Having met a few years ago in Japan during the Tokyo leg of the Bicycle Film Festival, the last two years have seen a furious exchange of ideas and countless samples as bag makers SAG and world famous fixed gear collective MASH SF set out to create the absolute best riding backpack around. We caught up with MASH SF’s Mike Martin and SAG’s designer Ichigo as they gave us a little background about both themselves, the bag’s execution and general thoughts on the increasing importance and popularity in riding.
Interview: Eugene Kan
Photography: Mike Martin
An Interview with Mike Martin and Ichigo
What role do each of you play at your respective brands? Could you offer a little bit of brand history?
Mike Martin: This project came out of our MASH project. We met Yoshi of SAG, and his team in Japan back in 2006 before their brand had launched. They were psyched to get bags to some our riders they met, and riders were no doubt grateful. Together we made a plan in ‘07 to produce this original backpack design together, and 2 years later, here we are. We received the first few bags that went to riders we try to help support. Our latest shipment is available now at our online store.
Ichigo: My role at SAG includes designer and producer. I’m involved in the development of the brand from various angles including brand logos, tags, concepts and the overall direction. Everything began following a meeting with a bag manufacturer who had been in business for approximately 12 years. My good friend Yoshi jumped on board as a designer for SAG from his previous job as an apparel designer. The manufacturing company also owned the factory so they effectively helped us focus our efforts. We created
SAG following 5 years of careful planning to help make bags not only fashionable but competent in everyday use and more in line with industrial design.
How would you describe your city’s respective styles in riding?
MM: It can’t be defined by one thing. All riders use their bikes in a different manner and treat their city in that same fashion. Over the years we have seen street riders take road cycling more seriously. As well there has also been a focus on trick riding from newer riders. SF still has its core of familiar faces you see in the streets and events in addition to maybe an additional one thousand riders you have never met before. More students interested in video are taping with their friends, and putting short clips on YouTube. This is happening globally and has been an exciting way to see how each community is unique, and also emulates what they’ve seen before them.
I: It’s diverse. As a matter of fact, there are more commuter bikes than anything else. I see a lot of people riding their bikes to go to work and recently, I think more people started riding as a recreational activity on weekends.
What bikes are you guys currently riding?
MM: We received the first run of frames we produced with Cinelli awhile back. We took them on the tour of California trip for a 700 mile break-in ride. We’re excited for more riders to try this frame in the near future. We are really happy with our first frame design together. Our goal was to produce an affordable frame with a brand with rich racing history but keep it modern, stiff, and aggressive for street riding. We hope the rider feels these goals translated to the finished object.
I: I’m currently riding three different bikes, a Bianchi Pista Concept Vintage, Colnago road bike and Zipp triathlon bike.
What are some of the similarities between Tokyo and San Francisco?
MM: Hard to compare. I suppose genuine people is a good place to start. Creative communities in art, music, design, food, quality of life, and the love of living life outside are at the root of both cities. Riding is completely different in terms of landscape, but at the end of the day we are all adaptable humans, and enjoy learning. That is a big part of the fun of unpacking your bike in a new place for the first time.
I: I would say both cities have a strong bike culture.
What are some key features of your guys bag? What was the inspiration behind it, did you have any key concepts you wanted to explore?
I: A fun backpack for bicyclists was one of our goals. The bag can carry a bike frame or a skate deck with multi-purpose belts. It also has a compartment at the bottom which keeps beer cold during the summer and coffee warm during the winter. The interior pattern was designed by fellow MASH rider, Jonathan Burkett. The bag was tested on an intense level by MASH riders. We used reflective materials in some parts for the safety of riders.
MM: Jonathan introduced everyone having known Ogi before this project was born. It was important that Jonathan would be involved in the graphic elements of this project, as well as contributing to its function. We had 2 meetings early on with a small group and discussed our goals, some original design concepts, and the SAG team would sketch these concepts into design goals. The bag evolved in this process, and the creative process really ended up being one of the more fruitful parts of the project. Some of the key features for cycling include the following:
-Lightweight bag construction.
-The bag sits lower on your back and doesn’t occupy as much space up near your shoulders so you don’t have blind spots when looking over your shoulder.
-Back and shoulder supports that touch your body are removable and hand-washable. (Bags get slimy, and hopefully this prolongs the life of an active lifestyle bag)
-The design is intended to be stealth and simple on the outside, and technically very functional on the inside.
-Every area with a nylon cord/strap that would otherwise flap around in the wind, has an elastic tuck spot to keep the bag clean in the wind.
-There is a false bottom in the bag with a waterproof cooler material liner. This started as a joke, but evolved into a really functional aspect of the bag. Your either going to want to carry beer, or sweaty gear at some point and this area of the bag will prove itself.
The details are smart as well. you can swing the bag to the front of your body in the same way a single strap bag acts, and access the entire body of the bag without taking it all the way off your body, with a side entry zipper. The liner was designed by Jonathan, who like me, has a soft spot for sticker language, so he used this area of the bag to give shouts to friends and projects he was into. Oh, and black is the new rainbow.
Is there a reason you decided to go with a backpack vs. a traditional messenger style?
I: When we met with MASH, we wanted to best execute their idea of a well-designed bag for bikers and incidentally they wanted to go with a backpack.
MM: Single strap bags are designed to rotate around to the front of your body to access your load every 15 minutes. The downside of this design is that it has a natural function to want to rotate when you’re riding as well. There are solutions in the single strap design, but that function was not at the top of our list. We wanted to have the load to be carried with even weight distribution, so two shoulder straps are better then one for the long haul. This is just one opinion, but we use both styles of bags in our lives.
Why do you think fixed gear culture been so popular globally?
MM: This is a complicated equation, and can be gross to pick it apart. We are glad bicycles are popular, and hope people develop a life long relationship with bikes with the track bike as the gateway drug.
I: Probably because of a combination of different things, the looks, eco-friendly aspect and the increased health benefits. Fixed gear bikes are fun and practical; you can do tricks on it, and also it could be used for your daily commuting.
Despite present downturn in gas prices, biking seems like a part of society that will continue on well into the future, where do you see things progressing in the future?
MM: We all can learn from having a bicycle as a tool incorporated in our lives. Some dense cities are an easier fit in then some other sprawling cities where drivers don’t know how to look for cyclists yet. We hope young riders get proactive with their local bicycle advocacy group, and help it grow, and create laws and support systems our children can use.
I: I think the whole bicycle scene, not just fixed gear, is growing. There will always be bikes that are not for racing. I think bikes will have more dominant place in our daily lives in the very near future.
Any last words you guys would like to say?
MM: We look forward to the future of bikes, and all the diverse riders it encompasses. Keep it positive! Thanks to
I: We spent two years developing the MASH x SAG bag. We made sample after sample for testing, I don’t think any other company could do this. We are committed to making bags that are unique and fun. MASH x SAG bags are sold exclusively through MASH, on their website. For more information on SAG bags, head over to their website.