Tom Matchak has been working steadily for the last year or so on the creation and refinement of a new kind of decaleur called the Dock-It™. Decaleurs are the mechanisms that have evolved over time as a means of stabiliziing and attaching a front bag to the bike. The earliest were simple straps from the bag that went up and around the handlebar, but more sturdy and user-friendly forms have become standard over the years.
Tom's design streamlines the connection between bag and bike, allowing for less clutter and custom placement of attachment points on both the bag and cockpit of the bike.
Last winter Tom asked if I'd be willing to be a tester for his new design, and of course I was anxious to try it out. I mounted an early prototype to an old bag and began using it through the 2016 riding season, and I'm still using it! I was able to offer a few suggestions for refinements based on use, and the unit is an even better design than it was then, although I'm still using the original with no complaints.
As a bag maker, it made sense for Tom to reach out to me. I've done work to evolve the bag-side arrangment to work with the Dock-It™. Because the design allows for total flexibility, the bag no longer needs to conform to the established conventions that match traditional decaluers--namely a centered wear strip down the back of the bag. The Dock-It™ can be places anywhere on the back of the bag, so the configuration of pockets and lid closure are now free to be rearranged.
I'm confident the Dock-It™ will find a home with both builder's who are excited about new and creative ways to build out their designs, and owners who are interested in a new and effective means of bag attachment.
Tom and I are partnering on this project. I will be the retailer and be making bags as needed that conform to the needs and designs of Dock-It™ customers.
Read more here: www.dockittm.com
I was recently contacted by Jesse Fox of Seneca Cycle Works and we schemed up a saddlebag modeled on the Carradice Nelson. Part of the fun of a custom bag is that you get to make it become a part of the overall bike scheme, and Jesse's bike is red with black accents, so we went with colors that mimicked the bike, but didn't try to compete for attention. We also dispensed with buckles on the pockets since they can be fiddly to open (and close) when you just want to get into them. I also tried to flatten out the wooden support spar on the inside since I find the dowels to be intrusive when you are trying to overfill the bag, although I'm not sure my solution made a significant difference.
As we all know, the downside of large saddlebags is the dreaded thigh-rub, where the bag entends perpendicular to the bicyle behind the saddle and can hit the back of one's thighs when pedalling. To solve this, Jesse and I planned the bag so that it would mount on a custom rack that would both support the bag but also hold it out from the seatpost a few inches. Jesse's progress photos of the rack remind me of a randonneuring front rack turned around, which sort of makes sense when I think about a big saddlebag basically being a tilted box hanging from the saddle.
Rather than try to coordinate sizing and placement we decided I would just finish the bag based on a quick sketch and then Jesse would build the rack to fit the connection points I'd worked into the bag. A strap will run through the leather wear patch to fix the bag from below.
I love projects like this and am grateful to Jesse for his interest in working with me! I hope we get to do it again.
(Middle and bottom photos: courtesy of Jesse Fox)