Return to Meet the Artisan
Rody Walter turned his fascination with building bikes into a lifelong passion, a lifelong art. Groovy Cycleworks specializes in creating truly made-to-order, hand-crafted bikes that meet riders’ every need.
Have you always worked with your hands?
From an early age, I have been driven by curiosity to create, and since my hands have always been attached to my arms, they have served the purpose well. I tried Vulcan telepathy once but did not get even a single atom to move…oh well.
What drew you to your chosen craft?
Many consider the act of cycling to be as close to physically flying as a human will experience, encouraging a sense of freedom and emotional delight. To be able to help facilitate that for others through my work brings a smile to my face, as well as my customer’s. It’s just plain, simple, fun. How could I not be drawn to it?
What do you enjoy most about your craft?
Though I relish in the challenge and artistic expression fabrication enables, my favorite aspect is when I have the opportunity to share the first ride with a customer. Their enthusiasm drives me back to the shop to begin again.
How long did it take you to become an expert?
I think it is fair to say that with each piece I strive to improve, making subtle gains, focusing my skill sets, refining my perspective of what is an attainable goal. In that vein, I don’t believe I’ll ever feel that I’ve achieved perfection, or capture the characteristics that define me as an expert.
Do you feel like you are still learning?
Absolutely…once you feel that you have mastered a craft, the motivation to drive forward and improve is lost, so too is the enjoyment derived.
How many hours do you spend making each item?
The hours required depends on the complexity of the design, the materials used, and the details within the finish. I complete the entire bicycle in house, with one set of hands, from design through fabrication, paint, and assembly. The shortest time spent was for an overnight cram session to build a bike for a race the next day…16 hours. The longest was for the titanium surf bike, taking just about two months.
If you could spend a day with a master of your craft (past or present), who would it be and why?
There are very few craftsmen in the niche of custom bicycle fabrication that perform all aspects in house. Picking out one element, paint, I would love to spend time in the shop of Joe Bell in Spring Valley, California. Joe’s paint work has incredible attention to detail, crisp lines, and classic color separation; very traditional in its execution and so different from my own.
Is there any one person who has bought/used any of your products that makes you especially proud?
Though I have fantastic customers, it is very humbling when my peers within the frame building community ask me to make them a bike.
What does the future hold for you type of work? Are you training young people in your craft?
I feel very fortunate to have worked in a small shop environment where I could learn my craft from more experienced teachers. Unfortunately, those opportunities are evaporating for the next generation. In an effort to give back, I have a teaching blog where I show many processes, invite younger builders to my shop for a week each year to help them expand or refine their skills, and continue to be a conduit of information exchange within the community. The trade will continue to flourish as long as people appreciate the handmade bicycle and the personalization if offers.
Why is it important for people to make things with their own hands?
Tactile creation feeds the soul and inspires the mind to do more.
In what ways are handmade goods better than those that are mass-produced?
In many ways, mass produced items are more precise, made with greater efficiency, and are less expensive to produce. They cannot, however, begin to match the personalization, artistic creativity, innate physical execution, and reflection of the craftsman that a handmade item possesses. Each handmade item is unique, just like its craftsman, just like its eventual owner.
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