Words and photos by Katherine Fuller
The Sugarloaf Basket Bag is Swift’s newest bike-specific offering, designed to fit the Wald 137. I think it’s a smart move: This bag will actually work with any basket of the right size—just drop it in—but tailoring it to the Wald, which retails for about 20 bucks and fits almost any bicycle in existence, seems like a no-brainer. No Wald basket? The bag’s narrow profile means you could also just strap it down tight to your platform rack.
How much do I love the Sugarloaf? Let’s just say that I own a very tall stack of bike-specific bags, but this is the one I’m going to finally sew my patch collection onto thanks to its quality and versatility.
The Sugarloaf is impeccably stitched together in Swift’s Seattle shop using 1000D Cordura pack cloth. Though not completely waterproof, the fabric is notably tough and will survive a drizzle. Swift makes such colorful products that this all-black bag doesn’t do them justice, and the only other color at this price point is steel grey (for $15 more, you can get “multicam” fabric). Thankfully, the inside is bright turquoise, making it easy to locate the dark-colored items in there that rule my life.
The Sugarloaf bag is 14 x 7 x 7 inches with a 11.5 liter capacity. That size turned out to be just right for everything I need to pedal to the gym—running shoes, bike lock, small towel, rain jacket, water bottle—so it’s been on duty as my workout duffel when it’s not picking up groceries. The bag’s versatility is also aided by carrying handles made from seatbelt fabric that snap together, and an included shoulder strap. It’s classy enough to carry into your formal office job, and easy to sling over a shoulder and tote through the farmer’s market or to your picturesque campsite when you’re #basketpacking.
The bag’s side attachment buckles are so obvious and easy to use that it’s no big deal to clip the bag in and out of the basket several times a day as you go about your business. Though the buckle lengths aren’t adjustable, the bottom ones are sewn to elastic straps for ease of use. Even though there are only two attachment buckles, the bag is very secure. It stays put in the basket as I careen over the stretch of rocky singletrack between home and downtown.
Though the Sugarloaf looks unassuming, it’s brimming with features. The main compartment zipper is waterproof and has two pulls that are reasonably stiff. Inside the bright turquoise interior you’ll find one large zippered pocket and five open-top pockets for keeping your bits and baubles organized. Those smaller pockets turn out to be perfect for storing a spare tube and some bike tools when commuting.
The base is lined with foam to help prevent rattling noises and protect breakable items, like that carton of eggs you otherwise never know how to carry on your bike. Two, full-width exterior pockets— one zippered and one with a snap-down flap—allow for quick access to items like a bus pass, tasty snack or your cellphone when you need to capture an Instagram-worthy scene. Finally, the anchor flaps feature reflective striping for extra side visibility.
The Sugarloaf is just as ready for an overnight campout as it is your daily commute. My only wish is that it will someday be offered in waterproof fabric. That would be a welcome option for a bag that is deserving of a permanent place on the front of your bicycle.
Keep Reading: Find more reality-tested product reviews here.
There’s no denying it’s a bit harder to find adventure in the winter. The mountains are snowed in, the skies are gray and the ground is wet. But in Seattle you can keep your bike camping stoke high with the return of the Swift Industries Stoked Spoke series.
“A few summers back we were rolling out on bicycle adventures and hardly even unpacking between trips,” said Swift Industries founder Martina Brimmer. “We spent weeknights at the bar after work scouring maps and exchanging stories from our weekends away and getting details about where other friends had gone exploring. It hit us that a route sharing series would be exactly the ticket to keep us excited through the dark winter months. We took a lot of inspiration from the TED Talks format and added booze, a lot of flannel and steel bikes to the equation.”
Held on three evenings over the winter, each forum will include four to six presentations of maps, photos, routes and more that can inspire your next excursion. After the 5 to 10 minute talks, each presenter will host an information table where they can chat one on one with anyone who wants to learn more.
Stoked Spoke series
- December 16
- January 20
- February 17
The series is meant to highlight the best bike adventures of Cascadia and beyond, and each night will be hosted by the Rhino Room with a setup for screenings, tables for maps and booths, plus a full bar to keep the spirits high.
