Alex Valcke was just a teenager when he saw a fixed gear bike for the first time. Having grown up in Paris, Alex had discovered skating at a young age and was deep into the culture by the time he traded skateboarding for pedaling. Recognizing many of the parallels between skate and fixed-gear cultures, it wasn’t long before cycling came to the forefront.
Alex’s affair with fixed gear bikes led him to bike polo, a form of polo popularized by bike messengers in cities around the world. When the aggressive sport began to take its toll on his bike and components, particularly his pedals, Alex started riding TIME ATAC and has been ever since. His journey through the sport also served as inspiration to launch his own brand of custom clipless compatible sneakers and Valcko Studios was born.
Turning everything from Vans to limited edition Off-White drops to Crocs, Alex Studios has carved a niche for itself in cycling’s counterculture.
We recently caught up with Alex to hear about how he got started and about his history with TIME Pedals:
How did you first come into cycling?
Through fixed gear, obviously. Fixed gear is so beautiful. I first saw one and asked the guy what kind of bike it was. He told me, “It’s a fixed gear” and I was like, “that’s what I’m going to get.” I was 15 and got it as a Christmas present.
I started to go around and see the places people go to do tricks and I first met the community there. I fell in love with the community, [because] you could make friends so easily. Everything was new to me!
Maybe two months later I [found out] that the Bike Polo scene is about to get a new court that’s in my ‘hood. That’s how I got into polo a bit deeply, because I could! It was so close and everybody there was so cool about it. Also, I was the youngest, so that was cool!
How has fixed gear culture influenced you?
Growing up I was able to go everywhere in Paris, but like you see a different side of it. I used to go everywhere in Paris, but through the Metro. So, like, you don’t see Paris actually. You know the stations, you know kind of where they are through the lines, but you don’t know where.
[On the bike] I was able to go everywhere! It was really a freeing kind of thing and I think that’s what opened my mind. Especially because I could travel for bike polo really fast with it. Bike Polo got me a job because my mentor in Polo knew a bike shop owner, the best one in Paris, and I needed an internship and they brought me in.
I stayed there for a month, just because it was summer, and I didn’t have anything to do. I was only playing Polo and going to (Polo) tournaments. They gave me a bike for that and then they offered me a job. After I graduated, I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I didn’t want to go further with what I was doing, accounting, so yeah that was also my first job. I was really 100 percent into it! My hope is to bike, my job is to sell bikes, and when I go out its with my bike friends so that was the whole package.
My first love with TIME pedals was with bike polo.
What was your first experience with TIME pedals?
In fixed gear you don’t ride clipless unless you ride a road bike, and you get into it. With bike polo we started quickly to go to clipless, but we didn’t really know what pedals were the best because obviously there are no pedals for what we do. So, we kind of tried everything bro!
Then there was this trend that came from the guys in Seattle, with old school TIME pedals. And first of all, the pedals? The old school ones, you know the big ones. I was like “damn that looks nice!” right? So, I went to look for second hand vintage TIME pedals, ATAC right? So, I got some for like $15 and these pedals and the cleats that came with them lasted for a year!
That was the first thing: pedals? Clipless? TIME and nothing else! That’s it.
Tell us about the first pair of shoes you modified.
All my bike parts were falling apart every two months because of bike polo, right? The front brake was breaking every two weeks, I had to bend it back before it breaks, and I have to get a new one. And that’s when it came to the shoes as well. I broke the Chrome shoes I think in 10 months playing bike polo with them. So that’s how I got into making my first pair of my own because I was like if the shoes only last that long let me get some new ones, some nice ones that I like.
I’m a bike polo player, I work in a bike shop, I sell fixed gear parts, you know what I mean? I wanted to make my own style you know. So that’s how I ended up doing it. It [started] just casual for me. For so many years I was just doing it for myself right?
And then it kind of triggered me during COVID confinement, there is nobody in the world that does it! So, after I found that out, I was like looking all over the internet to see if anyone is doing it. There must be someone who does it, right? I just didn’t see it. I went on a quest to find something and didn’t find anything. So, I [thought] “maybe there is a market there!”
You know I wasn’t really into making a business… I’m personally more a guy that would put some money aside and try to buy a house you know? Working in a bike shop and everything else for 10 years, you see all the problems that can come with a company, that can come with opening a store. So, I wasn’t into this mindset, right?
But when I did the Off-White [shoes] it went so wild on the internet, like the video went 170K views like that and I gained 1,000 followers just over that! [I thought] maybe the thing that was like normal for me, to have my own pair and not a cycling brand pair, is not something that is so usual. Maybe I will give it a shot. So, I bought some Vans, customized them, and sold them. That’s how I started!
What is your background with art?
I’ve always liked art in general. I used to draw a lot. I used to love painting as well. I’ve had this creative “me” that kind of faded away when I started skating, you know this stuff. That’s one thing I regret, not being able to do both and make separate time for sports and more artistic quests. But I’ve always liked to touch things and do things myself.
Like my motorcycle. If you had told me I would have customized a motorcycle I would have been like, “what are you talking about, bro!?” I didn’t know anything about it, but you can learn by yourself quick if you want right? I feel like it’s just a mindset. Even in school the teachers were like calling me a cancre. In French a cancre means you only do what you want to do.
For example, if I’m not good in that, I give zero. But if I’m good at it I’m going to work, I go 100 on it you know what I mean? That’s how I got into cycling; I went 100 on it you know what I mean? I feel it is not only creative part it is more like the methodology. You want to make things, so you got to find a way to make [it]. If it doesn’t exist you’ve got to find a way to make the tools to make what you want. That pushed me a lot to think how to design this, how to make it work, and how to make it safe. I try to think about all possibilities, right? So that’s how I think my creative part came. To never put barriers on myself and to think outside of the box to make my thing happen right? So that’s how I think of my artistic part of me.
What inspired you to merge your art with cycling?
The fact that I saw that it was so normal to me and that it wasn’t for everyone else, that’s when I felt like I had something different. I wanted to show it because people could like it and that could be a product that could start something.
To me the kicks are just a step in what I want to do. I have a whole vision with how you would dress while cycling. Also with internet, you can have a vision and if you feel it’s something that could be a thing you can just show it to the internet and it’s going to judge. It’s going to tell you whether it’s good or not. If people want it or if people think its trash.
I’m going to try to evolve more after these kicks. Kicks is always going to be my main bread because I feel like there is a big market that has never actually been. But I want to develop a lot of things. You’ve got to find the time to do everything you cannot do anything half. I want to do things 100 or 0 because there is no point doing something half right?
Alex’s custom sneakers can be found at https://valckostudios.bigcartel.com and you can see more of his work on Instagram @valcko_studios.