True originality in a business like cycling is rare, but Busyman Bicycles’ bespoke leather saddles and bar tapes are really quite something. Based in Melbourne, Busyman has worked with the best, from Firefly to Speedvagen, as well as for hundreds of private clients, with inspirations for his designs including David Bowie, Picasso and Star Wars.
I was fortunate enough to sit down with my dear friend Mick Peel (aka. Busyman) to gain further insight into his passion.
Hi Mick, for those that aren’t familiar with your work, what is Busyman?
Using a range of leathers including kangaroo, Busyman makes bespoke accoutrements for bicycles including customised covers for saddles, bar tape and a few other small accessories. Everything is made completely by hand.
Having a successful business of detailing customer’s bikes seems pretty surreal, how did it all start?
I used to head up the fashion department at RMIT University in Melbourne, with my daily transport being a very rusty (yet trusty) 10-speed bike. Riding through the centre of town each day during the mid noughties I took notice of the fixed gear craze and I wanted one. With my keenness of researching, I became a tad obsessed and bought a fixie on e-bay. I swiftly got it powder coated before salvaging as many parts as possible. I then bought myself a Brooks saddle, wrapped my bars in leather and made some coordinating toe straps. I found the process of customising it rather addictive and wanted to do other bikes.
How did you progress from working on your own bikes, to other peoples’?
I convinced my family that they should all have bikes and that I should put them together! I contributed to a small exhibition at ‘Craft Victoria’, showcasing some of my very early work and it seemed that at least one person appreciated my products as I managed to take my first non-family order. From here I started a blog to document my progression, which also tied into my PhD, which I was undertaking at the same time. Right now, while the blog gets more and more updated with an ever growing list of customers, my PhD has had to take a hiatus…
Where do you think that the term ‘bespoke’ sits in relation to Busyman?
The term ‘bespoke’ gets thrown around a bit these days, more often than not as marketing hype. The origin of the term is from tailoring, meaning a piece of cloth that has been spoken for to a make a jacket for a client. For me, it is about making a specific item for a specific person to their specifications. The saddles I do are customised but not custom as they are not modelled from scratch but using pre-existing items which are adapted to the customer’s requirements.
From humble beginnings your client list now has such notable figures as Richard Sachs, Sir Paul Smith and Tony Abbott on it. Can you tell us a little about one of these projects?
Sir Paul Smith is one of my well known (famous) clients. My brother had Paul’s book, You can find inspiration in everything, which had a section showing gifts that admirers had sent to Paul, made up of some pretty creative and eclectic offerings. He must have appreciated this as it showed his address in the book. Admiring his work for a long time, I knew of his passion for cycling and so back in 2009 I was heading to London and my wife suggested I drop my own gift off rather then sending it. Paul seemingly liked my gift of a custom saddle as he soon blogged about it expressing his appreciation. A couple of years later he visited Melbourne to launch his first Australian store and I proposed that I make him another custom covered saddle in exchange for a nice pair of brogues. Paul accepted my proposal and also kindly gave an inspirational talk to the fashion students at RMIT. When I finally met him, he borrowed my fixie and did a track stand in Collins Street for the cover of Treadlie magazine. I have since visited him in London, checking out his new store.
Fantastic. Finally, what’s next for Busyman?
Attempting to balance my ‘work’ with cycling whilst continuing my success at recently dropping my waiting list from eight to six months!