with events and media.
When did you get into cycling?
I have always been into cycling; I was raised pretty much on a tandem. Me and my dad used to go on cycling holidays- we would get a tent, get down to, for example, Cornwall, and stay on a camp site and have races together! When I went to Uni, I completely stopped, because I went to Leicester and there was not much cycling infrastructure.
So what brought you back to cycling?
When I left Uni, I went to Cambridge and that is how I got back into it. It is so much easier to cycle around there – everybody cycles!
Before I used to ride Mountain Bikes or tandems but then I got a really nice ladies bike, which brought back that joy of very informal, just-for-fun cycling. My dad, for example, is more on the serious side of it (organizing the Tour the France for non-competitors who want to do the same route!) so he is a completely different cyclist from what I am. I have created my own form of cycling that I like and plus- it’s so cheap!
What have you been involved with?
After Cambridge, I came back here and started cycling around Colchester- I don’t drive and I love that it’s free and it’s easy to get about. So it’s just been that kind of moment when you try to encourage other people to do it…Not in a preachy way, but just saying that it is easy to cycle, but you just have to have that confidence. So I became involved with Cycle Colchester, Sustrans and Breeze. Then when Mike set up Chapeau, I became the female face, just trying to help more women cycle.
We did some stuff at the Free Festival last year such as bike yarn bombing and a bike catwalk, trying to bring the fun into cycling and give it that different edge in order to get more people to cycle and realise how easy it is.
Tell us about your bikes and I understand you’ve got a special one as well?
I have four bikes at the moment, but my dad has 25 so…!! I have got an old Disco Dawes racer, which is red and has five gears, a green ladies Peugeot bike with a wicker basket called Benedict Barbados, a mini-wheeler and a Fixie Inc gold-framed fixie.
What’s a fixie?
Fixie is a fixed-gear bike, so you can’t free-wheel because your feet are tuned with the wheel – when your feet stop, the wheel stops. They are usually used for track racing because once you have got the momentum up, you kind of go really fast, so the idea is you hardly have to do anything on it.
When I was in Cambridge, everyone had fixies and I didn’t understand it, so when I came to Colchester I thought I’d try it for a laugh and I absolutely loved it. It’s just such a different way of cycling, you always think about the wheel and I really like it. Plus, it’s so much easier getting up hills, because you get the momentum up and you don’t have to keep changing gears, you just shoot straight up.
What plans do you have for the future in terms of cycling projects?
With Chapeau, we do a monthly alleycat, which is a treasure hunt on bikes. You get given a list and then go around the town. We get a really good turnout. But I want to create one of those for women-only. There is a group in America called Tiny Fix and they’re for women who only cycle on fixies; I wouldn’t want to do this here, because there just aren’t enough fixies, but I would like to create a female-cycling community – that is my biggest aim.
And I definitely want to do a Bicycle Ball in Colchester. I went to one in Ipswich. We all met up and cycled around together, ending up in a pub with a load of mixed arts event (life music, cabaret, an exhibition). I would love to do that in Colchester.