PN: So how did you get into cycling?
SW: I was like any child, getting a bike with stabilisers at infant school, just riding on the pavement. We didn’t really do cycling as a family. When I started secondary school, I went to the Gilberd which was then on North Hill and we had to wait till we were 13 to cycle to school. So I then rode from New Town to school every day. There was a wide catchment area, but I remember the bike sheds weren’t full. I wasn’t into cycle touring, but I followed Colchester United and I remember cycling to Watford once with a mate from the sixth form.
PN: Did you carry on cycling when you were at college?
SW: No, I didn’t do any cycling at Uni. I studied Zoology at Bristol, and then Computer Science at Newcastle, but felt I didn’t want to be an academic spending years doing research. It was the early ’80s and the PC hadn’t really appeared yet. I had a Commodore PET, and in my final year of Zoology I got introduced to Basic programming. It was very logical, and so with my Victorian work ethic I decided to retrain and moved into software development and did a Masters in computing.
PN: So did you have more opportunity to cycle when you started work?
SW: My first job was in Stevenage, it was a good town for cycling, and I thought I deserved a new bike, so I bought a Raleigh 531 tourer which is still my main bike for the CTC Sunday rides. The bike was just for work, I don’t remember going on any social rides. Then I was seconded to Basingstoke for 6 months and started going out with the CTC, for Sunday rides and on weekday evenings. That’s how I met my wife, Pauline, and so we got more into doing social rides, and holidays in Europe. After we got married, we got trailer bikes when the children were old enough and had cycle holidays at Center Parcs in Holland and France. We each rode a normal tourer bike, with a child’s trailer on the back. Dutch people seemed really surprised to see the trailer bikes, as I suppose their children usually rode their own bikes from an early age. We moved from Basingstoke to Farnborough and then to Oxford and we migrated away from CTC and just did our own family rides.
PN: So when did you come back to Colchester?
SW: I moved back in 2011 when I got divorced, and started going out with the CTC again. Alan Palmer had just started leading the Sunday rides, they were just once a month at the time. And the Cycling Town project had just finished, so I got the benefit of all the new cycle routes. I’ve always done spin classes in an effort to keep fit, I did it for 7 or 8 years in Oxford, and now I go to Bannatyne’s, used to be Clarice House. I cycle there, but walk to work as it takes half an hour and I like to listen to a Radio 4 podcast, and the walk is just the right length
PN: I know you got back in touch with your cousin Chris, who’s a keen cyclist, a few years ago, how did that happen?
SW: I was a volunteer for Cycle Colchester at the Colchester Free Festival in 2015. I was helping with Pulp Friction, the cycle smoothie maker, and Chris was promoting his bid for the Masters Track Cycling World Championships in Manchester last year. We had the same surname, and then discovered we were cousins. We’ve got a lot in common, and since then I see him a lot, and I accompanied him to Manchester for the championships. And I go out with him occasionally on a local Sunday ride to slow him down a bit!
PN: And now you’re one of the founders of the Colchester Bike Kitchen?
SW: I’ve always been concerned about the environment, and I feel I’ve done pretty well out of life, getting a full grant to go to University. I’d done voluntary work before, so I was really interested when I heard about CBK. It meets two agendas for me, it helps the environment by encouraging people to use bikes instead of making unnecessary car journeys, and it keeps people fit. We started off at the Waiting Room in 2015, and now that’s closed, we’ve moved next door to 15 Queen Street.
PN: Have you had to do any training for CBK?
SW: I sent myself on an entry level mechanics course and I’m technically curious, so out of interest I did a frame building course to find out what I needed to do to make an old style steel framed bike, to replace my old Raleigh. I was left some money when my mum died last summer, so I’ve invested in a cargo bike to support CBK and I’ve also got a recumbent bike that I’ve only ridden a couple of times. I’m going to be moving to the Cannock Mill co-housing project in summer 2018 so the cargo bike will also be useful there. I hope we’ll operate a cycle workshop separate from CBK, as well as having pool cars so I can give my car to my daughter!