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Alex

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|| Bike Works mechanic and active living coordinator at Evergreen Brick Works ||

Alex

You know what, I love this place [Evergreen]. It’s an interesting feeling to connect so deeply with a space you work in. It’s relaxing. I can sit at any vantage point and see only green. 

— Alex

Evergreen is awesome. If you take up a project or initiative, they are very supportive of helping you see it through. I’ve been working here since April. I was a bike mechanic for the past seven years, and then Sweet Pete’s and Evergreen hired me on for a joint role managing this [Bike Works] shop and running their bike programming. My goal is simple: to get more people on bikes.

Do you find there are many newcomers that tag along for your group rides? 

We have a huge range in the skill level of our attendees. Our biggest success this year has been our women’s mountain bike rides. I love being able to encourage more women to try out mountain biking. It can be an intimidating sport, but when people try it, many say it’s the most fun they’ve ever had.

We have people that come in who have been riding roads for years but say they want to try something different. Some of the women [with previous experience] say it’s scary or ‘un-fun’ when they ride with guys. Guys race ahead and then drop you and then race ahead again. This is a very common experience for women on mountain bikes who ride with dudes [outside of Evergreen]. And then when you catch them at the top of the hill, when you’re huffing and puffing, the guys say, “OKAY LET’S GO!” 

Do you take the groups biking around the Evergreen area?

There are a ton of trails around here; this [area] really is the perfect setting. We started with a Tuesday night ride that we held twice a month. Then it turned into a weekly event because it was so popular. Now we host multiple rides, including a beginner session every week, an intermediate level ride, and then the occasional Friday morning ride.

When riders prep for a jump, their natural reaction is to think, “okay, what am I doing wrong?” The next month, I watch them do the same jump. I can see how people have grown. It’s friggin’ cool.

Visit Bike Works to learn more about Evergreen’s ride programming.

Do you find there are a lot of injuries?

No! In fact, we haven’t had a single injury and we’ve been running this program all summer (yes, this is actual wood, you can knock it). I personally crash all the time, but on the rides we take around Evergreen, I never do.

We push people’s boundaries in a safe way. If riders want to take it easy, we respect people’s internal sense of caution; that is your gage for whether or not you’ll be safe doing just about anything.  

Do you wear a different helmet?

The mountain biking helmets come a bit lower in the back have a visor in the front to keep branches out of your eyes. That’s about it.

I went to Blue Mountain for the first time last week. That was some serious downhill. That was insane. I was using my cross-country bike, which perhaps wasn’t the most suitable for that challenge. You should ideally be riding full suspension in that scenario.

I had elbow and knee pads. My partner did not. She went ahead of me on this gravel corner and wiped out. She said, “I’m going to take that slower next time.” On the next lap, we go down the hill, and when we got to the gravel, she went faster. She hit the curb again and wiped out. I rode in front of her for the rest of the day to slow her down. I set the pace.

With that said, we don’t endorse or encounter injuries on our rides at Evergreen. While we recognize injuries do happen, there are also ways to prevent them and still learn. People think, “I have to push myself, I have to hurt myself to grow.” That’s just not true.

Is there something you’re scared of?

Totally. I am super scared of debt. Debt scares me a lot. I also have a great fear of death, I feel like that’s a great motivator to stay away from certain things. I have a fear of injuring myself doing something I love. What if that injury prevented me from doing other things I love? Limited mobility is probably my biggest fear.

If you could see into the future and past, which would you choose and why?

I don’t want to see the future, I feel like I’d encounter some doomed fate. I would visit the past but I’d never redo things. It happened for a reason. It would be great to sit on a street corner 50 years ago and see what’s going on. I like people watching. Either that, or visit ‘the countryside’. I want to see what the city looked like before we got here.

What is your winter schedule at Evergreen?

Usually, i’m a bike mechanic. This year I will be doing active living programming. We’re expanding a lot of our activities on site. For instance, we’re going to have fat biking. We also have a skating rink, hiking and walking trails, snowshoeing, and we’re getting some nordic poles. You can still be active in the winter; that’s the biggest take away. There’s tons of other activities too like games, fires and of course the market is still running.

Is there a place in Toronto you feel connected to?

You know what, I love this place [Evergreen]. It’s an interesting feeling to connect so deeply with a space you work in. It’s relaxing. I can sit at any vantage point and see only green. 

What would constitute a perfect day for you?

Waking up somewhere outside of the city. I would go for a hike and a canoe ride with my dog and girlfriend. Any day that I spend an entirely outside, I’m happiest.

Is there something you are looking forward to?

I am looking forward to establishing myself in one place. I want to continue exploring a sphere that is outside the realm of being a bike mechanic. I saw Evergreen as a gateway job. I’m excited to build a dream within a programming role. I’m paid to get people on bikes and participate in active living. How great is that?

What is an obstacle you faced recently?

Applying for jobs. For me, everything is centered around work. And a little bit of play, of course, but my ‘play’ is also kind of work. That’s just where my focus is at the moment. When I get stressed out do you do this too? I work more.

It has also been tough to convince people to look at my resume. Prior to this job, my CV was ‘all about bikes’. That was the biggest thing for me to get past in the last two years. Oh, and permanent residency within Canada. I’m from Virginia.

Why did I come to Toronto? I wanted to go north and live in a city where I didn’t have to pay 50 grand a year for school. I went to UofT St. George for psych, philosophy and english. Perception fascinates me. I’m intrigued by how people’s perceptions can become an internal obstacle; they are unable to see the other side of the story. And I know it sounds like yammering, but all this is relevant to my work; it’s about being open to new experiences.

Portrait photos: Bicycle wheel installation, top of Bike Works.


Want more? Follow @SweetPetesBikes and @EvergreenCanada on Twitter for upcoming activities at Evergreen Brick Works.