Robin Mather builds cycles just north of the idyllic village of Bath in England. Working alone in a small stone shop he crafts his cycles using the tried & true methods of lugs & fillet brazing for joining techniques.
Mather constructs for all styles of riding but like so many English builders before him he holds a fondness for touring and all-rounders. Like Jackson, Yates and Mercian, there is something unmistakably English to his end-game, and justifiably so. Robin Mather, in his own words...
1. How old are you?
2. Where were you born?
3. What's your earliest memory of a bicycle or something bicycle related?
I used to spend hours doing laps of the garden on my Raleigh Grifter. It had a stumpy little front mudguard with a rubber flap that you could tuck into the tyre to make a noise like a motorbike.
4. What was your first cycle?
5. How about first "high-end" cycle?
Kona Fire Mountain, the year after they stopped doing the splatter paint jobs. I really wanted one of those but it took me a year to save the money.
6. Did (does) your family (parents, siblings, etc) ride also?
7. Did you like to tinker with bikes back then?
Yes, not just bikes. I would always take stuff apart to see how it worked and put it together badly.
8. Did you ever work in a Bike Shop... if so, where/how long?
On and off for about five years. Avon Valley Cyclery and John's Bikes, both in Bath.
9. Have you ever done any organized racing?
I used to race cross country quite a bit. Also, done a few sessions at the velodrome in Newport. I'm not really that competitive. I like to ride to relax and think about stuff and look at the scenery.
10. How about cyclo-touring?
I've done a couple of 4-5 week tours around France, Italy and northern Spain. I'm sure France is the best place in the world for bicycle touring. Two years ago a friend and I spent seven weeks touring in northern Ethiopia. That was hard work, but amazing and enlightening. This summer I'm off to Iceland and hopefully a few days in France as well.
11. What job(s) did you have before frame building and also-do you have any other job currently besides frame building?
The bike shops mainly. Also some house building and other odds and ends. I currently work 1 or 2 days each week in an outdoor equipment/travel shop in Bath called Itchy Feet. Apart from the money, it's good for the social side.
12. When did you start building?
13. Who would you say is your greatest influence in designing & frame building?
Initially it was Tony Oliver and his book, "Touring Bikes: A Practical Guide".
14. Did you apprentice... if so, with who?
I worked for Dave Yates at M Steel for a short while.
15. What's your idea of the "perfect cycle" regardless if you built it or not?
Perfect for what? What kind of compromise do you want? I don't mean compromise in a negative way, bikes can and should be versatile but this usually means they aren't 'perfect' for any one situation.
16. Shooting a guess... how many frames would you say you've built?
I only started numbering them 45 bikes ago.
17. Any cycles out there that you secretly wished, "Darn, I wish I'd built that!"?
I really admire what Sacha White does.
18. Your idea of the perfect client?
19. What defines a nightmare client in your experience?
No proper nightmares yet. Every customer is different and looks at things differently, so it can be challenging to figure out what they want. I think that's part of the fun, it's interesting.
20. Any words of advice to up & coming frame builders?
I think I still am one.
21. What do you find most funny or peculiar (in a kind way-not brutal) about the cycle-buying public... what don't they get or aren't they seeing?
They don't need the bike that pro's are riding. Their circumstances are entirely different and require a different kind of bike.
22. What do you think of mass-produced bikes (without naming names)?
Generally pretty good. I don't have much first hand experience of owning/riding one so probably am not a good judge.
23. What cycle don't you have anymore that you wished you did?
Nothing I miss.
24. What cycle do you currently ride most, even if it wasn't built by you?
A 26" wheel, straight bar tourer with guards, rack and a SON dynohub. It's heavy and gets badly neglected but does the job without fuss. The SON totally transformed winter commuting, I love it!
25. When did you last ride your bike and for how far?
Went out for a few miles this evening on my fixed gear, which I'm really loving at the moment.
26. What's your idea of the perfect ride?
A day in the Alps. The Cormet de Roselend and the weather on the day we climbed it was about as close to perfect as I've had.
27. Could you ever see yourself being Car Free... just using mass-transportation and your bike to get around?
I am and always have been. I'm lucky that my circumstances allow it and it won't always be possible. I use public transport and have to beg lifts sometimes but 90% of my journeys are on the bike.
28. Why do you think so many folks have romanticized bicycles & bicycling?
Folks romanticise about lots of things. They've probably got too much time on their hands.
29. Any (other) passions or hobbies in your life?
Not really. Is that bad?
30. If you could say one thing to Lance Armstrong what would it be?
31. In a pinch... McDonalds or Burger King?
That's quite a pinch.
32. What kind of shampoo did you last use?
Don't know, it smelt of peaches.
33. Favorite libation: wine, beer or fire water?
Beer, as long as it's not American, or red wine.
34. Even though there seems to be a real tradition to it-what do you think of folks who spend more time setting up their cycle with just the right color saddle, bar tape, bags, hoods, etc than actually riding or at least commenting on the ride?
I doesn't really bother me that much. I appreciate the importance of choosing the right bar tape, but bikes are meant to be ridden.
35. Did you go to college... if so, what was your major?
Yes, I studied a bit of aeronautics and some civil engineering but wasn't very good at it.
36. Your favorite music while working (if any)?
BBC Radio 3. Occasional Smashing Pumpkins if productivity dips.
37. If you had it to do all over again... would you be building cycles?
No, I'd be an astronaut. Or a rock star. I can't decide which. That's not an option though and I am very happy building bikes.
38. What's your favorite lunch food during a work day in the shop?
Bread and cheese.
39. When it's all said & done-what kind of legacy will you hope to have left behind?
A few nice bikes and a pleasant place for the next generation to live in.
40. How can folks get in touch with you to order a custom cycle?