SPIN: LDN debuted in Spring 2013 as the ‘world’s first urban bicycle show’, aiming to reach the parts that your typical, carbon fibre-heavy trade shows don’t reach – with the emphasis on a more intimate setting (namely east London’s heart of hip, the Truman Brewery) and a very select set of exhibitors, drawn from the bespoke, traditional, luxe, alternative and downright quirky ends of the bike-brand spectrum.
In the manic few days leading up to the 2014 show (28-30 March), Speak Media’s editorial director George Theohari managed to collar Spin London’s founder, Alex Daw, for a quick Q&A about the Festival, art, cycling in London, and the bike brands and innovations that make his head spin. In a good way.
George Theohari: Why did you start Spin? What was your original vision – and how close are you to achieving it?
Alex Daw: Spin was an accident waiting to happen, it kind of fell into my lap, all my interests and thoughts were around creating exhibitions and trying to capture the essence of contemporary living. People seem to bring ideas to life and I knew, like a bike by getting on it and riding; the proof would be in the pudding as it were.
The original vision was to create an accessible, alternative festival for cyclists and non-cyclists alike in the heart of the city, any city in fact!
GT: What makes it different from other bike shows?
AD: Most bike shows feel a certain way, are too big, hard to access or just plain boring unless you’re into a certain scene. They also lack any of the energy, enthusiasm and life that cycling generates in people.
GT: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s event?
AD: There’s loads of interesting stuff, I guess just seeing it all come together. Not everyone realises how many people it takes to organise such an event. There are hundreds of people gearing up for Spin LDN 14, be they polishing steel, sewing or stitching bags or clothing, printing signs, licking envelopes or posting posters.
GT: What are your three exhibitor highlights visitors should make a point not to miss?
AD: Hövding – The invisible cycling helmet. They are doing live stunt tests at the show, showing off the inflatable safety helmet for cyclists, which is a UK first!
PEdALED – All the way from Japan, some beautifully considered urban cyclewear that I’m hoping to have enough cash to purchase!
Vanhulsteijn – Some simply crazy-looking beautifully finished handmade bikes from Holland. They look incredible in photos but can’t wait to see them for real!
GT: You’ve made a name for yourself as an artist – how does that fit in with your other activities, especially organising Spin?
AD: Ha, hardly a name, but chipping away at it! I studied fine art and still have a studio, and paint and make collages. I’ve made something for the Cy-collage show which is being curated by Colectivo Futuro from Venezuela, which is nice. Spin is full on and I work every day on it and try and fit in my artwork around that. This changes when the show kicks off and when the weekend’s over and the dust settles, it’s a month or so of painting – then back onto Spin and other projects!
GT: Art and cycling. Discuss.
AD: Whether I’m in my studio away from the world, dreaming up ideas and throwing paint around, or riding my bike on an empty London Street, I feel completely content. I get goose pimples when riding alone sometimes, it’s such a liberating experience is cycling. At the heart it’s such a simple idea and notion, the seed of an idea that can expand into corners physically and mentally, much like art does. The two things are sort of bound for me; cycling is expressive and endearing as well as challenging.
GT: What’s special about cycling in London? How is it different of other parts of the UK or other capital cities in Europe?
AD: I think London’s great but has a lot of catching up to do when compared to other cities, I’ve cycled in Berlin, Amsterdam, there’s so much more thought gone into the structure for cyclists and of course there is more space on the roads and dedicated routes. All that will come in time with London, which does have some great spots to cycle – Regent’s Park and the canal I enjoy. Cycling over any of the bridges still makes me smile. I’m not from London and still feel like an alien to the city at times, cycling by the Thames, over London Bridge soaking up all the sights that are steeped in history.
AD: Pollution, overcrowding with cars and buses, mad cyclists who just want to bomb on and blitz through red lights, people randomly running in the road. Actually I think that’s my absolute pet hate at the minute, when the tube strikes were on , there was a queue of people jogging on the spot at the lights waiting for it to change – the world’s gone mad!?
GT: What’s your favourite ride/route in London (and out of London)?
AD: I don’t really ride into London very often, but I went to Brighton last year with my brother on a warmish Saturday afternoon via tandem, we argued constantly and the chain fell off 10 times but arriving on the beach for a beer was priceless. Trying to get the tandem on the train back… maybe not 😉
GT: What’s your ideal day in London?
AD: Visiting Spin next week of course! Other than that, cycling central and visiting The National Gallery & Maybe Tate Britain, I dig the old stuff and as trashy as central can be, I love feeling a bit of a ‘Londoner’.
GT: There’s been an explosion in cycling (and the cycling economy in recent years) – do you think it’s a fad/boom or will it continue growing?
AD: Hmm, I’m definitely no expert by any means but I think there are several gaps that can be exploited and are being. Tons of people need to cycle and now! Some people are rubbing their hands looking at ways to exploit this and the funding that the government are promising to spend, whilst others are reflecting and looking at the positive potential to be had by more people taking to cycling.
GT: What new cycling products/innovations are you most excited about?
AD: As above, the inflatable helmet is pretty out there. I think the ‘sky cycle’ would be epic if it ends up happening and of course the hover bike (seriously YouTube it) it’ll be a while before we start commuting via this means but I can dream!
GT: What’s your dream bike?
AD: Probably a bike that somehow adapts to my state of mind, so if I want to chill out and have a lazy ride it kind of lowers itself and makes my ride more comfortable and then if it knows I need to rush some place or want to speed up and down some hills it becomes more streamlined and changes colour, like a chameleon.
GT: You collaborated with Tokyo Bike on a rather nifty town bike – any plans for more Alex Daw bikes or maybe a line of cycling clothing/accessories?