Known to the cycling community as one of the premier bespoke bicycle upholsterers around, Australia's Busyman Bicycles shines through custom craftsmanship in an industry salivating for specialized components. As the brains and braun behind the one man operation, Mick Peel turns regular old saddles into custom masterpieces by hand upholstering with traditional tools and a level of knowhow only earned through years of tinkering. His precise, and often intricate designs extend from classic perforations to perfectly mainicured letters and logos.
With a BA and MA in fashion desgin, nearly twenty years of lecturing on the subject and a sizable stint as head of the fashion design program at Melbourne's RMIT University, Peel's experience with elaborate pattern making and knowledge of functional design made for the perfect pathway into the world of custom saddle making. And as if his educational experience weren't enough, Peel also did a fair amount of graphic design for Adidas Australia in the 1990s and has dabbled in furniture design here and there as well.
Regardless of the discipline at hand, Peel feels his knack for design comes from simply doing. "I do design by making. My knowledge of materials and techniques and the memory accumulated in my hands through crafting have become very much my tools and method of designing. In my practice designing and making are not separate things."
As one would imagine working with a wide range of saddle designs means finding just the right materials to get the job done. As Peel points out, each leather has it's own different characteristics and properties. Sheep is extremely soft and easily stretched but can be quite fragile, whereas cow leather is generally more balanced in terms of mold-ability, strength and durability. "My favourite material is definitely vegetable tanned, full grain kangaroo skin. It moulds more easily than cow skin and performs much better in both tensile strength and abrasion resistance. I will always choose kangaroo if it meets the specifications of the job at hand."
While the expertly crafted saddles are Peel's specialty, he also dabbles in crafting custom handlebar tape and other specialized bicycle components. For a closer look at Peel's handy work see the slideshow below and keep an eye on the often updated Busyman Bicycles blog.