Lee Duffield

Edited by Lee Duffield
Freedom and Truth

Cycling ‘alleycats’ race through Brisbane city streets


"Fixie" bicycles ready to race (Image: Katie Callan)

In what was once a niche sporting pursuit, cyclists are now peddling their way around Brisbane en masse, making those driving or on foot feel a little left out.

Dave Smith, an avid cyclist and member of this growing subculture, says the leap in popularity is definitely noticeable.

“I think what is happening in Brisbane is reflective of similar trends you see in places like London or New York,” Mr Smith said.

“Cycling has become very fashionable lately even though it has had a strong presence here for quite some time.”

Mr Smith rides with a group of cyclists who love their bikes, ride fast and occasionally cheat death while navigating the city streets.

‘Alleycat’ races

As a player in weekly bike polo matches in West End and co-organiser of the underground ‘Alleycat’ races, he keeps his cycling addiction well under control.

Alleycat began in North America in 1989 as an informal race of bicycle messengers and couriers through the streets of major cities.

Raced on fixed-gear bikes or “fixies”, the Alleycat has since spread into a worldwide phenomenon reaching Europe, Asia and Australia.

“Alleycat is a lot of fun and it really lets the cyclists who are top of their game, the couriers show off their skills and some of them are just incredible riders,” Mr Smith said.

Once the circuit for the race is set competitors must ride as fast as they can to designated checkpoints.

“We often get riders from interstate – couriers who might be top of their game down south will come up and test their skills and getting sponsorship has been a big boost for us.”

But he says the Alleycat is not without risk.

Injuries are common and due to the illegality of the races, so are close shaves with the police.

“Last year one of our races was shut down before it even started –  think 21 police showed up and there were only 23 riders, so we didn’t stand a chance,” he said.

Fashion statement

Mandy Doyle, a fashion agent and newly recruited bike enthusiast, says she has a new appreciation for the river city after seeing it by bicycle.

“Brisbane is such a beautiful place and you really don’t appreciate it when you drive everywhere,” Ms Doyle said.

She says that her partner, a keen mountain biker, converted her to peddle power.

“I think cycling has become fashionable, although we don’t look as great as they do in London because it is so hilly and hot here my dress is covered in sweat by the time I get home,” she said.

Aside from the  fashion trend, Ms Doyle says the increase in cyclists on the road is an indication of environmental awareness.

“I think many people, including myself, who have recently taken to cycling are largely doing it to do their bit for the environment,” she said.

Mr Smith agrees.

“I am studying engineering and environmental science and I know a lot of the cycling community is also very environmentally conscious,” Mr Smith said.

“It is something that cyclists worldwide feel very strongly about and is just another reason why it is such a great sport that everyone should have a go at.”