In the echo of the fat-bike market exploding, there’s been an after-shock of small bag makers that have taken to their sewing machines to outfit the thousands of new bikes that have entered the market over the past couple of seasons. Even if you’ll never plan to take your bike on an overnight bike-packing trip, frame bags provide places to store gear in a very practical and useful manner for every day riding. That’s right, I keep a frame and top tube bag on my bike on almost every ride. I ride with a camera, an extra lens, tools, food, water, space for layers, a pump, a tube, space blanket, zip ties, lighter – and on special occasions, beer. So I am always on the lookout for a new bike purse to match my tires. So today we’re here to introduce you to Switchback Bags and, its founder, Bratislava Rataj (Brano).
Our new amigo Brano is originally from Slovakia and he came to the US ten years ago and lives in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. The first thing that Brano bought when he came to the US was a bicycle. He’s been biking ever since, along with, hiking, camping, etc… About two years ago, he bought a used sewing machine off of craigslist to make a tent for bike packing. Then he discovered that he needed bags to carry gear for his trips. He got hooked on sewing and in short order, all of his bikes, (even his kid’s bike) had been outfitted with his custom bags. Brano started making bags for his friends and then, their friends, and then started making more bags in his spare time. He came up with a logo and called the bags Switchback Bikebags. I contacted Brano, like we do with every company to introduce them to the site. We really like working with small businesses, because we’re a small business too! Brano doesn’t know if Switchback Bags will be a business or a hobby yet, but he sent us a bag to check out and I think you’re going to like what you see.
The bag that we’re testing is a top tube bag that Brano calls the “Radegast” named for the ancient Slavic God of hospitality and plenty! The Radegast’s attachment system doesn’t employ the usual velcro straps that most other bike bags feature. The Radegast has 14 loops sewn along its edges. The bag is attached to the stem and top tube by lacing shock cord through the loops.
Our test bag came with clear instructions that also encouraged a little creativity. The instructions close with – “there is no right or wrong way to thread the cord. The best installation depends on the layout of your head tube stack/stem/top tube – along with what other bags that are mounted to the frame”. I found this flexible mounting system to be very helpful in securing the Radegast to my bike. The lacing system allowed the Radegast to play nice with my frame bag straps and all of the cable routing that converge around that area of the bike. The result is a top tube bag that is mounted more securely than any other top tube bag that I’ve tested (so far). The only downside (that I can think of) with the shock cord lacing, for a mounting system, is the ease of taking the bag on and off of the bike. but I think the extra mounting stability is worth it, because this is the bag, where my camera rides.
Our Radegast will be getting the long term test treatment on Otis over the next year. We’ll check back with a report somewhere down the trail that’ll tell the tale of many miles and hopefully many smiles!
You can contact Brano through the Switchback Bikebags Facebook Page if you want to talk about some bags for your fatventures.