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Mike Peel | Busyman Bicycles

Creator Mick Peel’s Busyman Bicycles [http://busymanbicycles.blogspot.com/] is all about the artisan aspect of bicycles. The Melbournian, fashion lecturer, and cyclist, shares his studio space, thoughts and inspirations on bicycles, and how he came to be the Busyman.

How did Busyman Bicycles come about

I can’t give you an exact date, but it was towards the end of September 2008. About the name, we were originally going to call it Foxyman, because my brother Ged (a Melbourne-based illustrator) was doing a series of illustrations of a Foxman riding a bike. However, we decided to call it Busyman instead, like a sign that I would be busy all the time.

In an exhibition in Craft Victoria in 2008, I brought my studio in and exhibited what I was working on, not with the idea of selling my work. However, people started asking how much I was selling the items for and family and friends started to get the word out. And we started from there. Feride (my wife and fellow designer) started the blog for me. She is my style consultant, my colour consultant and she should get some credit for that.

Why did you start Busyman?

It started at the beginning of 2008 when I was just fixing up a bike for myself to ride to work. I bought the bike on eBay and I thought that I would turn it into a cool bike. I really enjoyed doing it and by the time it got to the exhibition in September, I had done about five or six bikes, mainly for the family and it was all exhibited.

It was a creative outlet for me. I have been involved in and established a couple of fashion labels before, but it ended up being a whole lot of work instead of creativity and that’s why I stopped doing it. It was a lot of blood, sweat and tears and not a whole lot of financial reward. Not that I’m trying to have to do this as a job, but more as a hobby. And it’s self-financing.

Do you think that there’s a niche market that could be filled?

I never thought of it as a market with a niche. I went into it at a time when I just wanted to fix up my bike. I had been riding my bike to work a few years before that and this was the phase when the fixie trend (fixed gear bike) started up and I started seeing all these cool bikes around and I thought about getting one for myself as well.

But it came about naturally, instead of doing your market research and starting the business, which is more synthetic. I’m really happy with the fact that it started out organically. People have said, when are you going to quit your day job, but my answer to that generally is, if I need to start making a living from and start paying the mortgage, then the way that I would approach it would definitely change. I would have to expand my client base and I would have to figure out how to do that and how to wholesale.  Right now, a lot of my work is all about me making it.

There’s a blog that showcases and documents the projects that I do. Not necessarily about the process, but about the outcome of the project. The rest of it is primarily about recovering saddles. It’s also about other leather things for bikes. Like leather stitched on handles. And now I’ve started doing a lot of bar tape.

What is your favourite project to date?

The next project is my favourite project to date. The worst project is normally the current project. I wouldn’t say that there’s a favourite, I’ve done a couple of bikes for myself, which have had a complete overhaul and leather re-covering.

Whenever I get a new enquiry about a new job, I always get excited about it. Especially when I get overseas enquiries, like with the current project that I’m working on. It’s for an overseas customer who is very active online and is selling them online through his website. He asked me to do twenty eight customised handlebar tapes and I’ve just finished a batch. Apparently he has a waiting list of seven years for his work and hopefully, he’s going to put this new batch on each of the new bikes he has made.

What inspires your work?

A lot of it is to do with the craft, the materials and the techniques and the shape of the saddle. It’s a very visceral and physical approach; the technique inspires me to try things out. Sometimes things go wrong, but that can be the start of something good.

Are you intending to branch out into cycling apparels?

Well, yes… but not in a commercial way. But in doing Busyman Bicycles as a studio practice model, I have found that I really enjoy being in the studio doing the work, and I really enjoy the customers. I think it has to do with the cycling community too, who have really embraced what I do.

An idea that I am arriving is, wouldn’t it be great if I could take that model of work that I’m working with now and put it into a fashion practice? It would be a bespoke approach inspired by the materials and techniques. It’s not something that I would force; it’s just something that would happen.

 – Mavis Dai-Mitchell

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