Thursday, October 30, 2008

Acorn Bags - Part 1

Here's a little Epicurean Cyclist exclusive for you all. I contacted Ron of Acorn Bags to do a short interview to give a little behind the scenes of his business. I'll be following it up with a review of two his products in a few days. For those that don't know about Acorn, you're missing out. They are a US made (in Los Angeles...practically my neighbors!) bicycle luggage maker that specializes in traditional style bike bags. Just up our alley!

What kind of riding do you and your wife like to do?

You can usually catch us commuting around the South Bay on our KHS Tandemania. I've also converted an early 90's Scott and Miyata mtb into city bikes. (I guess we pass the "car-lite" test, since gas was around $4 the last time I filled up ;-)

Bike touring is another passion. I have 3 vintage touring bikes -- a '83 Cannondale ST500, '85 Raleigh Kodiak and '85 Schwinn Le Tour Luxe.

After college, a couple of buddies and I did a loop starting at Santa Monica, up to the Canadian border and back down to L.A. You could call it a National Park tour, because we tried to hit every park on the way. It just so happens that most of the parks are along the spine of the Sierras and Cascades, so I really didn't know what I was getting myself into. But we survived and I was hooked!

Since then, I've taken quite a few shorter tours. My favorites would be L.A. to the Grand Canyon...and San Francisco to L.A, which was my wife's first tour. I like the low maintenance kind of tour where you take off or arrive at your doorstep.

One of these days I'd like to do a coast to coast tour, if I ever could find the time...

What inspired you to start the business?

I'm a designer by trade, my wife's a seamstress and we both love it was natural for us to start making bags.

When I first started graphic design, hand skills were an important part of the process. After the switch to computers, I lost that connection. It's nice to come full circle and use my hands once again...this time crafting bags. I'm glad I kept my T-square and X-acto knife.

How has it met or exceeded your expectations?

It's exceeded our expectations tenfold. About a year ago, we started out selling a couple of bags a week on eBay as a hobby. Early this year, I put up the Acorn website to better explain our philosophy and products. At this point in time, we hate to turn away orders but there's only so many hours in a day to make bags. We have no desire to expand; we're satisfied being a 2-person shop.

What has been the response been from customers?

We're really amazed at the outpouring of support. I'm glad there are customers who still appreciate stuff made in the good ol' U.S.A. There's a renaissance of sorts going on with all things handmade and we're glad to be a part of it. It makes me all warm and fuzzy when I see our bags strapped onto our customer's bikes. Doesn't matter if it's a thrift store find or top-of-the-line custom bike...they're all beautiful to me!

Any surprises with the business?

Yea, I'm surprised at how fast word got out on our bags...gotta love the internet. I know we're just a speck on the wall compared to Carradice or Berthoud, but it makes us proud to be mentioned in the same breath with them. I really respect those companies.

Who buys your bags? Tourists? Commuters?

While most of our customers are commuters and vintage bike enthusiasts, I'm impressed by the number of long-distance bikers--especially randonneurs--that use our bags. The fixed gear/singlespeed crowd also have been buying the smaller Acorn bags. It's great to see our bags cross over to so many biking styles.

Any new gear you guys are cooking up in the future? Panniers? racktop bags?

We've gotten a lot of requests for a boxy rando front bag, so this is our first priority. We should have something to show in a month or two. It'll have a traditional look, kind of like the old French TA bag.

Some smallish panniers will hopefully come next year. An extra-small bag as well as an extra-large touring saddlebag might be in the works as well.

Anything else you want to share? anecdote?

We joke that it feels like we're living a hundred years in the past...pounding rivets, punching holes in leather or cutting canvas duck. But then I think none of this would be possible without the internet. It makes strange bedfellows.


Thanks Ron for indulging our readers! I'm sure many of them will be looking forward to your new products. Be sure to check out the Acorn Bags site for more product photos and information.


Anonymous said...

I really love the TA Handlebar Bag, mostly because it is a real handlebar bag that actually goes on the handlebars; unlike so many others that are really front rack bags (see Baggins, Smythe, Ostrich).

Hopefully they develop some snazzy mounting hardware that isn't unrepairable plastic like the KlickFix.

It Depends said...

Thanks for the interview! My Acorn large saddlebag is the best-designed and best-made bag I own. (I also own a Carradice and a Baggins, both of which are wonderful.) I look forward to seeing the boxy handlebar bag and, especially, the touring saddlebag! Dan

Amy said...

I've emailed with Acorn before about getting a bag with the straps a bit closer for us non brooks riders they are happy to do so - and they also made my friend Beth a cool bag out of found materials.

Anonymous said...

I have the Acorn 2 Strap Roll Bag in olive (perfect match for my LHT) and love it. Excellent craft!

Darren Alff - BicycleTouringPro said...

Thanks for turning me on to this company. I don't think I had ever heard of them before. So thanks!