“Each presentation will include maps of the route, the level of challenge of the route measured in elevation gain and terrain, and offers tips on ideal gear and bicycle setups,” Brimmer said. “There has been an increase in interest to get off pavement and onto dirt in the touring scene… This new chapter in bicycle adventuring is introducing people to backcountry travel which tends to be more logistically heavy than highway touring so the more remote the destination is, the more information like resupply spots and water access become the highlight of a presentation. We encourage all sorts of terrain and travel styles, but as usual, our emphasis is on tours that are self-supported and mostly planned around camping.”
At the core of the Stoked Spokes events is getting people together in a room and promoting interaction in a way that simply can’t be duplicated online, Brimmer said.
“Reading about a trip often kick-starts my curiosity about a region or route, but if I know someone who has ridden those roads I always go right to them for tips, beta, and the opportunity to ask more specific questions, like access to fly fishing en route. Getting together as a growing community of bicycle-obsessed wanderers and explorers is so fun and really motivating. Our circle of riding companions grows with each event.”
If you have a route you’d like to share, get in touch with Jason at Swift Industries (firstname.lastname@example.org) and include the following in the body of the email:
- Name and email address
- A paragraph describing your route overview, ready to be published on the Swift Industries blog
- Name and location of starting and finish points
- Total mileage
- Duration of your trip
- Link to a digital map (RideWithGPS or Google)
- Four photos from your ride
If your route is chosen you should be prepared to put together a Powerpoint presentation and some maps and photos to help other folks find their way.
Can’t make it in person? Watch the Swift Industries blog for a recap of each Stoked Spoke events, complete with trip summaries, maps and photos. Or you can host a Stoked Spoke event of your own. Bike shops, breweries and living rooms are all great places to host a Stoked Spoke event, Brimmer said. When choosing a location make sure you consider the line of sight to the presenters and the acoustics of the space, she said, and if you have other questions don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Swift Industries’ tips for a kick-ass trip report:
- Short and sweet is the ticket to a great presentation.
- Dynamic photos keep the audience engaged and will really capture the audience’s imagination.
- Practice makes perfect: the art of storytelling is weaving suspense and humor into your trip’s logistical overview.
- Have lots of fun!
The hinterlands are the area just beyond your reach. Past the horizon. Around the next bend.
Those are the places Swift Industries hopes you’ll explore with its new line of bags and accessories. All of Swift Industries’ bags are made by hand in its Seattle workshop, and the new Hinterland Collection switches out the traditional Cordura construction in favor of the lighter and more water-resistant XPac material.
The centerpiece is the updated Ozette randonneuring bag that is available in three sizes, each of which mounts to a rando-style front rack. They feature a flared flap for water protection, a new closure system that offers better durability and versatility, and an internal organization system to keep your items close at hand. The small carries 10.5 liters, the medium 12.5 liters and the large 15.5 liters. It is only available in black XPac with orange accents. Prices range from $230 to $260.
Matching the Ozette is a pair of Hinterland Jr. Ranger Panniers, also made from XPac and perfect for carrying on front lowrider racks. They carry 20 liters per pair and use a traditional bungee hook attachment system for universal fit and durability. In addition to the external pockets, the dual-closure main body is lined with waterproof textile to ensure it is extremely weather resistant. They retail for $260 a pair.
Also new is the Roanoke Backpack Pannier, a modular backpack that attaches to your bike via traditional hook-and-strap pannier hardware. The two adjustable straps are made from seatbelt webbing for comfort and clip on and off to stow in the front pocket. Still made from Cordura for a classic look, it is available in either a Mini or Roll Top version, and the backpack conversion can be added to custom pannier bags, as well. The Roll Top measures 23 liters and the Mini Roll Top is 15 liters. The Roll Top sells for $205 and the Mini Roll Top for $180.
The Hinterland Collection, the Roanoke backpack panniers and all of Swift Industries’ classic bags are available now at Swift Industries’ redesigned website.
