An interview with Alec Seaman

For the very first of our Mutterings, we speak with Alec Seaman, Development Director for World Bicycle Relief (UK). As a charity that uses bicycles to change lives, Alec knowsmore than most about the impact that cycling can have. As well as checking out our World Bicycle Relief page, we'd recommend to everybody who wants to do a fundraising activity that you get in touch with Alec and mention that you first met World Bicycle Relief here! You can also email info@hommageauvelo.com for more details on how you can help with such an awesome cause.

When did you first discover cycling, and where? Like most people, I had a bicycle (an old Raleigh Grifter my Dad had renovated for me) as a kid and I rode it around the garden and later around the farm, but it was my step father who first trusted me to go for a journey on my own – just to my Nan’s house and back, maybe 5 miles in total, but that was my first taste of independence and adventure.

At what point did you realise you were completely hooked on the sport? As soon as I made that first journey on my own, I wanted to go again and go further and go faster. I’d call my Nan before I set off and she’d start the timer and then it was hell for leather the whole way there collapsing in the front garden, lips blue with the effort.

How has your relationship with cycling shaped your career and your way of life? I haven’t always made sacrifices for cycling, indeed, sometimes I have sacrificed cycling for life and it’s a choice I have regretted in hindsight, but cycling has an opportunity to find peace on the difficult days, challenge and creative outlet when I’ve made frames, restored bicycles or painted frames.

What is your finest memory of riding a bike? Climbing Mont Ventoux last summer. Its not just because it’s an iconic climb, but because it had been my wife’s idea that I ride it whilst we were nearby. She got up early to drive me out that morning because she knew it was important to me and drove me home when I was done, but let me have the time on the mountain to myself, to push myself and enjoy the climb. It was a lovely thing for her to do, and the mountain was bathed in the sunshine the whole time. It was a perfect day.

When and how do you ride your bike now? I used to be a triathlete (for a given value of athlete), then I used to be a road biker, now I have gravel bike as well and of course I have my trusty Dutch town-bike, so I don’t think of myself as a type of rider who rides in a certain way at certain times, but someone who will jump on any kind of bike and enjoy it. Living in Cambridge makes cycling a bigger part of your normal day – hell, we dress up nicely and head to the theatre on our bicycles with baskets on the front.

 Where is your favourite place to ride a bike, and why? Anywhere I can get to from my front door without using a car. I suppose Norfolk is my normal favourite because I know where I’m going without constantly looking at a map or GPS – there’s comfort in familiarity. I have time to go down that road I’ve always wondered where it goes, and because I can sit up and look round a little more than I might elsewhere. Its nice riding if it isn’t too windy. If it is windy, you’ll realise Norfolk is flat simply because the mountains all got blown over years ago.

If you had 24 hours a day to ride a bike, what type of riding would you do, and where would you go, and who would you take with you? I’ve always fancied the Great Divide MTB route. With only 24hrs, I’d need to choose which bit pretty carefully and I think I’d want to go with my late step-father, he gave me this sense of adventure and if I’m going to be out in the bush somewhere getting eaten alive by huge mosquitoes or bears I want to be able to share that experience.