When you call up Becker Gear to order a framebag, you know exactly what you’re going to get. That’s because founder Tupper Becker does all the order processing, designing, cutting, sewing and customer service.
“I look at it as more of a relationship,” Becker said. It’s the kind of one-on-one service that you’re only going to get with a one-man shop. “I really like to have a sense of who they are, and they can have sense of who I am.
Based in Fairbanks, Alaska, Becker now splits his time making cycling bags and gear for dog sled mushers. “All the bags we build are designed with Alaska in mind,” he said, and touts their cold weather abilities. The rubberized bits are good to 70 below zero, he said, and the fabric has been tested in Antarctica to 131 below.
All Becker Gear framebag designs start as one of five standard models with various degrees of complexity and pockets. While this example has a few extra features, Becker says most of his products are basic by design.
“We want to be the Carhart jeans of frame bags,” he said. “It’s designed to be fixed if it fails; it’s not a throwaway piece… We want to keep it simple and functional and working.”
The model I tested is the White Mountains Plus, which retails for $199. It has a large main compartment with a zipper on the drive side, a half-depth pocket with a zipper on the opposite side, and a small pocket secured with only a strap on the bottom of the drive side. The main pocket can also be divided into an upper and lower section with an interior piece of Velcro, although there is no access to the lower portion from the outside. While that might sound odd, it does make sense if you want to stash items in the bottom that you seldom need, like emergency tubes and tools, then close off the divider to keep handy more frequently needed items, like snacks or gloves.
The VX33 fabric, woven originally for sailcloth, is thin and stiff. While the material is waterproof, the bag doesn’t have any extra waterproofing features, because in most cases water resistant is good enough, and if true waterproofness is needed, it would result in a much heavier and complicated bag.
Right now all Becker framebags are made-to-order specifically for each customer. Becker said he does plan to offer stock sizes in the near future, as well as some other gear when the new Becker Gear website launches. He also offers some other interesting bags such as a massive top tube bag and a bag that hangs under the down tube making the most of some unused space.
Becker built this frame bag for my Salsa Mukluk and when we started the process, I used a large piece of cardboard to map out exactly where the bottle eyelets, front derailleur, and other accessories were located so none of the straps would interfere. As a result it fits perfectly and allows me to continue to use the bottle cage bolts below the down tube, attach a top tube feed bag, etc.
I frequently use the main compartment to carry a 3 liter water bladder, with the house routed up through a slit at the top of the bag. There is also a slit at the top rear, though Becker said no one uses it (including myself) so he’s going to discontinue it. Inside along the thin, frame-facing panels you’ll also find straps to hang a hydration bladder, strap in a pump or mount whatever other goodies you’d like to keep handy.
The zippers are massive YKK units that look like they’ll hold up to some abuse. As the weakest part of the bag they are usually the first thing to fail but so far so good. Unlike some other designs, the front of the bag doesn’t swell out wider and occasionally I so overstuffed the thing that I couldn’t close the zipper, but I likely just need to bring less crap.
I’ve also used it on a few other bikes and it has fit extremely well even on bikes that it wasn’t designed for.
When you buy a Becker Gear bag, you’re becoming part of a community. Like it says right on the website, “You won’t be able to buy a thing here without talking to someone.” It means you’re going to get exactly what you want and there’s almost no chance of misunderstandings. All at a competitive price.
“There are a lot of advantages to being small,” Becker said.
An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect location for Becker Gear. It is based in Fairbanks.Tweet Print