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April 2, 2015

Rogers Bespoke

Self-made bicycle builder, James Alderson of Rogers Bespoke, invited us into his Port Adelaide workshop to learn about the craft, and how his hobby became his living.

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  • Words: Johnny Von Einem
  • Pictures: Ben McGee

“It’s amazing the amount of people that sort of laughed at me and said ‘good luck with that’, you know?,” says James Aldreson.

Looking at the two Rogers-branded steel bicycles resting against the back of James’ (JR to his friends) corner of the warehouse, it is hard to believe they were crafted by a self-taught builder with a history in cinematography.

“I’m self-taught out of necessity, really. If I could’ve found someone that would teach me, it would’ve made the process a whole lot easier, but I guess that makes it more enjoyable now.”

While JR’s initial introduction to cycling was fairly conventional – riding a BMX bike around town as a kid – his later decision to make a living out of building bikes came from an unusual place.

“For years I’d restored and pulled bikes apart and had tonnes of bikes around the place,” JR begins.

“Friends always said to me ‘you should start a shop’ and stuff like that, … but I thought that if I delved fully into it, I’d lose the passion for it a bit.

“It was actually a few years ago, I was working as a cinematographer, I was a week off moving to Sydney and had a really bad bicycle accident. That essentially made me stay for follow up surgeries here in Adelaide, so Sydney fell through, and it was really important to me to get back on the bike and start enjoying it again.

“I’m self-taught out of necessity, really. If I could’ve found someone that would teach me, it would’ve made the process a whole lot easier…”

“I started riding as soon as I could and then it dawned on me – if I’m going to come that close to the edge and I still want to go riding, it’s probably something that’s going to stay with me.”

The seed of Rogers Bespoke was sewn.

Soon after, while working in a bar, JR met Richard and Angela, who own the warehouse from which Rogers Bespoke is run.

“They were nice enough to say ‘come into the workshop’ and it just stemmed from there, really,” says JR.

Currently the only commercial builder in the state making steel frames, JR looked abroad and saw a resurgence of the “old school” material that had long ago fallen out of favour in the cycling community

“Through the ’80s and early-’90s steel was still the main medium to build with, and then alloy and carbon started coming through,” JR says.

“It’s only recently coming back, especially [with] a huge movement in the States and advancements in technology. You know, the tubes are lighter, stronger, it’s not like you’re steering a boat anymore like it used to be back in the day when they were made out of mild steel.”

Rogers Bespoke’s clientele ranges from people who want someone that can design a bike to their specific needs, to people who just want a beautifully crafted, handmade bicycle.

“[There’s] that whole movement now where … they see value in artisanal products, or you know that something’s hand built. Some people want a custom bike because of the features, some people want a custom bike because it’s a custom bike,” JR says.

Looking into the future, JR wants to expand and move into a space of his own, while maintaining the work/life balance that allows him to keep the passion for what he does.

For now though, a collaboration between Rogers Bespoke and a well known Melbourne artist is in the works, and likely to turn up at a custom bike show in Melbourne – so keep your eyes peeled.

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