As part of our HUCK Indies 2013 exhibition, we meet the London-based bike company, Brother Cycles.
“For fifteen years, my bro and I have always had hair-brained, strange business ideas. I was always into cycling, and just being outdoors. My brother James has been amazing at building, designing and making stuff with his hands, so it was a natural step to start a bike company,” explains Will Meyer, one half of aptly-named Brother Cycles.
Brother Cycles consists, unsurprisingly, of London-based siblings Will and James Meyer. The pair produce small runs of painstakingly well-designed cycle frames as well as accessories for the two-wheeled lifestyle enthusiasts such as t-shirts and race jerseys.
It all began back in 2007, when, on a walk through Portobello Market in London’s Notting Hill, they spied an old vintage bike. The bought it on a whim with James restoring it for Will to ride. But when a friend, so taken by the renovation, offered to buy it, it got the cogs whirring and they started an informal business of buying, restoring and selling vintage bikes. This process would have continued if it weren’t for the growing popularity of vintage bikes at the time.
“The whole vintage bike thing kicked off and frames that we were buying on eBay for twenty-five quid were suddenly 150 quid. And we felt like we were being ripped off,” explains Will. “James went on a frame-building course with Dave Yates – one of the old British frame-building greats – as we could no longer find a classic steel track frame on the market. That became our first product.”
In 2009, they took delivery of their first run of 150 track frames and Brother Cycles the brand was finally born. The frames were then snapped up to be used for the base of many a custom build and became particularly popular with independent bike shops around the capital.
“We are relativity new to the business so you don’t want to try and fake knowledge on certain things that we don’t have,” explains Will of Brother’s current decision to only manufacture frames instead of trying to piece together a whole set-up. “Once you get it wrong, your reputation is ruined. We’ve done everything very organically and we want to make sure every product we release is great. It’s always been about what we are looking for in a bike and a frame, not what we think people would want. Not trying to guess the market.”
Despite having just taken a lease up on a workshop, it still remains a part-time business with Will and James “spending an unhealthy amount of time with each other” and cramming most of their work on Brother in early mornings, evenings and weekends. It’s something that Will acknowledges is quite a social sacrifice to make, but one that’s driven by a simple passion.
“There’s never been a point when we sat down and said, ‘This is no longer a hobby, this is a business we are going to survive off.’ But when you put so much time into something, it eventually has to be taken more seriously,” says Will of their shared ambition to one day have Brother as a full-time wage. “But really it’s the cycling itself that keeps me interested. The prospect of having a life where I can be involved in a deeper level is just a really nice thought. And speaking for my brother, he gets a lot of enjoyment from seeing a product he’s spent months designing being ridden. We get so many emails from people with their Brother bike. That gives us a huge amount of satisfaction.”