Illustration: Ryan Perkins
About six years ago, the urban cycling scene in Salt Lake City was at the height of its glory, with Davey Davis at the helm … er, handlebars. That era in our community was marked by activism and adventure led by a handful of charismatic individuals, and Davey was one of those invaluable cogs moving us forward with creativity and a very DIY sense of fun. From attending, organizing and winning every alleycat race, to writing and directing a short film bike opera (Don Giovanni: That Indomitable Hipster), to hosting the most epic after parties at his home, the Dada Factory (my skivvies are still blue from that one … ), Davey inspired a group of misfits to come together and create a community based on the simplicity of two wheels.
My testimony of Davey Davis is strong because, if I’m to credit anyone for most of what I have and who I am today, other than myself, it’s Davey. You see, Davey is responsible for three very magical events in my bicycle past: As a mechanic at the Bicycle Collective, he helped me assemble my very first road bike, the green kilo I have now ridden for six years; he challenged me to organize my very first alleycat, promising that if I did, he would put together a women’s ‘cat (which resulted in the Pussycat, in which I placed DFL because of a flat tire and the fact I got lost finding Pierpont––ironically the same street the SLUG headquarters are located); and he introduced me to Bike Snob, which sprouted this column into existence. Davey left the community a few years ago, first to teach film to students in [insert country] and then to inevitably take over New York City, but his conquest was cut short when he was offered a position as the Executive Director of the Salt Lake Bicycle Collective. I can already see exciting ripples of positive changes in the time Davey has been at the Collective, and anticipate a new golden-era of urban cycling with him leading us through new adventures. Stop by the Collective the next chance you get to meet the man himself, and support this community organization that has born most of Salt Lake’s most fervent cycling activists. And now, I give you Davey Davis:
BG: How would you describe the type of cyclist that you are? How would Bike Snob describe you?
Davey: I’m a commuter that went off the deep end. I love practicality in bikes, and not paying particular attention to little rules about not mixing manufacturers, eras or materials. I’d probably be a bit of a Retrogrouch or a Nu-Fred, especially because I can’t get over the utilitarian and indestructible nature of ’80s mountain bikes.
BG: Your most treasured group ride memory?
Davey: Without a doubt, the time that my friends created a surprise bike escort for me when I arrived at the airport after being away for a year. They sneakily coordinated a ride on Saltcycle and banned me from seeing posts on the page for a few days to boot. I walked out of the terminal and saw 20 cyclists roll up to the curb, Chris Ginzton astride my favorite bike.
Other than that, any ride where people do something absurd and cheerful and subversive, like Ride Like a Pirate Day or a ride mid-January in costume.
BG: How do you think the Collective is going to change under your direction?
Davey: I think the Collective is going to better communicate the simplicity, effectiveness and sustainability of its programs with me behind the microphone. I hope it becomes more well known in philanthropic circles of Salt Lake, and that we develop a culture of philanthropy around it. One example: I think we used to try and downplay the fact that we sell bikes to fund the shop. I’m proud that we do. I want everyone to know that if they donate a USPS Postal Service Trek to us, we’ll fix it up, sell it for a grand, and use it to fund the empowerment of 17 other people through our goodwill programs.
BG: What’s your ultimate goal at the Collective?
Davey: Bike Socialism. Meaning: every bike that isn’t being used or is thrown away from Brigham City to St. George will instead be converted into a community-connecting empowerment machine through our programs. The future will triumph, Comrades!
Seriously, though, what I love about our programs is they’re adaptable, stable, and can be scaled to any size community. I want to share the blueprint of our Salt Lake shop, mix it with what we can learn from similar shops around the world, and spread that model to our newer, smaller branches in Ogden, Provo, and beyond.
BG: If someone donated one million dollars to the Collective, what would you do with the money?
Davey: 1. Insure that each of our existing shops could last indefinitely by identifying buildings and buying them. We’re doing this in Ogden right now, for the measly initial purchase of $13,000 in back taxes and liens (shameless plug: we’re raising money, get in touch!).
2. Use it to develop really, really good versions of our core programs. So in Earn-A-Bike, for example, instead of a single instructor we’d have four that travel to schools and tiered courses where students return as co-teachers, culminating in a frame-building course for high-schoolers. With administrative and outreach budgets increased we could make sure that no bikes end up in landfills and see more bikes tuned and back on the road under their owners.
3. Spread that model to exist in equal saturation around the state.
4. Profit. No really, our programs are revenue-generating, except for the Goodwill bikes and Earn-A-Bike, which we intentionally keep free to better achieve our mission.
BG: What’s your idea of a perfect bike ride?
Davey: I love touring. You get to work hard, but also take things in at a leisurely pace, see beautiful scenery, and bring your own sandwiches. You get the triumph of a hard climb and the thrill of a descent with full bags. In general it’s great to head out on a nippy morning and feel underdressed and a little cramped and see your breath, then warm up as the world wakes and the sun rises. The road would slalom and bank, you’d smell fresh grass and be tired and alive and complete.
BG: I hear you have some big plans for ladies night. Why do you think it’s important?
Davey: Our culture has outdated hangups about who should be physically strong, who should do mechanical things, who should sweat. I would love to help break those misconceptions the way Annie Kopchovsky did in 1894, riding around the world and giving zero damns about what people thought was acceptable.
Furthermore, bicycling is not just for bike jocks, just as it isn’t just for athletes, hipsters, granolas or any other group that can be pigeonholed. Bikes are tools with a ton of upsides and very few downsides, and everyone who is culturally deterred from getting into bikes should be given access. The women in our constituency have a passion to share their love of bikes and the Collective exists to facilitate that sharing as much as possible on every front.
BG: Tell us your alleycat winning secret.
Davey: I swear to god, it’s mostly luck. Tons of people in this town, in New York, everywhere I’ve raced, are way more fit than me. They’re actual athletes, I’m just a commuter with a maniac smile and congested nasal passages. When I do well, it’s because I take a moment to plan, I get zen and push myself, and I delight in being sly along the way.
Make sure to sign up for the Collective’s email list at bicyclecollective.org, as Davey has been very vocal about his plans and won’t hesitate to pull you into the community and make you feel like you’ve been part of it all along. He is also a very talented writer and artist, and you can find some of that at dadarobotnik.com. You can read my extended interview with Davey on slugmag.com. Davey Davis for President!