Bikes are an incredible freedom machine for so many people. They blur the lines between a means of transportation, a form of recreation and a way to get a healthy dose of movement in one's life.
One of the best things about bikes is their ability to carry cargo using racks, packs, straps, baskets and bags. In this day and age, we’re lucky to have access to everything from lightweight bikepacking accessory bags to sturdy panniers for cross-country travel — made by some of the best cottage gear makers in the game. Here are 10 small bike brands well worth checking out!
Photo by John Campbell of Brett Stepanik, the 3x singlespeed bikepack racing world record holder.
After 20 years of working with big outdoor gear brands, John Campbell decided to take his earned wisdom and passion for crafting good gear and apply it to his own creative enterprise. His career pivot gave life to Alpine Luddites in 2015, which has since built itself into a high demand cottage brand with a reputation for quality.
As a party of one, John handcrafts functional, imaginative and tough-as-nails custom gear for bikepacking, backpacking, ice climbing and mountaineering, all from his home studio in Westmore, Vermont. His blend of reliable fabrics with thoughtful, innovative designs ends in badass bags that still manage to weigh less than many of his cottage counterparts.
John does whatever he can to deliver the best custom gear to fit everyone's individual needs. His commitment to customer satisfaction has created a loyal fan base willing to wait for their one-of-a-kind Luddite luggage.
When John isn’t behind the bobbin building bags, he’s passionately passing on his design wisdom, sewing skills, and in-depth fabric knowledge to a new generation of makers as an Instructor of Design at the progressive Sterling College in Craftsbury, Vermont.
When Colorado bike shop owner and early bikepacking enthusiast, Joey Ernst met local bike bag maker and fellow cycling fanatic, Andrew Wracher in 2012, the two became fast friends. They merged their shared love of bikes and camping with their complementary skill sets and innovative design ideas and fired up Bedrock Bags.
In the decade since, much has changed in the cycling world, but Bedrock Bags has remained steadfast in their desire to craft practical, reliable and bombproof bike bags that cater to adventure cycling enthusiasts and bikepackers around the world.
Joey and Andrew have a proud focus on utilizing durable and domestically manufactured fabrics that they blend with time-tested assembly techniques. They care about making products that withstand real world adventures and they’ve got an outstanding track record of doing so.
Bedrock has expanded from its bike studio beginnings into a passionate workforce of seven full-time employees working in the heart of downtown Durango. They continue to refine and streamline their early, progressive designs while also giving life to new creations.
Dyed in the Wool co-founders, Aleksandra Cicha and Charles Chambers, handcraft bright, beautiful and thoughtfully designed bike bags. Drawing on their backgrounds in fashion design and architecture, combined with their love of cycling and bespoke gear, they make their bags in their home studio in Warsaw, Poland.
After the pandemic shut down their design jobs, the couple made a hard pivot and decided to take control of their careers by starting their own business. In just two and half years, DiTW has grown into a sought-after bike gear brand that ships worldwide.
Their entire line of made-to-order bike bags is offered up in the buyer’s choice of X Pac VX21, Cordura 600D or UL Dyneema Hybrid fabrics. With the ability to custom print on their Dyneema fabric, customers can co-create a one-of-a-kind bag collection that will most definitely set them apart.
Through their Trail Clean Up initiative, DiTW offers a 5% discount on their handmade goods for picking up bags of garbage. You can check out their full line of wares on their website and follow the fun on their social @dyedinthewoolofficial
North St Bags founder, adventurer and innovative product developer, Curtis Williams, wanted a multi-functional piece of gear that could stand up to his adventurous lifestyle. He turned that dream into a reality in 2009 when he designed and crafted his very first backpack pannier.
The Woodward, which goes from a bike rack pannier bag to backpack mode in seconds, would go on to become a staple creation of North St and pave the way for more brilliant ideas.
The Portland-based business, which has grown into a team of eight full-time employees, continues to focus on building functional, durable bags with clean, classic design elements that never go out of style. Their goal is to help you #OwnBetterThings.
The well-being of the environment is a central focus for North St and the company does their best to take every detail into consideration. They are currently transitioning all of their products to ECOPAK’s fully recycled fabric line, running their studio on wind power, supporting their employees in using green transportation, and giving back 1% for the Planet.
Nathan Hughes started making pedal straps for fixed gear bikes out of upcycled automobile seat belts more than a decade ago. He would salvage straps from auto wreckers, wash them in his mothers sink, dry them in the back garden and give them a new life. Hence the name Restrap.
Since then, his bike gear company has diversified its product offerings and scaled from a single-man operation to an impressive team of 70, while maintaining their values, intentionality and product quality. The team creates carrying solutions for cyclists from their new workshop in the two-wheeled mecca of Yorkshire, England.
Their selection of built-to-last bags are backed by a lifetime guarantee, and cover the unique needs of a diverse range of cyclists — from gram-counting, ultra-endurance bikepackers to cargo-heavy tourers.
