Workaholic // Rotelli Cyclery // Custom Bicycles
Robert Rotello founded his company to specialize in creating custom handcrafted bicycles tailored to the needs of commuters and adventure-seekers alike. Within his company, he and his team sit with you to understand your needs as a cyclist. Taking you in your path with the restoration of bicycles of the past. Robert gave us a look into his space and spoke to us about his work.
What do you do?
I run a biycle concept shop called Rotelli Cyclery in the arts district of DTLA. We repurose and cusomize bicyles of all kinds and specialize in vintage european frames. Our shop offers repairs, bicycles, dry goods, home goods, accessories and leather goods.
How did you get to where you are now?
Lack of transportation, really. I didn’t have a job. I took one semester in business and bounced. I started riding back and forth to school, researching bikes and teaching myself how to break down and build them out. I started on older bikes because they were more aesthetically pleasing in my eyes and I started doing a lot of reading on old frame builders and companies. I got to the point where I could do appraisals on frames from 1930 all the way to late 80’s, which is where it really sparked my interest – the history and the stories. That led me to building bikes and doing restorations out of my super little studio with a Murphy Bed and a kitchen, that’s it. People started catching on by word of mouth, which turned into a small niche to get some cash and pay my bills. I got to a point where I was able to rent out a bigger garage and do complete restoration projects which then led me to building up a clientele that were looking for something period correct, looking for something special and unique… they wanted showroom pieces, they were serious cyclists but also had a true love for the nostalgia of cycling. That was about a 5 year process.
I started putting away money from every project and was able to rent out a storefront and build out what is now Rotelli Cyclery in the arts district of DTLA. We’ve now been here for about 5 months. Our goal was to create a cycling shop with all elements of Portland and Brooklyn mixed, which we found a huge lack of here in LA. I wanted to put my own twist on things, whether it be using a mix of modern parts with a classic style, still gaining the beauty of the old hand built frames and tying it in with the functionality of something more modern.
Was this always your dream job?
No. This was one of those things that I enjoyed that fell in my lap and I stuck with it. Now it is.
How much of the week is work, how much is play?
My work is all play, to be honest we’ll hang out and have beers and work all day. We’d rather hang out here at the shop than go home. The shop is evolving into work, fun, hang out and all the above. We have a relaxed vibe, there’s nothing limiting here to anybody and that’s what we love – anybody can come in and spark an interest.
How do you find your inspiration and do you find it easy to stay organized?
Inspiration is not hard to find at all. Each project is personalized for the individual, so the process for one person is not necessarily the same for the next. That keeps me inspired every day. One of the things that we like to do is personalize every project for that rider – whether it’s an upright, maybe someone is going to just get coffee or someone who is riding 100 miles a day, not everybody’s build out is the same. We give the customer the option to be more hands on in their own project which in my opinion only connects you with your own piece and makes it yours. Whether it’s for functionality or their own personal style.
How important is your work and do you feel it defines you?
As long as I eat it’s ok, it would be great to become a cycling household name down the road – but for right now I’m happy.
Does it define me? Kind of, it’s my life and I love what I do but I don’t look that far ahead – it will all take care of itself. As long as I don’t try and control to much and allow unintentional growth on its own.
What has been the most exciting thing you have done with your work and what is a dream situation you’d like to find yourself in?
The most exciting thing I’ve done with my work is being able to connect with the customer and actually create their vision.
My goal is to basically have a giant shop where people can walk in and see the whole process start to finish, from the frame being built, powder coating and picking your parts all in one. Maybe a bar in the front of the warehouse and multiple repair stations people can utilize if they want to work on their bikes themselves.
How do you define your personal style, work and clothing?
Do you listen to music during your work day?
Yes, music is always on… it’s a must in the shop.
Anything else you would like to say or for us to know?
We’ll be having regular events with cool folks and cool brands. More to come.
1133 E 5th St
Photography by Allie Taylor