A spring trip to Calgary AB gave me the opportunity to visit Scott Felter of Porcelain Rocket. If you haven’t heard of PR they are, in my opinion, the premiere bikepacking bag manufacturer in Canada. Felter and his right hand man Tim have been sewing and using this gear for long enough to know what works and what doesn’t. Their “no nonsense” approach shows their commitment to form and function over fashion. Like so many up and coming bicycle related companies Felter started PR out of his home (originally in Victoria BC). Over the last six years he has grown the business enough to justify converting his two car garage into a sewing studio. I felt remarkably at home, and a bit guilty for not bringing beer, surrounded by sweet hand-built steel bikes, bike parts and shop tools (although mine are usually for cutting and joining wood). The entire scene is completed by a 6ft tall plywood Gumby that I can only assume is there to perform QA over the operation.
After the formality of introductions Scott and I fell into comfortable conversation while Tim worked on a large order of bags for Nebraska based Monkey Wrench Cycles. It didn’t take long to realize that Scott is a true craftsman (and artist), dedicated by a love for bicycles and a subtle underlying drive to make handmade products that are highly evolved, functional and reliable. Few other bag makers have been around long enough to have revamped their models with updated versions based on years of rider feedback. Scott tells me about designing the Mr. Fusion, the first of it’s kind seat pack with cro-moly stays that support the pack and minimize lateral swing. Felter also shows me the MCA Handle Bar System that is a stripped down version of the original that can fit a bike with drop bars or mtn. bars with minimal conflict.
Throughout our conversation Scott repeatedly conveyed the importance that these bags are handmade, one at a time by real people who care about how they are going to be used.
I recently read someones post on BIKEPACKING.COM that was disappointed by the long wait times (currently beyond August when Scott returns from vacation) for a custom frame bag from PR. Felter’s response to the reader post was similar to the sentiment he shared with me that PR is not a huge company where everything is manufactured overseas. He’s clearly proud to be a part of creating something unique and handcrafted in Canada. What he didn’t mention, and I think it’s important to remind people, is that you can now buy a line of PR products from the Canadian outdoor institution MEC! PR worked a deal with MEC to deliver a line of standardized seat bags, handlebar bags and frame bags. Nice to know our local outdoor mega-store likes to support the little guy. Unfortunately you won’t be able to get a custom frame bag until Scott returns from his east coast fat bike trip.
Those of you who didn’t plan ahead or are simply feeling like blowing some disposable income can peruse the MEC website and order up your kit from them if you’re not in the Calgary area. But really, wouldn’t you rather find and excuse to stop by a dirt alley way in Calgary and pick up your gear from the guys who made it?
Meeting with Scott and Tim has been a good reminder for me that one of the things I LOVE about the bike industry are the people who have poured their hearts, souls and livelihood into all things bike. This leads me to the thought… where is the craft bike industry in our Canada? I resist the instinct to compare ourselves to our capitalist neighbours to the south where you can’t swing a cat by the tail without hitting a boutique frame builder/pack builder/etc in your hip mountain town.
So where’s our underground bike industry north of the 49? I want to know who’s out there pioneering new hand-built frames. Who’s geeking out with a CNC machine and prototyping hubs or brake levers or bike mounted bottle openers? I need to hear from you. Let me know who’s the unknown pioneer in your city or town who’s consumed by making the best two-wheeled products possible. Submit your ideas for who I should be highlighting on this site. Better yet, you send me a short write up. We’re a community right? Even if it’s virtual we can help springboard some of these folks so they can make a living like Porcelain Rocket and be the next best thing that you wish you thought of first.