Once a fine art sculptor, Jake Rusby turned his hand to building bikes in 2011. After two years spent learning from some of the best frame-builders in the business, he launched Rusby Cycles from an east London workshop in 2013.
How did your background as a sculptor prepare you for building bikes?
Much of my artwork involved working in a very precise, meticulous way which is very important in making bike frames and metalwork in general. I had done some metalwork before but not extensively. However, I find that the process of making something can be quite similar across disciplines. Aesthetics are very important in my bikes and I feel that training as a sculptor gave me an understanding of proportions and what shapes and lines work together, which is very transferable to aspects of making a bike.
What is it about making bikes that fascinates you?
There are a lot of people around who are fanatical about bikes and they are things that their owners have a huge connection to. I love being able to create something for someone that is especially personal and will foster this special attachment and be used for years to come. The parts I really enjoy making are the details on the bike. Essentially I build quite conventional looking bikes but it is subtleties like mixing fillet brazes with lugs, internally routing cables, adding extra bridges on the seat and chainstays that make my frames different and mark them as contemporary steel frames.
How did you learn to do this?
I started off teaching myself in a friend’s artist studio, which was OK to a point. I was then lucky enough share a workshop with two other London framebuilders – Oak Cycles and Saffron Frameworks – where I learnt most of my skills. We initially shared a place in Borough, which had been handed down from another framebuilder and various couriers who had used it as a workshop.
Do you feel part of a community of makers? Are there others you can turn to for help and advice?
Very much so. I know lots of other framebuilders who I can phone up and ask advice. There are also some great forums for this kind of sharing of ideas too. More locally, I can get help and advice off other makers. I rent a space in the JAILmake workshop, where they fabricate anything and everything. I have received loads of help from the people there.
Can you tell us about the process of making a bespoke bike for a customer?
The process starts with a chat to find out what the customer wants from the bike, how they want it to feel, look and what type of riding they will be doing on it.
The fit is important too and if the customer needs it, I send them to Le Beau Velo (lebeauvelo.co.uk ) to get a detailed bike fit done. This gets the rider comfortably and efficiently set up on the bike and it also allows me to design the frame around specific components that will be used.
The collaborative nature varies. Some people have a very clear idea of the bike they want and I do my best to recreate it; others leave everything up to me. Most of my customers have come to me because they have seen my work already and like my style so I always have some input in that respect. I have a waiting list and the whole process usually takes four to six months. The actual building of the bike takes between two and four weeks.
Because of the consultation that goes on, the customer can feel very involved with the process – there is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and I often get to know the customer quite well. When I’m actually building the frame, I will often think of little details which I then run past the customer to see if they like it and whether or not I should include it. I also post photos of the building on Instagram so they can see it being made. I have been very lucky with my customers and they have been incredibly nice people so we often keep in touch after the bike has been handed over. I recently got sent a photo of one my bikes being ridden with Chris Hoy which was nice!