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15 May 2015 No comments

Rowan Frameworks Interview

Correspondence Friends Events Bicycles Art & Design Monthly highlights
By jim holland
Rowan Frameworks Interview
Another newcomer that caught our eye (and many others!) at this years Bespoked was Timmy Rowan of Rowan Frameworks. Astonishingly he picked up both best Best Newcomer & Best in Show, which was fairly unprecedented! A staunch Brooks supporter...His bikes are a stark contrast from the recent trend of monster tubed speed machines and have a wealth of small touches and unusual uses of mixed materials. Who knows what’s in store for Rowan Frameworks…but they are certainly off to a good start! We swapped a few questions and answers to learn a bit more about the finer points... What was your background before starting Rowan Frameworks? It’s a bit of a mixed bag really, my training was originally in film making and I did that for a while, I’ve worked with wood and in woodlands, I was a long distance bike guide for a while, and most recently I was working again in the woods, running an outdoors adventure site. Pretty much nothing directly related to building bicycles, but now if I look back I can trace the influences each job had, it all feeds in. What made you want to build bicycles? Perhaps the love of the machine, the simplicity of it’s form and the challenge of letting that shine through. I’d always put bikes together and tinkered, but had dreamt about frame building for 7 or 8 years, I’ve watched so much beautiful work from amazing builders starting to appear, it’s been inspiring to see. My last job was great, working outside and with great people, but something didn’t quite sit right, I remember looking at my hands and thinking I wanted to pursue a craft before I died. Death can be a huge motivator! How did you find your workshop space and all the tools you need? After a while fretting about getting a space to work in I met a guy in the local pub, a lovely chap and wonderful craftsman working in wood. He had a space available on a local farm where he worked, and it all just kind of fell in to place, happenstance, I was really lucky. I probably went about things in a bit of a backwards way, but getting the workshop was the catalyst to quit the day job, and after that I learnt to build bicycle frames. There’s nothing like the pressure of fully committing to something to focus you, and it allowed me to become obsessed. I had about a month to do up the workshop and enjoyed finding good old stuff to fill the space and make it nice place to work, I like objects and tools that have been well used and well made, that have a history that you can add to. I set myself up with the basic kit, did tons of research and tried to make the right decisions. I guess you can never have too many tools, but I want to stick with hand tools for a good while to become completely comfortable with them before thinking about the seriously heavy machinery! Where did you learn? When did you start? Probably the biggest decision I had to make was where to learn, or rather get a good introduction in to the craft. I did my research and finally committed to visiting The Bicycle Academy in Frome. The course was fantastic and gave me a really good introduction in to the best methods and processes to be able to build a bicycle. I arrived with lots of questions, and left with many more, but most importantly with enough understanding of the process to allow me to be self critical, to recognise my mistakes, and to understand what I needed to do to make better work. From there I was set up and able to lock myself in the workshop and practise like crazy, messing things up, cutting and burning myself, I quickly realised that making a bicycle is very physical, it’s not easy and involves real graft. I’ve probably made the equivalent of 30 bicycles in little pieces of mitred and brazed tubes but I completed my first complete bike frame only about 7 months ago, which feels crazy. There’s so much more to learn and I’ll always go back to TBA to hone my skills. Is there a Rowan style / aesthetic? It’s hard to say as it’s still early days, and I don’t want to pigeon hole myself, but I guess I enjoy simple pared down bicycles that serve a function well and aren't too flashy. For me bicycles should be used, they are vehicles right, but it doesn’t need to be at the expense of form, if it’s going to work really well, then it’s probably going to look really good because of that. I like bicycles where intricacy and detail don’t shout at you, but the more you look the more you see. Everything should fit together well, it’s important to stand back from time to time and make sure the bike works as a whole. I’ll have to wait and see if I can achieve this, but that’s the goal. In terms of a type of bike, I’m excited to make any that the customer wants, but for now, I’m working on adventure bikes, bikes for expedition or a weekend camping, comfortable and still fast. The two bikes you showed at Bespoked had a handcrafted / folksy air to them, with the wooden rack and canvas saddlebag you’d made etc - is this a part of your style also? A folksy air is a really cool way of describing it, thank you. I suppose I find it really fun to put different materials next to each other and I get really inspired by that. My wife is a seamstress and we have an old industrial sewing machine in the workshop which I like to play with, it’s fun to jump between processes, and to get inspired while you’re making. I love objects that get better with use, like a pair of raw denim jeans, an old leather wallet, a pair of boots (or a Brooks saddle hey!) anything that will show the story of it’s life on their skin. My challenge was how to incorporate this in to bicycles, no one will buy a bike with dents and scratches. I’ve used raw copper detailing on my first bike so that it will develop it’s own verdigris patina, the wood, leather, waxed cotton, canvas, string, and cork all feel really good to use, and will age beautifully, then you feel proud of the marks and scratches, the signs of the journey. What’s happening now after Bespoked? A few days relaxing with my wife and 3 daughters, and perhaps book a weekend away, it’s been full on for the last few months with 20 hour days in the workshop and we’re all feeling it. There’s potential for some fun collaborations, and there’s been some really kind people saying nice things about the bikes, it just feels good to have a nod that I’m going in the right direction. The workshop floor still needs sweeping as it’s still covered in wood shavings, but I have a few months waiting list and some really fun bikes to build, so really just getting my head down and getting behind the vice, learning more and building the best bicycles I can. Do you have a long term plan for Rowan? To have fun, build beautiful bicycles, spend time with my family, work with cool people, make a business of it, keep going, work hard, enjoy it. Is that a long term plan? Tim’s show winning bike will be on display at B1866 our Flagship store in London's Seven Dials until Sunday 17th May, so stop by if your in the area! www.rowanframeworks.com