I Am. Cycling launch

The bike art of Elicia McKenzie was launched at the Assos accessories store in Regent Street, London, today and remains on show all this week.


McKenzie started work on the "I Am" collection six months ago, inspired by participating in the 2022 Black Unity Bike Ride (BUBR). "I did not know what to expect," she recalled. "After half an hour I looked up and I just saw pure black people on bikes. It was like Notting Hill Carnival but the vibe in that space was like something I hadn't experienced. It was such a proud moment and it was so wonderful to be part of that moment - that started me on a journey."

In particular, she wanted to celebrate the individuality of cyclists. "What I found really beautiful was everyone just turned up as they are. There was no apology, or changing. It was just a case of 'I've arrived' and that's why I titled this series 'I Am'. It's the power of your individual identity in this space.

"Thank for getting on your bike," she told the two dozen members of BUBR, Together We Ride and other groups at the launch. "There's moments when I'm in Hackney or South Woodford and I see you zoom past me and it's such a proud moment, becuase you're seen. You dont realise, but you are being watched, you are seen."

BUBR organiser and poet Adisa Stephen-Ezeocha drew attention to a picture of 19th Century American cyclist Katherine "Kittie" Knox, saying: "She challenged the status quo. She joined an all-white cycling group at a time when blacks were not allowed to join cycling groups. She cycled all over America, did amazing feats of strength and endurance on a bicycle. She chose to disrupt space, by joining an elite group that said 'you're not welcome as a person of colour'. She joined that group and made herself known.

"This is so important today," he said, reflecting on the I Am collection, "because you are documenting something. In years to come, when we are long gone, this will be here. We're looking at that picture [of Kittie Knox] from the 1800s - in years to come they'll look at this and think 'Yeah, they were doing something in that period of history'."

Event organiser and cultural entrepreneur Paul "Pablo" Reid added: "When the artist starts to document the activity, that means something has changed. The fact that the collection exists is a statement. Something has changed."

Reid is founding director of Disrupt Space which curates an exhibition of artists, including McKenzie, around the corner from Assos, at St James' Market, courtesy of The Crown Estate. Following the launch, guests gathered there to take in the work, before riding to Regent's Park for a few laps and then dispersing into the sunny Spring Sunday afternoon.

The exhibition of McKenzie's collection has been extended from one day to a full week by Assos store manager Paul Dean. He told Velocity that he'd been delighted to help Reid when he "just popped in randomly one day and said 'look, we're doing this event around the corner with the Crown Estate; would you be willing to do something with us?'.

"I'm really glad it's come together like this. It's really important to give back to the community. We have this amazing space in central London - it's good to use it for these events."


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