Read our review of the classic Jr. Ranger Panniers.
Inspired by Swift Industries’ Swift Campout initiative, some friends and I celebrated the summer solstice with a one night bike-camping trip right out of the city. A local bike shop here in Pittsburgh, Thick Bikes, was hosting an open ride on the Great Allegheny Passage, so I joined them for a jaunt along the river. The GAP is a great option to travel south of the city by bicycle and the perfect opportunity to do a shake-down in familiar territory for future summer exploration.
My goal for this trip was to carry just the gear I needed to be comfortable, plus camera gear. There are different schools of thought with weight distribution on a bicycle, and I’ve historically carried most of my weight on the rear rack. However, knowing that I could store all but a tent in front panniers and a frame bag, I was intrigued to see how it felt with my weight forward.
It wasn’t perfect, but I did my best to balance my pannier weight and didn’t have any noticeable issues with pulling in one direction or the other. Gear weight adds up quickly and too much weight on the back can create light steering, which may feel unstable.
On the other hand, having the weight up from meant that there wasn’t a way to lighten my front end over uneven terrain. I just ran into the changing surfaces with a sluggish bounce. This aside, I liked the feeling of having my front end anchored and I wouldn’t hesitate to carry my weight front heavy in the future. If you’re interested in the physics of weight distribution on a bicycle, check out this informative article from the Adventure Cycling Association.
The frame bag was a great way to carry gear without adding extra bulk. I used this area to store the majority of my food, along with some toilet paper and my sunglasses. That way I could access these items easily during a stop or while pedaling.
I affixed my tripod on the front rack via a traditional buckle strap which is one aspect of my setup I’ll change moving forward. I went on this trip with the plan of taking video, so I needed the tripod often and the constant on and off of the bike was time consuming. In the future I’ll use a quick release strap like these Rok Straps, which are lightweight and secure up to 40 pounds.
For me, documenting the adventure is half the fun, so I couldn’t leave my camera behind. I’ve been using the Case Logic DSLR Camera and iPad Backpack for my camera gear, both for its affordable price and size. DSLR backpacks trend large, but this storage solution provides adequate space for what I want without allowing me to carry what I won’t use, and it’s also an appropriate size for my back.
For the Campout I carried my DSLR body and two prime lenses, 24 mm and 50 mm in the bottom section and a 70-200 mm in the top, with space to spare for a strobe, sunglasses or a shirt. I tucked my wallet and phone in the top zipper pocket so I didn’t leave any valuables behind when I walked away from my bike. The supplied rain cover has effectively repelled the rain over the past several months, but when we rode our last few miles to camp in a complete downpour I threw a plastic sack over the bag to ensure dry equipment.
The likelihood of rain on this trip was 100 percent, but I still wanted to capture the event, so I invested in a Manfrotto rain cover for my camera. The cover is quick to throw over the camera via a velcro opening. Elastic cords cinch around the both the lens and the user’s arms. A transparent shell allows one to see and manage all controls in a dry environment. Expect to use “live view” mode with it, opposed to the viewfinder in rainy weather. It can be tough to keep the collar out of the way on a short prime lens. I found that folding it in the reverse direction was helpful to keep it from interfering with my shot.
Tripods are a cumbersome thing to carry on a bicycle, but the ideal option for video or night photography. I carried a Rocketfish 2.9 pound carbon fiber tripod. It’s not the lightest tripod you can purchase, but in terms of the amount of weight it will hold, 15.4 pounds, compared to weight of the tripod it’s fairly impressive. It folds to 20 inches—or 16 inches if you disassemble it into two pieces. There are times I wish for some extra height, beyond its 47 inches, but not so much that I want to carry extra weight around. This tripod is discontinued, but Photography Gear Guide has a great comparison chart if you’re in the market for a lightweight option.
- If you’re in a rainy climate keep your gear protected using dry bags or waterproof panniers. Alternatively, clothes will fit nicely into two gallon baggies and garbage bags.
