Tom Matchak is a frame builder in New Hampshire who built Nancy's 650b all roads steel bike. His work is classic, understated and solid. Tom has been supportive of my bag work for a while and I was humbled when he recently recommended a client to me for custom bags. I was even more humbled when Tom himself ordered up a small handlebar bag. Tom said on the phone that while some folks are weight weenies, he considers himself something of a color weenie. Its always hard to choose colors from swatches on a computer screen, Tom picked a beautiful creamy yellowish color that fits very nicely with the honey brown trim.
Most folks go with a decaleur and internal stiffener for their bag and call it good. Tom had long been experimenting with methods of securing handlebar bags with a minimum of clutter and brackets. This bag come with a stout backstop sleeve and bottom Velcro straps to fix the bag to one of Tom's signature racks. The sleeve and the straps would be enough to keep the bag firmly in place for almost any situation, but it would have some sway if loaded up. Tom's solution is a clever internal stiffener. Made of coroplast, the stiffener is reinforced around the top rear perimeter with a thin band of aluminum strap, effectively creating a rigid box structure within the bag. The result is a secure bag, no sway, and a super clean appearance. In fact it might look a little "unattached" to the casual viewer expecting to see decaleurs and straps holding everything in place. (Bottom photo courtesy of Tom Matchak/Flickr)
I recently had the pleasure of visiting my friend Emily O'Brien at her bag making studio in Somerville, MA. I know Emily through New England Randonneurs, but we have bag making in common and I admire both her bags and the success she has had with her bag making efforts as Dill Pickle Gear. Mostly I just helped out and sewed buckles on straps and cut out parts from a pattern, but we had a good time talking about bikes, bags, music, and whatever else. I learned a lot simply seeing her work and how she organizes her process. Thanks Emily!
Gary recently became the proud owner of a custom blue Tom Matchak 650b allroads beauty. He was looking for a bag that could fill the available space side to side between the handlebars without creating any crowding. The result is a roomy and tall specimen that will be able to handle most day-to-day carrying requirements easily. It includes an interior lid zipped pocket and a nicely positioned velcro backstop sleeve to grip the signature rack Tom built, upon which the bag will sit. Tom's backstops are perpendicular to the rack platform, unlike most common front racks you see which have an angle built into them that mimics the angle of the head tube. At first I found this choice puzzling, but I've since come to really appreciate it. My handlebar bags --and the bags of almost all makers I've seen-- are built as square boxes, and yet are required to mount to tilted backstops. Tom's racks make the union of bag and rack snug and secure. With the addition of a decalleur and under-mount velcro straps, Gary can be utterly confident his bag will never move.
I am currently working on a bag for randonneuring friend Geoff, who lives outside Boston. This bag is distinctive for it's overall height, coming in at 33 cm (~13 inches). It also has a number of cool elements that I've not done before, such as a decorative interior lining and a couple of interior pockets. There will also be a band of reflective material around the front and sides of the bag at the base. The attachment arrangement on the underside of the bag will be a nice improvement over what I've done previously.
Overall this bag is offering a number of challenges and new elements that I'll be taking with me into future bags and I'm grateful to Geoff for working with me on this really great custom bag. I'm super excited to see it mounted on his bike sometime soon.