Decoding Design

Style meets function in Mick Peel's bespoke bike saddles

Posting in Cities

Saddle craftsman Mick Peel says his work taps into consumers' desires to possess unique, one-of-a-kind goods and move away from mass-produced gear.

Flat streets, good biking infrastructure and temperate weather make Melbourne, Australia, a hot spot for cycling. The city is also home to Mick Peel, a fashion designer that has worked up a large following for his bespoke bike saddles and bar tape.

Adventure Journal featured Peel, who works under the moniker Busyman Bicycles, in a Q&A this week. Peel studied the "exploration of fabric surface decoration and experimental pattern cutting" for his master's degree and is currently advancing to a PhD. Why would one need advanced degrees to make bike saddles, you might ask? One doesn't, obviously. But it certainly doesn't hurt, in Peel's case.

He explains: "My PhD has become about the interrelationship between design and making and the fact that in my practice these two things cannot be separated, they are one and the same. Busyman Bicycles came into being some time in 2008 and also has become very much what my PhD is based on. My formal training in fashion design, my appreciation of materials and my slightly hippie upbringing have all fed into the Busyman practice."

Peel works mostly in leather. And though, by looking at it, you'd think much of his work was machined, he says he tends to work by hand. He told AJ: "My work is primarily manually crafted; even the majority of my stitching is done by hand. I’ve tried laser cutting the leather but found the whole experience actually alienates me from the made object."

Peel says interest in custom bike saddles, bar tape and toe straps, like the type he makes, is linked to a consumers' desire to really connect with the objects that are most important to them, such as their bikes, and to move away from mass-produced commodities.

For some of his clients, fabric selection has become an issue. In the interview he notes he designed a saddle he designed (see below) for Australian pro rider Bridie O'Donell but she wore through the leather in just four months of intensive training. "I’ve just recently recovered a couple more SMPs for her, this time using much stronger kangaroo leather on one and some synthetic leather on the other. Hopefully these two will last much longer."

Peel says that he'd like to expand into designing cycling shoes and apparel eventually, if he can find the time. I'm hoping he will.

Images: Mick Peel

Via: Adventure Journal

Share this

Mary Catherine O'Connor

Contributing Writer

Mary Catherine O'Connor has written for Outside, Fast Company, Wired.com, Smithsonian.com, Entrepreneur, Earth2Tech.com, Earth Island Journal and The Magazine. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure