Following on from his trip to Greece, Pete takes a look behind the scenes at what’s involved in getting EVOC’s bike packing line from concept to reality.
Pete caught up with EVOC’s Marisa Scheurlen to see what happens when the guys at EVOC got the idea to create a bike packing line from scratch.
Photos ©EVOC/Baschi Bender.
What are the key elements that you have to start with for any EVOC pack?
It’s actually the so calles EVOC BIG 5: Ergonomy, Ventilation, Organisation, Carry System and Quality – that’s what ‘S.T.A.R.’ stands for.
How many people are involved in bringing the idea from concept to prototype?
In every product category we have a responsible product designer and product manager. Additionally our co-founder and head of product Holger Feist is involved.
And what’s involved in that process?
It starts with classical sketching, loads of research, the first prototyping and 3D prints and drafts if necessary on our part. In this process we align with marketing and sales, the material experts and work with a specialist on the colour development. Then the testing starts, most of the time with our athletes. That is the most valuable feedback we can get on the products.
Has that process changed over the years?
Actually the process is pretty much the same. It’s more the technical aids and equipment that has changed.
Where did the inspiration for the new bike packing range come from?
Sometimes you just need extra storage space but you can’t take a bigger back pack, as it would affect your riding. On the other hand, “classical” bike packing equipment is rather designed for touring and travel than for trails and action.
We also found it very difficult to find products that are usable with aero or dropper seat posts. Well, that’s how it all started. As usual we couldn’t find the products that matched our needs.
What did the bike packing range borrow from existing packs, if anything, or was it a ‘from the ground up’ design?
We are using the roll-top closure, that is applied to the BOA handlebar pack and BOA seat pack, quite often. It combines the variable volume with keeping water out of the pack. The rest was really developed from scratch.
Of course the boa closures are well known in the bike industry but the fixation system did not exist before. As the packs themselves, they are designed and engineered by EVOC.
What did you know you did and didn’t want to do with these packs?
We wanted to have an extraordinary closure system for easy handling, attachment and detachment on your bike. Most important thing, no wobbling around in action. A classical form follows function approach. That’s what we knew.
We also knew, that they should look different to the other bags on the market. At the same time we knew, that they should not be designed to carry equipment on really long trips. We tend to call them “on bike packs” as bike packing very often creates an image of touring in peoples’ heads. We wanted to get further with less.
How did you decide you wanted the boa closure and what challenges did this present?
Boa is a revolutionary fixation system which is well-known in our target group. It holds super tight, is easy to handle and can be replaced almost everywhere in case something breaks. Once we had the idea, it actually seemed like a no-brainer.
Did you have a material in your head before you started?
We knew we didn’t want to have this typical tarpaulin, welded bags look. At the same time, it had to be waterproof, abrasion-resistant and weldable. We ended up with a fabric that was developed specially for EVOC.
With riders increasingly moving their spares/tools/food to their bikes, how hard is it to not detract from your backpacks?
We don’t see the on bike packs as a competitor to our backpacks, rather as an addition. The bike packing packs simply won’t protect your spine as our protection backpacks do or carry a three litre water bladder.
How much of a challenge is to keep making the next pack better than the last?
It doesn’t matter how long you develop a product or how often you have it tested. The next better idea is waiting for the moment, the serial production starts. Jokes aside, it’s mostly small improvements that are made and little things that are modified for the next generation of products. They make very good products even better. That mostly thanks to the very profound feedback we receive from all our users.
How many prototypes did you have before getting to the production bike packing range?
It was about seven prototype levels.
Can you talk us through the prototype stage?
First comes a rough mock up to simply check the dimensions. This is followed by a sewn prototype to check the Boa fixation. Afterwards we worked on several sewn prototypes with 3D printed samples of the fixation in order to get things right for the injection moulding. Then we received welded prototypes with 3D injection mould parts. That’s where the long-term testing starts.
Beyond the development of prototypes, what form did your testing take?
It’s field studies. Put the packs on as many bikes as possible, ride it on as many bikes as possible, figure out the frame dimensions on as many bikes as possible…
How important are your athletes to your testing process, and did they have any influence on the bike packing range?
They are priceless. They have to be able to fully rely on their equipment and will use it in more extreme conditions than any one of us leisure riders. If the products don’t pass their acid tests, they are not matching our quality standards.
How much of a challenge is it making packs for a range of bikes?
Actually it was really challenging this time. A complete new product line from scratch and not only for mountain bikes. It’s not easy to get all best practices and cultural habits related to certain disciplines into one product.