Bike Bags – Design Preview Report

In the last two years I have started going on long distance bike trips as a way to get deeper into the wilderness. I have always loved mountain biking and thought combining it with camping was the next logical step. The first couple trips I went on I tried using backpacks and straps to carry my gear. The issue is that using a backpack becomes very uncomfortable after a few hours of riding. Alternatively straps are very finnicky and you are able to carry lots of things besides bigger equipment. Therefore I started doing research into bags that I could attach to the frame of my bike. My biggest inspiration for this idea was Ryan Van Duzer. He is a film maker from Boulder who documents his journey on bike around the world. He always kits his bike out with the proper gear, and it seemed like the bags were crucial to his success. Initially I was financially motivated so I figured making a custom bag for my bike would be cheaper than an off the shelf option. Attached below is the image of my first bag I created. I utilized a black fabric called xpac. For the construction of the bag I cut 3 unique panels (two side panels and one spine panel). I then sewed everything together and included two zippers on the bag. The zippers is the aspect of the design I plan to count as the moving part. I was pretty pleased with the original design but it quickly fell apart due to poor sewing on my part.

For this project specifically I want to iterate on my original design while focusing heavily on the outdoors minimalist aesthetic. The outdoors minimalism really stems from the ultra lite community. Ultra lite is the practice of “backpacking” or thru-hiking long trails with as little gear as possible. The idea you bring the bare necessities means you can hike more comfortably and enjoy your time on the trail. Additionally you can cover more ground because your overall weight is less. In terms of outdoor minimalist gear, the bags are made from really high quality materials that are very lite. They also limit the amount of extra straps and tie down points to cut down on weight. Generally a bag would just be one big pocket for everything to go inside of. I want to follow this aesthetic in my design by removing the internal pocket I sewed into the bag. I want it to be ultra functional and very sleek, utilizing only a single zipper. I have attached a pack from the company hyperlite below to show the general sleek aesthetic I am going for.

I’m still experimenting with design and color selections but was generally very happy with the dimensions of my original bag. I will probably try to make some sort of permanent template that I can reuse in the future if I want to make a Rev 3 of the bag. I think I do want to select white xpac as my primary color because I enjoy the worn look it will develop overtime. Additionally I want to implement so ascent colors like purple or orange into the bag to make it more visually interesting while maintaining the minimalism. I am yet to complete any prototyping. My first step will to fully dimension the bag and choose the appropriate color scheme. I am also interested in developing a patch I can sew on to make it my own “brand”

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Barrett Lister
    March 17, 2024 10:23 pm

    Hi Blake,
    Just like Ian above I also mountain bike and have always wanted to go bike-packing but not yet found the opportunity to. You mentioned the economic benefit of making these bags yourself and I think you’re really onto something because it is not necessarily that these off the shelf bike bags are expensive to make, but it is more so that in order to turn a profit on mass produced bags that only fit one single bike companies charge more (I worked at University Bicycles for a summer and had to explain this to a lot of customers lol). So totally go for this you will thank yourself tons for it! On a side note I thought your color choice of white was interesting because right in the middle of that sentence I said to myself ‘that is going to get dirty quickly’ and then I saw that was actually an intended choice when I read the rest of the sentence. Making these outdoor fabrics white and seeing the accumulation of dirt overtime as giving the item character and soul is such a cool perspective. I might never look at aged white fabrics ever the same again.

    A last remark: have you ever taken a class with Dr. Mike Soltys? He teaches some of the early project courses and has an office over in the ITLL. I love chatting bikes with him, and he actually has done the exact identical project you are going to do, making a custom bike bag and other accessories for bike packing. I also know he went through the process of finding out what worked and what doesn’t work, especially in fabric choice and sewing technique. He always has his bike with him inside of his office and no doubt you would see it in person if you paid him a visit. He is also passionately nerdy about his bike bag project and would love to talk to you about it I have zero doubt.

  • Hi Blake!
    I really enjoyed reading about your project. I am also a cyclist but I have never had the chance to go bike-packing. It is certainly an interesting challenge to integrate a large amount of storage into a bike frame but it can be very rewarding if it allows you to explore more on your bike! Is there a particular bike that you have in mind to focus your design around or do you want the design to be somewhat universal? Great post!


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