Overcoming a debilitating illness and ditching a life long career, Matthew headed to Italy to find out how to make bikes, and from that point on never looked back.
Preparing classical modern cuisine at fine dining restaurants and creating bespoke cycles in a London workshop may seem worlds apart. But back in 2009 Matthew Sowter of Saffron Frameworks swapped his chef whites for an oily overall to start making bicycles at Enigma.
Matthew has always loved bikes. Racing them on and off road from an early age, but back in 2009 an illness stopped him riding, stopped him working and even stopped him getting out of bed for over a month. During that time he knew he had to make a decision about what he wanted from life and he stumbled across an article about an Italian frame builder called Darren Chrisp. Matthew said “Reading about Darren’s ethos on why he made frames and the process he goes through really inspired me. That was the catalyst.” He picked up the phone and spoke to Darren, finding out all he could about the bike making process. He knew then he was hooked and he that making bikes was his future.
“customers love the opportunity to come to the workshop, to smell the metal and oil and touch and feel the different materials, it’s a very tactile process.”
He quickly got a job with Enigma Bikes, learning his trade, sharpening his skills and soaking up all he could about the frame building process. This invaluable experience opened his world up and just over two years ago he set up Saffron Frameworks. A place where he creates bespoke, functional and beautiful looking bikes for customers all over the world.
His work allows him to create real connections with his clients. He believes in a collaborative process saying “customers love the opportunity to come to the workshop, to smell the metal and oil and touch and feel the different materials, it’s a very tactile process.” It is this process that ensures each bike is built to the exact needs of the cyclist. “I source my tubes from all over the world, there are literally thousands I can choose from, mix and matching tubing to give the person the best quality for their ride. Everything is tailored, from the frame right down to the smallest screw.”
It is this detail that has seen customers buy bikes from all over the world even as far as Singapore. It has also helped him to pick up Best Bicycle awards from the likes of Spin London and Bespoked Bristol. His bikes are highly sought after and there is currently a 6 month waiting list, which for someone who has only been building bikes for 5 years is great feat. Each commission brings another exciting collaboration and unique output that keeps Matthew motivated, constantly pushing the boundaries, learning new techniques and honing skills in a trade that he loves and truly believes in.