Steve Whitby’s love of bicycles runs deep. Forty years after he first started building and repairing his own bikes the Millfield man is still out in the shed tinkering away, turning his passion into a profession to build and re-engineer vintage bikes with modern components.
“I’ve been building and repairing my own bikes since I was a kid. Forty years later they still fascinate me – a simple machine that delivers so much efficiency from so few components,” Steve said.
“About ten years ago, I started picking up discarded bikes from the side of the road or buying them cheap on Gumtree and would fix them and either sell them or give them to charity.
“It was something to keep me busy, but it’s been a slippery slope; in 2010 I had one bike, now I have about 20!
“I started Millfield Velo in 2017, to catalyse my process and focus on what I do best. There are so many different kinds of cycling that I couldn’t cover it all with a one-man operation, and my quality was suffering. I now focus on a very high-quality (and expensive) product – European steel road bikes from the 80's and 90's.”
The Handmade in the Hunter Markets stallholder believes vintage bikes are an art form, and he loves transforming them into head-turning custom designs for his clients.
“Most of my customers already have two or three bikes. They come to me for something artful and custom, often in a particular colour, or a specific brand or model. They want to ride something beautiful, or known as a classic model,” he said.
“I restored a Ferrari to go in a man-cave last year, and I’m currently building a second bike for a customer in Perth – he’s a school principal who is building a collection of famous bikes, and he rides them all.
“I can also recreate a treasured bike from a customer’s past. The bike they owned as a teenager, for example, or a bike painted in the colour of their first car.
“The appeal of vintage bikes for me lies in their artform. Vintage bikes are simple and elegant, and with some re-engineering, I fit them with modern components to make them amazing to ride and easy to maintain. Plus they turn heads wherever they go, and that’s nice too.”
You can check out some of Millfield Velo’s handiwork and have a chat with Steve at this month’s Handmade in the Hunter Markets, which will be held at Kevin Sobels Wines on August 10 and 24 from 9am to 3pm.