This interview was conducted Michelle Genders originally posted on the Australian Wandarrah team website.
Let’s get to know Emma and Ivan from Tread and Pedals. They reuse reuse bike parts that would otherwise be discarded to make beautiful and functional. Emma and Ivan opened up their childhood memories of bike riding and their favourite parts of running a handmade business:
Where do you live and how long have you lived there?
We’re currently looking at buying a house in Bright, Victoria and have moved back in with the folks until we find a place to hang our hats and bicycle helmets. We’re ever so lucky to have such accommodating parents, they’ve allowed us not only to live under their roof again (after living out of home for over 9 years) but they’ve also allowed us take over the workshop with all our gear and much of the house too. Prior to the move back, we were living in a gorgeous little weather board home in the scenic Dandenong Ranges, with forest all around. The tall eucalypt and twisty wattles made up the vista from our deck and we were often host to many feathered friends who would join us on the veranda for a cuppa, the King Parrots and Turtle Doves were my favourite visitors.
Where do you make the pieces that you sell?
All our products are handmade in our studio and workshop.
What do you like most about working with upcycled bike parts?
I think the thing we both enjoy the most about working with old bike parts is the joy that comes from being able to take something that would otherwise be destined for landfill and upcycle it into something fun and functional.
What is the most difficult part about working with upcycled bike parts?
Sourcing and then cleaning the parts would have to be the two biggest challenges we experience when it comes to working with the salvaged bike parts. We’d love nothing more than being able to click “order” and receive a bundle of goodies in the mail ready to be made into our products. However the less than glamorous side of working with old bike parts, instead sees us digging through tubs of greasy bike parts and spending hours up to our elbows cleaning them.
What is your favourite tool or piece of equipment with?
The welder, it allows us to create items that will last the test of time.
What are your favourite kind of materials to work?
Emma: For me it would have to be the inner tube and the bike chain. The inner tube is wonderfully tactile and lends itself so well to being used in place of leather, it is soft to touch yet mighty tough and makes for great jewellery and accessories. The bike chain I love the way it moves and the way the light hits the metals (once all shiny clean), breaking the chain and reshaping it into other forms is much fun.
Ivan: The metals – in particular the gears, wheels and chain.
You profile says “Riding bikes since we were kids, upcycling them since 2011.” Could you tell us a story about riding bikes as a kid?
Emma: I learnt to ride on the same bike as my mother and my grandmother, it was a cute little red 1940’s Malvern Star bicycle, a fixie. I have memories of my parents telling me to keep my feet on the pedals as I sped down hills, since my pedals were also my brakes. There were a few minor incidents involving trees, but I loved every minute of it. I now have a bike with all the bells and whistles – it has brakes that I can operate from the handle bars, all the gears a gal could ask for, front and rear shocks and even a button that can pop my seat up or down depending on the terrain. Ivan introduced me to the world of Mountain Biking when we were living in Canada, on a Downhill Mountain Bike in Whistler no less, and whilst I enjoyed it thoroughly I was also terrified and decided that regular cross-country Mountain Biking was more my speed than the adrenaline rich down-hilling.
Ivan: I grew up in the burbs in the late 1980’s and 90’s, an awesome time to grow up, it was a time where you could tell where all the kids were playing by where the bikes were parked. Biking has always been a social thing for me, be it riding with mates or hanging out track side at the BMX dirt jumps, for me now it’s racing MTB and Endurance (Enduro) events and going off on riding holidays, or travelling the world with bike and backpack. As a kid I wasn’t as obsessed with biking as I am now, I think it was in my late teens and early 20’s that my obsession for biking really took off and it’s done nothing but grow over the years.
Could you tell is a bit more about how your business came into being in 2011?
In 2011 we were both looking for an alternative to the 9-5, Ivan was at the time working as workshop manager for a busy Melbourne bike store and I was in an administration role. Tread & Pedals was born at this time as a response to the shockingly large amount of old bicycle parts we saw passing through Ivan’s work (and other bike shops too) that were destined for landfill. In an effort to reduce the amount of waste being generated we decided to look at re-purposing these parts; whilst also celebrating our passion for bicycles, the arts, design and sustainability. Ivan’s background in engineering and mine in the arts really helped us on our journey and allowed us to work with our strengths, doing something we love. Our first product, from memory, was the cog and chain bottle opener. We were ever so surprised by the positive response our jewellery, homewares and accessories received – blown away even. Never did we imagine we’d be able to make it our full time job – we’re ever so lucky and feel mighty blessed being able to wake up each day and make a living doing what we love.
When I browse through your shop, I’m struck by the diversity of the products that you make and sell, yet at the same time how it all holds together so well under the overall theme of upcycling bike parts. Do you have a personal favourite piece that you wear or use yourselves?
Emma: It’s like having to choose a favourite child… please don’t tell the other products but my favourite piece would have to be the bike spoke bracelets. I have three that I wear on my right wrist, I love them so much that I never take them off. They’re made using stainless steel bicycle spokes so they make the most wonderful no fuss piece of jewellery, they don’t tarnish or rust and they never require polishing. They’re lightweight, sturdy, elegant, eco and perfect for adventures; you can wear them in the ocean, climbing mountains, or riding your bike.
Ivan: Hard call, but our Bike Chain Cufflinks are probably my favourite, that or the Bike Wheel Clocks. The Bike Chain Cufflinks are the only way Emma can get me to wear a suit, they’re a great accessory that allows you to add some personality to the suit, while still looking mighty smart. And if you’re anything like me and love bikes it’s great because you quite literally get to wear your passion on your sleeve.
Is there a piece that is a particular best seller, or flies quickly out the door?
Our Bike Tyre Stubby Holders and Bike Cog and Chain Bottle Openers are a seasonal favourite and sell like hot cakes during the summer months and over Christmas as they make great gifts for cyclists and lovers of beer, but the all year round top sellers would have to be our Bike Gear and Bike Wheel Clocks.
Your passion for resusing and upcycling so that usable materials are prevented from going into landfill is catching! Thank you for sharing your story with us – it is great to know more about the people behind the bike parts