Restrap is grateful that their growth has given them leverage with textile manufacturers to create fabrics that reduce the use of toxins and chemicals.
Photo courtesy of bikepacking.com
Inspired by the nearby Blue Ridge mountains and the endless outdoor opportunities in the Pisgah National Forest, Rockgeist founder Greg Hardy started making bike bags that enable epic adventures more than 10 years ago. Since then, Rockgeist has been perfecting the art of clean lines and smart design.
The cottage bike bag brand aims to strike a balance between weight, durability and price. You can choose from their standard, in-stock selection of universal adventure luggage, or customize your own. Don’t know what you’re looking for? Drop by their workshop in Asheville to meet the growing team of eight makers, and borrow a few bikepacking bags for the weekend to get some first-hand experience.
In addition to bike bags, Rockgeist offers innovative products like their Armadillo Dry Bag protector, as well as welded, waterproof products gained from their merger with Canadian pack pioneer, Porcelain Rocket.
Photo by Julio Bustamante
Established in 2010, Road Runner co-founders Bradley Adams and Ester Song continue to be motivated by their love of riding bikes, which naturally informs their product line. From the heart of downtown LA, they cater to two-wheeled enthusiasts of all kinds — from commuters and messengers to casual riders and adventure cyclists.
Streamlined design coupled with durable Cordura fabrics and sustainable manufacturing methods forms the backbone of their company. They aim to keep environmental consciousness at the forefront by crafting quality gear that lasts a lifetime … and gets delivered to the post office by cargo bike.
Ester and Bradley give back to the cycling community that supports them by volunteering to build trails, partnering with local cycling organizations that empower inner-city youth, and actively advocating for safer streets and infrastructure in LA for cyclists and pedestrians.
Joe Mauntler always knew he was meant to be a maker. After years working in bike shops, and as a bike messenger, and then honing his sewing and pattern drafting skills through various apprenticeships, Joe launched head first into Sturdy Bag Designs in 2019.
He began sewing bike bags in his basement, but after just two plus short years, he landed in a new workshop in a beautiful, bright heritage building in the heart of Minneapolis.
With a name like Sturdy Bags, the cottage bike gear Joe builds is designed to last the test of time. He backs up his products with a rest-assured repair program that fixes not only his own handmade gear, but any other bike bags that might need some TLC.
Wizard Works is on a mission to bring the party to bikepacking, and they’re doing a bang up job. With bright, fun and aesthetically adorable baggage for your bikes, co-founders Harry Major and Veronica Lowe make sure their gear doesn’t sacrifice technical performance at the cost of being cute.
Wizard Works fired up unofficially back in 2016. But the boost in bike love during the pandemic coupled with some timely online exposure helped Wizard Works grow from a two-person, part-time project to a full-blown brand with three additional employees, and lots of 90s dance music to keep morale high.
With a strong focus on user-friendly designs, Harry and Ve have put aside their original goal of crafting purely lightweight bike gear in order to strike a balance between performance, aesthetics and lastability.
Beyond making fun and functional bike gear, WW has become purveyors of ‘cool, nice stuff’ to help UK based bikepackers access a handpicked collection of niche cycling products that make life more fun. They also kick back 1% for the Planet and look forward to hosting community events in their new studio space in the Design District of Greenwich, London.
Founder of What Happened Outdoors, Neza Peterca plays one part technical gear repair guru and another part designer and maker of custom bikepacking and backpacking bags.
Based in Slovenia, Neza primarily uses lightweight, recycled fabrics like EcoPak for new projects. But, she also integrates used technical garments, fabric cut-offs, and otherwise wasted textiles to reimagine new things, like chalk bags for climbing and snack bags for bikes.
After seven years designing, sewing and pedaling messenger bike bags in Budapest for her first co-founded cottage brand, Blind Chic, Neza sold her shares and joined Patagonia's Well Worn tour, where she fixed the cherished outdoor gear of adventure enthusiasts in ski and surf towns across Europe.
When the pandemic hit, she channeled her love for hearing what happened to people’s gear to create her newest cottage business. Since then, Neza’s aesthetically pleasing color palettes, coupled with her functional, streamlined designs and incredible attention to detail, have set her on a unique journey.
She’s not just another bag maker, she’s an innovator, an educator and a conscious creator. She’s been known to make bikepacking seat bags out of old duffle bags and wallets from a Gore Tex jacket.
See her amazing custom pieces and get notified of new upcycled Wabi Sabi collection product drops through her social @whathappenedoutdoors.
What other cottage bike brands do you love? Leave a comment below! We know there are many more cool small bikepacking and touring brands out there, and we just might write a Part 2 follow up article!
Ali Becker is a freelance adventure writer and narrative storyteller who shares compelling conversations about personal transformations, overcoming limitations, wellness education and adventurous situations. You can follow her rambling adventures on social at @thisisalibecker or at her blog thisisalibecker.com.