In January I wrote a post on riding the Salsa Fargo and carrying stuff. I said that the frame bags warranted their own post. That time has come.
I won't make a claim as to when today's iteration(s) of ultralight touring frame bags originated, or who they originated with. I got my first look at them at Interbike 2006. I was walking the aisles of the show, getting a well deserved rest from the booth when I ran into this guy. He was pushing a Redline Monocog 29er with some very interesting looking bags strapped to it. We got to talking about the bags, exchanged business cards and that was that.
Frame bags have evolved rapidly in the last two years with Jeff Boatman at Carousel Design Works and Eric Parsons at Epic Designs working with the best multi-day endurance riders in the world to refine their designs. They are both one man operations. Sewing in the winter to support ITI, Arrowhead, and other Multi-day winter adventures. Sewing to support GDR, CTR, and other Multi-day adventures in the summer.
Their exists a healthy competition between Eric and Jeff. They definitely think of each other as competitors. Judging by their backlogs of work, 6-12 weeks currently, neither of them has to worry about the other.
Sometime last summer I called up Eric to let him know that I wanted to order a set of bags for a prototype. It was June, we had just received the first prototype Fargo frames and I was already planning for this summer. Eric had built bags for several other folks at QBP and they all had good things to say. I considered both Jeff and Eric at the time. I ultimately ordered from Eric because Jeff's site had a note saying he currently wasn't taking any orders. He was deep in summer endurance season and extremely busy.
Here's a word of wisdom for those of you reading this. If you are going to order a set of bags from Jeff or Eric plan ahead. Like any custom manufacturer they need time to build your gear.
It was late October when I received my bags. I ordered a frame bag for a Large Fargo and two seat bags. I immediately mounted them up on the prototype Fargo I have been riding where they have stayed until I built up this, my current production Fargo. The bike I plan to ride the GDR on this summer.
I have used them for commuting since then and loaded them for a couple of winter overnighters. Now that the weather is finally above freezing I've begun to load the bike for summer and the GDR. Lists have been studied and mine has been made. This week was the first time I've loaded it all on the bike to begin the ongoing process of refining, simplifying, and lightening the load. What is critical will stay on board, what can be left behind will. All of this plus some additional items must end up on my person or the bike.
I've already started the process of reduction. If I was planning for a luxury tour the items would have stayed.
I'm always surprised at how much I can get into my frame and seat bag by packing intelligently and simply. I typically use the seat bag for clothes and the frame bag for kitchen and maintenance gear. I'm waiting on a handlebar bag, but will use it for my shelter. Water ends up on the bike, or on my back. Food gets stashed in the gas tank, frame bag, and in my Wingnut pack. For a multi-week tour I'd likely use panniers, but for fast and light or overnight, these are the ticket.
It is hard to believe that GDR is only 12 weeks away. It seemed far off in the distance as we rang in the new year. The process will continue and I'll share some of it along the way. Until then I hope at least a whisper of wanderlust has made it into your mind.