- Look ahead to see when you’ll have access to water and bring a filter.
- Extra shoes aren’t a necessity, but it sure is nice to slip your feet into something dry at camp. Sandals worked well for this warm weather trip. They pack flat and dry fast.
- Roll your clothes.
- Pack inside of other cavernous gear, like pots.
- Keep your gear light by making a pile of the necessities and then add wants.
- Make a list and check it twice.
- Pack heavy items and gear you won’t immediately need at the bottom of your bag.
- Seek out possible shelter ahead of your trip for if the weather turns sour.
- Bring both matches and a lighter.
- Be prepared for rain, mechanicals and a change in plans (within reason.)
Did you participate in the Swift Campout? Let us know about your adventures in the comments below.Tweet Print
Bike touring is enjoying a huge resurgence in popularity this year and Swift Industries wants to push it even further with an international day of bikes outside overnight with the inaugural Swift Campout.
The Seattle-based brand is inviting cyclists around the world to host their own overnight event on June 20-21 and share the joy with the #swiftcampout hashtag. More than 370 folks have already committed by sharing their trip through the Swift Industries website where an interactive map lets you see how far the inspiration has spread. One of the largest signs of interest has been right in Bicycle Times’ hometown of Pittsburgh!
So plan a trip of your own, invite your friends, and then let the larger Swift Industries community know. If you feel like sharing your stories you can win some pretty cool Swift prizes too. Create a Swift Campout Film and you can win a full set of Swift’s handmade touring gear, or share your Trip Journals and you win other awesome prices. Get all the details at the Swift Campout website.
We’re also excited to host Swift Industries at the first Bicycle Times Adventure Fest this fall. Held October 9-11 on the shores of beautiful Lake Raystown in Pennsylvania, we’re inviting all our readers for three days of choose-your-own-adventure riding, exhibitors, classes, campfires, live music and more. Swift Industries will be hosting learning opportunities like how to cook on a bike tour and what to pack (or not pack!)
Check out our review of the Swift Industries Junior Ranger Panniers.
Swift Industries is leading the charge to make every bike ride an adventure. Its line of panniers and touring bags are hand-made in Seattle by passionate cyclists. We’re excited to have them join us at the first Bicycle Times Adventure Fest, where the brand will be hosting the Swift Industries Get Lost Academy—a series of workshops on how you can take your everyday bicycle adventure to the next level.
The classes they will be hosting include:
Intro to bikecamping
If you love camping and you have a bike, then combining the two will open the doors to a whole new way to travel. Come learn the basics of bicycle touring at Adventure Fest. We’ll cover the basics of bicycle adventure planning from: route finding and local destinations, gear and equipment, and food planning.
Camp Stove Cooking-The Titanium Chef
This is a cooking show like none other. Think backpacking stoves, one-pot meals, and titanium sporks. Led by Jason Goodman, a former mountain guide, and a stellar backcountry cook, you’ll learn how to put together the perfect bicycle touring kitchen, and find out which backpacking stoves and fuel types are right for your adventure. Jason will share tips on making fresh, nutritious meals at camp and what to eat while you’re on the road. When you’re adventuring, food is fuel. We’ll be demonstrating our favorite meals for you to sample, and there will be recipes and resources to take home.
The Trailside Mechanic
This class is not for the home mechanic it is for the bicycle adventurer. Confidently address snapped spokes, a broken chain, or an en route derailleur fail. In this workshop we will look at specific tools and tricks of the trade when these mechanicals catch you by surprise.
About Adventure Fest
We’re bringing cyclists together to share an adventurous weekend of riding under a canopy of spectacular fall foliage for Bicycle Times Adventure Fest Presented by Trek Bikes. You’re invited to join us at Lake Raystown Resort in Entriken, Pennsylvania, the weekend of October 9-11, 2015.
At Adventure Fest, you choose your own adventure and ride your own pace. All routes will be signed and mapped. Just grab your crew, a map and cue sheet and hit the road. All rides will have aid stations and sag support should you need it. Otherwise, start when you want, ride your pace and finish when you want.
