From his workshop in South London, Jake Rusby builds bespoke bikes. These high-performance, made-to-last creations combine his two long-held passions - for cycling and making things - in beautiful, timeless fashion. As part of our series of interviews with people whose spirit of invention and adventure inspires us today, we caught up with Jake to talk work, life, travel and more.
"I’ve always been a keen cyclist myself and I’ve always loved building and making things too," says Jake. "I studied sculpture at art college and after doing a few different jobs - none of which felt quite right for me - I decided to set up Rusby Cycles. I didn't know how things would turn out, but I have always worked on the premise that things will probably work out fine. I don’t think I would have started Rusby Cycles - done a lot of the things I’ve done in life - without this in mind."
Handcrafted custom bikes
It's safe to say that, so far, Jake's philosophically-relaxed approach is reaping rich rewards. Customers from far and wide are seeking him out for his combination of artisan skill, attention-to-detail and native enthusiasm. "The whole process of building each bike starts with a customer fitting," adds Jake. "After the bike fitting I then build the frames from steel or stainless steel tubing to their exact requirements. The geometry, detailing and paint is all precisely-tailored to each rider, so that the bike looks beautiful and rides like a dream.
"From day one, I loved the work. I'm fortunate to know a lot of people who make things for a living, who are very good at what they do. They work very hard and make beautiful objects so it’s very inspiring to be around these sorts of people. Being a part of a community like that - and being able to create bikes that people can cherish, and ride for a long time - has played a huge part in getting the business off the ground."
Adventure and secret hideaways
With work taking up a good proportion of Jake's time, does he still have time for adventure, for travel? He nods. "I am going to Sutherland in the far north west of Scotland soon. I have always heard it is an amazing place but I haven't yet visited, so that’s very exciting. Suliven and Stac Polly are two mountains that I will definitely be going up while I'm there, as they look absolutely spectacular.
"I lived in Edinburgh for six years and spent a lot of my weekends walking and camping in the Scottish hills. That's really where my passion for that sort of adventure took hold, I think. The west coast of Scotland is my favourite part and there are endless little adventures to be had there. One of my favourite places I’ve been there is the Isle of Rhum. It has these amazing set of hills that rise up out of the sea. From up there, you can see for miles. It's stunning."
Mountains, bikes and VWs
And what about cycling? Does he still find time to indulge in the hobby that he managed to turn into his livelihood? "I try to ride as often as I can. I have a vague plan for some cycling in the Dolomites too. I always like to get in a cycling holiday if I can," he says, before telling us of his life-long love of that lost adventure-ready vehicle, the VW Transporter 3.
Talking to Jake it's clear that while he may not be able to ride and climb mountains as much as he might like - a busy business tends to get in the way of such things - he is more than happy to spend as much time as possible in his workshop, his home from home.
"I have a lot of favourite tools in my workshop," he says, "some of them are old engineering equipment and others are homemade tools that are just right for a specific job. I have an old screwdriver that I modified into a tool I use for smoothing down the fillet-brazes (like welds) on a bike frame. It’s not much to look at but I use it so much that I’ve developed an attachment to it."
Favourite Farer watch
Speaking of attachment, we ask Jake the all-important question that bookends every interview we conduct: which Farer watch is his favourite? "I love the Frobisher," he says. "It is a simple, classy and modern design using some very well chosen strong colours."
Simple, classy, modern. Three words that we are delighted to hear a craftsman like Jake use to describe our work. And three words that could just as easily describe every beautiful bike he lovingly creates in his workshop, too. Cyclists, seek him out. You will not regret it.