James Moros is building good-looking bikes that will last. And he's building them here.
Made in SA: Astir Bicycles
Three strong beliefs underpin the approach of James Moros – owner of Astir Bicycles.
Firstly, he thinks that bikes are an important part of Australian life and will only become more relevant as we densify. Secondly, he believes a bike is something that should be built to last. Finally, he says that top quality can also be affordable if the right approach is taken.
James’ bikes are also designed to easily break down for travel. A customer has already ridden his Astir through France, including taking on the notoriously rough Paris-Roubaix Spring Classic, and was delighted with the performance.
To satisfy these principles, the engineer has developed a suite of bike models under the Astir brand – from more casual coffee riders to out and out racers – that are designed to be hardy enough to pass from generation to generation.
“I had my Grandad’s bike,” says James.
“My background is Greek. In WWII my Grandad was captured by the Germans and he got himself a bike – that bike still exists because it’s made out of steel, not out of carbon, which doesn’t have the life expectancy people say it does.”
To balance the modern desire for a light and agile bike with the durability he requires, James decided to use titanium for all of his frames. As an engineer with more than a decade’s experience, James had an innate understanding of the material’s potential, but he still decided to use himself as the first guinea pig.
The first Astir Bicycle was built for him, by him, and four years later it is still going strong: “It’s done over 48,000km and it’s still brand new”.
It was when out riding on this experiment that James first realised he might have the potential to turn his passion into a business. He was stopped on his way up Mount Osmond by a rider so impressed with James’ bike that he immediately asked if another one could be built for him.
The interest has grown steadily but surely. From building twelve bikes in a year, he jumped to building 32 last year. This year he hopes to build between 40-50, and he says he has the capacity to build 90 each year.
The sustained rise in interest is no doubt a result of the strong aesthetic the titanium lends, and the lasting quality of the the bikes. But Astir’s growth can also be attributed to James’ unique business approach, which allows him to offer people highly-customised bikes designed particularly for their body and purpose at a much lower than expected price.
While high-end, custom bikes can often cost upward of $40,000, James’ builds usually cost between $5000 – $10,000.
A unique method for sourcing the best parts from around the world is the start. James will find the producers that make the best bits, and ask if he can buy the spares – the ones that weren’t needed to fulfil orders but were made anyway. These come at a cheaper price, because he’s offering money for something that otherwise has no value. He asks the producers to hold the parts until he’s ready to use them, which minimises his storage costs.
The second part of his approach makes use of South Australia’s increasingly empty manufacturing facilities.
“When the parts arrive, I do the customisation,” says James. “I find guys who have a machine that has been idle and I say ‘do you mind if I use this or rent it out?’, and the way manufacturing is going, there are plenty of guys who are happy to do that.
“It’s something that no doubt others might be able to do, but you need to have a certain skill set.”
His ability to make something highly customised has allowed James, as well as making bikes for straightforward bike-mad types, to also address certain gaps in the market – such as bikes that are well-balanced for larger riders.
With the engineering skills to constantly innovate as new market niches appear before him, and an eye on the future with a plan to develop electronic bike models, he’s one manufacturer who will likely be in business here for many years to come.