Happy New Year!

January 7, 2016

Last Friday I returned to the US from a three week trip to Asia. After the last post right before Christmas, I went to Vietnam to confirm some final product revisions, then took a short holiday break, and returned to Fuzhou to check out our latest round of drybag prototypes.

Vietnam

In Vietnam we focused on the Backcountry and Reckless designs: approving final production samples before raw materials get ordered. Every inch of webbing, yard of fabric, and buckle/clip needs to be accounted for and approved. Our ex-factory production date is currently April 15th, and assuming the order is on the water for around a month, we expect it to arrive in Portland by mid-May. That means we’ll have R80/40s back in stock by late May. We’d prefer to have them 6-8 weeks earlier, but as a small customer, our production run gets scheduled around much larger orders.

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We switched to a more flexible ripstop on the two MOLLE pouches.

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Anodized blue on the new R80 harness.

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Literally ‘signing off’ on revisions. Every production sample needs a signature before materials are ordered.

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Trying to ensure the tent pole pocket pass-throughs make it on the BC40. Those got missed in production last year.

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The new closure system on the R40 harness, shown here with the new Stinger 8 tailbag.

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Our new Mosko cinch straps are done. I love these straps. They’re a small addition to the line and won’t account for much in terms of $$, but I’m inordinately stoked, because cinch straps have always kind of pissed me off. These represent our take on ‘the ultimate cinch strap,’ no compromises. If you’ve ever had a strap fail on a long trip in the middle of nowhere, or had a plastic side release buckle break in a crash, or had a rear duffle squeeze out of an elastic strap offroad, or needed an emergency tow rope or tie-down and realized you forgot to pack one, you’ll appreciate these straps.

Some features:

  • No elastic, no plastic.
  • Metal buckles and poly-filament webbing so there’s nothing to break/fail.
  • Quick connect/disconnect on both ends using lanyard loops, like a camera wrist-band.
  • Both sides of the strap are adjustable – i.e. the end with the cam buckle and also the end with the webbing – so they fit anything from a big 100L roll-top to a little 10L drybag.
  • Strap controls on both ends – a velcro strap keeper on the cam buckle side and an elastic draw string on the webbing side – so there’s no excess webbing flapping around in the wind, and no need to tie-off excess lengths.
  • They work as an emergency tow-strap. There’s even a little loop on the cam buckle side for storing a heavy duty carabiner (we might eventually include one with the straps) so you can have a quick connect/disconnect for towing uphill then coasting downhill.
  • They also work as emergency tie-downs if you need to hitch a ride with your bike.

We’ll do some pics/videos with more details soon. In the meantime here’s some pics. I have no idea how many of these we’ll actually sell I’m just excited to use them myself.

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We also handed off the new tool roll designs to the factory’s R&D team. These are based on the home-made prototypes we were playing with last Fall. They’ve both been covered in earlier posts. We’re hoping to do a late season production run on these and also the new tank bag design, which is still in progress.

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Also in Vietnam I met with our sheet metal shop to look at the new BMW adapters. Their company has grown quite a bit since my last visit: lots of new customers, machinery, and orders. It was cool to see their success, and have some BBQ water buffalo.

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Drybag Prototypes

After Vietnam – and after taking a few days off for the holidays – I returned to Fuzhou to review the revised drybag prototypes. There were still a few small revisions – mostly strap lengths and buckle placement – but nothing requiring another round of samples. These are ready for production, now we’re just waiting for pricing and schedules.

The new Scout duffle before final assembly.

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‘Stinger 22’ & ‘Stinger 8’ tailbags. So many cool features on these. They work in the R80/40 harness, as standalone tailbags, and also as backpacks.

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The new ‘Tracker’ series 20L, 10L and MOLLE Pouch. The beavertail map pocket flips over and has 5 columns of MOLLE webbing to carry fuel bottles or a hydration bladder etc on the other side, plus the beavertail connection straps can be used to attach the bag to the bike. The same beavertail design is included with the Scout D25/D60 duffles.

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It took 3 additional rounds of prototypes to get the R40 leg bag sized right. It’s amazing how much gets lost in translation between design and sewing, even on a relatively simple bag like this, and even when we’re there at the factory in person with full-sized paper patterns in hand.

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Here’s the new assortment. The little blue 20L ‘dry sak’ in the middle is something we’ll be including with several of our luggage systems to keep wet/dirty items like shoes and sweaty socks separate from the rest of your gear.

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Flying back from Asia loaded down with prototypes.

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Back in White Salmon

When I got back to the shop this week, Andrew, Lee, and I spent some time messing around with all the new samples on various bikes and boxes.

R40 Leg Bag

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Stinger 8 Tailbag

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Scout D-25 Duffle

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Stinger 22 Tailbag

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Stinger 8 as a topper

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Stinger 22 as a topper, using the new Mosko cinch strap to connect.

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Scout D25 as a topper, using the beavertail to connect.

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Tracker 20 as a topper, using the beavertail to connect.

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The Tracker 10L is designed to fit the 3-strip MOLLE panels on several of our bags systems. This bag also fits great between the daisy-chains on top of the BC35 pannier.

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X-mas Break

I had a 5 day break including a weekend and Christmas day between Vietnam and Fuzhou. I booked a last minute flight to Beijing with the goal of seeing a little more of China. This was the first time I’ve ever done anything other than factory/restaurant/hotel there. It was so fun. I covered a lot of ground in 5 days. Here’s a few pics.

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The kayak/river pics above are from the local kayak club in Fuzhou, where our drybag factory is a sponsor. This was by far the most fun I’ve ever had in China. Now I’m really intrigued and want to explore more. China would be such an epic place for a moto trip.

It’s good to be home. I’ll be here for the next three weeks. Then off to Africa. Can’t wait for that.

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