Matt Teague started building bicycles in 2011 in east London, mostly for friends and family and mostly because he was unable to find exactly what he wanted for everyday use in and around London. He believes that bicycles are the ultimate personal transport solution for medium and short distances (and long ones too – time permitting) and seeks to build machines that will soak up the rigours of daily life on the road. Frames are built in a variety of techniques, but lugged steel predominates because it is strong, lightweight and timeless..
Do you remember your first bike?
My first bike was a Triang Moulton, I loved that bike, but it quickly became too small for anything other than short rides so my first proper bike, was a Dawes Fox. Lugged steel, ten speeds and I spent a lot of time on it around the Warwickshire lanes. Me and cycling spent some time apart after I moved to London and then I bought another Moulton.
How did you get into building bikes?
The aforementioned Moulton. I bought an older F frame version with the intention of building a Woodburn tribute bike (John Woodburn set the London-Cardiff speed record on a modified Moulton Speed). However my frame had a cracked rear triangle, and my first forays into brazing were in order to repair this. I’m sorry to say that particular bike is still in bits somewhere in the back of the workshop.
Then I had a big accident on a Moulton I’d built up for time trialling - the small wheels didn’t deal with a pothole – despite the suspension - and whilst looking for something with bigger wheels I thought about building my own. I just waded in. I found a huge satisfaction in fashioning something with my own hands and which is still in use (it sits on rollers in the back room). Today I ride frame number 004. That particular bike has just passed the 55,000 miles mark. Anyway – I thought ‘I must be doing something right’, so I carried on.
How would you define your style as a framebuilder?
I would say that I like bikes that are intended for purposes other than pure racing – commuter and touring bikes and lugged steel are my personal favourites. A bike has to be practical before it is beautiful, and utility has it’s own style.
Having said that I also love riding the track and a pure-bred track iron is hardly ‘practical’.
I’ve experimented with a few things that I probably won’t do again. Press-fit bottom brackets are one example. They offer no real benefit to the bespoke builder and the standard threaded versions are - in my opinion at least, basically un-improvable from a practical engineering point of view.
Who or what has inspired you along the way.
My granddad, whose garage was full of bits from his time in the car industry, including a beautifully sectioned carburetor – right down the middle of the needle all the metal edges picked out in red enamel. And some of the usual suspects - I’ve a great deal of respect for people like Grant Petersen at Rivendell who have stuck to their guns and really champion the idea that cycling should just be part of the normal fabric of life (Just Ride), Pongo Braithwaite (Aende Bicycles) who built out of his front room in Nottingham, there are too many to mention really. Eric Estlund’s (Winter Bicycles) flicker feed, Matthew Crawford’s book ‘The Case for Making Things with your Hands’ (or why office work is bad for us and fixing things feels good). Richard Sachs. Obviously.
What can we expect to see from you at Bespoked 2017?
Good question it’s still in development. At least two bikes borrowed back for the show, one a ‘Gentleman’s cruiser’ the other a disc braked gravel bike which the owner plans to ride down to Bristol from London – hopefully he’ll be there by the Friday morning… there may be a ‘show bike’ as well – but I’m vacillating between a pure track bike and a hub geared commuter bike. I’ll have to toss a coin and get on with it. Or do some sort of mash-up club racer.
Where is your favourite place to ride?
Most weeks, my ‘backyard’; the Essex lanes, the ‘Viper loop’ and then coffee and cake in Blackmore, I try and do the Dunwich Dynamo when I can (most years since 2000) there and back, but it nearly killed me last time…but if the weather’s good it’s a great ride.
North Wales, especially the loop from Blaenau Ffestiniog through Betws y Coed and the Llanberis pass and back via Beddgelert and Pothmadoc. Mountains and the sea. And 60mph descents.
And finally, if you weren’t building bikes for a living what would you be doing?
Currently I’m a part-time framebuilder and a full-time architect for a steel company. Necessarily this means that I don’t produce vast numbers of bikes – but I like to think all of my thought and care in that moment go into the finished product. Eventually the framebuilding may become a full-time occupation – we’ll see how it goes. Construction tends to go through rollercoaster cycles, so – to answer the question, if I wasn’t building frames I’d be in building design, and vice versa. Particularly housing, of which there’s more need for an affordable and sustainable solutions than ever before.
There’s obviously a great deal of cross over materials-wise between working for a steel producer and building steel bicycles, but the attraction of building bikes is the direct connection between the design process, the interaction with the customer and the techniques – the actual physical process of cutting and joining a collection of tubes into a usable finished product – a bicycle.
For some reason they don’t let architects loose with welding gear on site. It’s the making of things that we have lost/are losing as a society. This loss a) produces a disconnection with the process of ‘thinking things through to completion’, (finishing a Powerpoint presentation doesn’t count) - and b) fuels the rise of disposable consumerism. The steel-framed bicycle is, I would suggest, part of the antidote.