“I don’t know what perfection is. But it is something to strive for. And it means everything to me.” Rasmus Gjesing is the proprietor and perfectionist-in-chief of Cykelmageren — which translates in a typically Danish straightforward manner as ‘bike builder’.
There is an air of elfin melancholy about Rasmus, who has spent a life honing the skills, defining the execution and combining the poles of the building process with an intense exactitude.
The product of his highly refined process are probably the most unique hand crafted bicycles in the world. Every now and then they may even approach the platonic ideal that is perfection.
“Nothing can ever be absolutely perfect,” he says, “but I would rather leave something unfinished than complete it far less than perfect.”
Rasmus is of course part of a long-established movement towards the hand-wrought, towards the kind of naturally sustainable industry that puts front and centre the urge to create things of true beauty that last for a lifetime – while the mass mainstream of course, surges ahead in an altogether different, resource-gobbling direction. But Rasmus pushes his process to an unprecedented level of detail.
“Many people claim to build handmade bikes; many people build frames from Reynolds or Columbus steel tubes as we do, and many of course construct wheels by hand from rims and spokes they have sourced. But here we can fabricate everything from the ground up, including the drivetrain and the brake components.”
The Cykelmageren workshop is an atmospheric, rustic space 30 minutes’ drive north of Copenhagen. There are outbuildings, a scrubby yard; a ramshackle kind of order that hints at the quiet focus Rasmus and his small team bring to bear on his projects.
The workshop itself, drenched with the oblique light of this northern latitude, is textured and layered with the stuff with which he pares things down to a point where the necessary, the extraneous — are forever excluded.
“I don’t think I am a typical bike builder,” he says, “I am more of an old school craftsman. If it’s not bikes I am focusing on, it is cars. If it is not cars, it is a detail in my house. This is why there are so many bits and pieces lying around my place. If it is not possible to do things to a very high standard, I would rather not do them.”
Rasmus was introduced to this rarified arena of craftsmanship by his father. Learning to learn, he says, was as important as the technical skills he developed in fashioning metals.
“My father was always telling me to simply try things myself…” he says.
“He would not try to instruct me on how to do things. It was all about simply trying myself, making mistakes, and learning about the process of doing something. He would be sitting there with his beer, allowing me to make mistakes all of my own. There is not a day goes by that I do not think of him.”
At the heart of things Cykelmageren is this attention to the process. The essence lies in the act of doing rather than in the end product. “It is the same with my house,” he says.
“I have been building and restoring and maintaining my property for over twenty years. It will never be finished. It is very important to me that I love the work that I do. Rather than simply taking the money — I enjoy every part of the process that goes into the things that I do. I think there is something very Danish about that.”