North Street Bags – On Your Back or On Your Rack

north street bags northstbags
If you commute via bike, finding the right bag to lug your stuff around in can be tricky business. A big backpack can throw your balance off and make for an uncomfortable ride, but rack-mounted panniers aren’t always ideal for carrying your gear once you’re off the bike. Even if you do manage to find one that works, it typically looks like it was designed by NASA, outfitted with a jungle of straps, zippers, and reflectors that aren’t exactly fashionable.

That’s exactly the problem that prompted Curtis Williams to start making his own bags.

“Most of the products that I see that I like are based on some sort of consumer need. Like for example, I was – and still am – a cyclist, and I needed a bag that worked as a pack and as a pannier. I wanted something that would work every day when I was out and about in town. Whatever I was faced with in the day, I needed a bag that could cover it, and I couldn’t find anything like that, so that’s when I decided to start making my own. For me, it’s all about  making something that’s very useable and easy. So every time I design a product, I try to think, “how can I make this bike trip simpler? How do I make this journey out into the world easier?” and that’s what I shoot for with each bag.”

And it totally shows. Every bag in North Street’s lineup – from the Route Seven Pannier to the Woodward Backpack – is a blend of simplicity, style, and above all, functionality. Take the company’s flagship bag, the Woodward Convertible, for example. Sporting both shoulder straps and a set of steel hooks, it straddles the line between backpack and pannier, enabling you to use it in whatever fashion you prefer and easily switch between the two whenever necessary. Under the rollable top, the Woodward’s spacious interior comes equipped with a velcro strip, allowing you to add or remove extra pockets as you see fit. And of course, it does all this with a touch of style.

“On the fashion side, I tried to keep the style of the bags a bit softer and a bit less technical-looking as some of the other bike products out there right now. I wanted something that I could bring into a bar, that I could bring into a board room – all kinds of different places, really – but that wouldn’t look so sort of ‘geared-out.’ So all my bags are designed with everyday use in mind – not just times when you’re on the bike.”

Much as you’d expect from a line of go-anywhere gear, the materials North Street uses are designed to withstand the elements, but also don’t throw fashion out the window just for the sake of ruggedness.

The shell fabric is Cordura. It’s a pretty common, classic bike bag material. It’s water resistant and very durable, and it’s also abrasion resistant, so it’s not going to get scuffed up as easily, and it just holds up for a really long time as compared to, say, canvas or something like that. On the inside, the liner we use is actually a sailcloth material called X-Pac – a type of waterproof ripstop nylon, and we use the silver color so you can actually see what’s in the bottom of your bag. It’s not just this black hole of bag, you can actually see what’s in there. But it’s very lightweight. We used to use vinyl, and I shaved off about half a pound when I switched to this material just because it’s so much thinner and lighter. It’s just as strong though, there’s no PVC in it, and it’s domestically made, which is something I really care about. All of the materials I use are manufactured in the United States.

North Street has been growing at a feverish pace for the past couple years, and now sells it’s wares in locales far outside the borders of Portland. In addition to several locations scattered across Rose City, you can also pick up one of these bags at Bicycle Habitat in NYC, Bicycle Revolutions in Philly, and Peddler Bicycle Shop in Austin, TX. And of course, you can always find out more and place an order at NortStBags.com

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