Swift Campout 2015
If you want to get a head start on your summer bike camping adventures, Swift Industries is hosting a worldwide solstice weekend campout on June 20 and 21, 2015, uniting hundreds of of bike-overnights on a single weekend.
Swift Industries will be mapping participant locations, celebrating with prizes, gathering Camp Journals and sharing routes through the company’s website. Appointed Navigators, influential individuals and independent companies who have been recognized for their involvement in the resurgence of bicycle travel are being called to lead a Swift Campout. The role of the Navigator is to band together a group of riders, create a route, and celebrate bicycle camping. To nominate a Navigator, please email email@example.com and sign up today with your own Swift Campout!
I love Swift’s retro aesthetic so you can imagine my excitement when the Junior Ranger Panniers arrived for review. My respect for their product is fueled by the fact that Swift bags and panniers are entirely handmade in Seattle, Washington, by a small team of four adventurous individuals.
The Junior Ranger Panniers were born out of a desire to pedal with less. Less space equals less stuff and as someone who went through a major “stuff purge” in 2014 I can appreciate Swift’s drive to go small on these panniers. The Junior Ranger is Swift’s smallest and lightest touring pannier, weighing in at 3.5 pounds and 20 liters capacity per pair.
The bags have the sturdy construction and feel that one expects from 1,000-Denier Cordura fabric. It’s water repellent thanks to the urethane coating and very abrasion resistant. Inside you’ll find a waterproof lining, but the seams are not sealed. Regardless, they’d shed a lot of water before your gear gets wet. If the unsealed seams are a concern you could seal the seams yourself with a $8 tube of seam sealer. Alternatively, Swift suggests buying a pair of Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Dry Sacks to ensure that your gear stays dry.
The Junior Rangers attach to the rack via Swift’s hook and bungee mounting system. Bungee tension is adjustable by replacing the knot in the cord. It took me a couple tries to get the tension where it needed to be to keep the bags from sliding forward over rough terrain, but once I achieved the right tension the bags didn’t budge. The handle on the backside of the pannier makes it easy to secure the lower hook, then tension the bungee to hang the bag on the rack.
A roll-top closure with the option to buckle at the top or on the sides of the pannier, allows you to modify the size of the bag. There are two unlined exterior pockets, one elastic opening suitable for an additional water bottle and a front pocket large enough for quick-grab snacks or other small items.
In terms of capacity, the Junior Ranger’s size will certainly keep you in check while you’re packing gear; but honestly, they don’t feel that small. I could easily do an overnight or an ultralight weekend trip in nice weather. If you’re going on an extended tour these would make a great second set of bags for a front rack. The elastic pockets are an awesome feature with the panniers on a front rack, putting additional water bottles at arms reach.
They’re also right-sized for day-to-day commuting. On trips to my studio the elastic pocket housed my travel mug. Inside one bag I fit a change of clothes, extra shoes, my DSLR plus an extra lens, and my lunch. Another plus, these bags are nicely scaled for a small size frame.
The Junior Ranger Panniers are available in fuchsia (tested), olive, or steel. The bright fuchsia was great for daytime visibility and there’s a reflective strip on the rear facing panel of the pannier for visibility at night. These are going to last for years to come and certainly worth the $220 as a touring pannier or and everyday commuter.
The Swift business motto is the same motto they stick to on a bike tour and is one we can all take a little inspiration from, regardless of the path pedaled.
Trust that you’re capable of going the distance
Let the experience fuel your creativity
Have a plan, and plan not to stick with it
Enjoy your encounters with the people you meet along the way
Move steadily and with purpose
Heighten your sense of place
Find inspiration in the little things
Get lost every once in a while
Be aware of the impact that you make
We’ve long been fans of Swift Industries and its custom and hand-made panniers and bags. See our review of the Polaris Porteur Bag in Issue #22. Now take a peek inside the small, Seattle-based company and meet the personalities that bring your bag to life.Tweet Print