'Bikepacking' trend drives demand for Cedaero bags


Since production got serious last spring, Cedaero Packs, a Two Harbors-based bicycle bag company, has experienced significant growth.

Karl Mesedahl, Cedaero's designer and production manager, started in April 2017 and has seen firsthand how fast demand has increased.

"It was fun to be able to see it go from three custom packs in a couple months to 30 orders in a couple weeks," Mesedahl said. Cedaero's only marketing comes from its Instagram account and sponsorship of several bike races.

Dealers are starting to approach Cedaero, too. It's grown to secure partnerships with nine dealers in the United States and, mostly recently, one in Japan.

Cedaero, a brand under the Spokengear umbrella, is making $4,000 to $5,000 in sales per month and about $35,000 for all of 2017, according to Spokengear owner Dan Cruikshank. He projected $100,000 in sales for 2018. He said he hopes to get that to over $500,000 within five years.

"We've been toeing the line between if you grow too fast, you outrun your production capability, and then you get orders backed up," Mesedahl said. "But if there aren't enough orders, you're not busy."

The growth has happened organically, Mesedahl said, in part because of exponential interest in bikepacking over the last five years.

Bikepacking usually consists of long-distance, overnight trips via bicycle — think backpacking, but on two wheels, and gear is stored in bags on the bike's frame, not on a rider's back. Unlike bike touring, which usually takes place on roads, bikepacking takes place on trails and uses mountain bikes or fat-tire bikes.

With contacts already established for fabric and hardware from his years as founder and owner of Granite Gear, Cruikshank, now a veteran in the pack-making industry, found himself planning another pack business. This time around, however, it's gone a little smoother.

"I've made a bunch of mistakes already, so now it's like counting on not making too many mistakes," Cruikshank said.

Cruikshank and Jeff Knight started Granite Gear in Minneapolis in the 1980s. They crafted stronger, more efficient packs for their trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Cruikshank learned to sew in a home economics class, but then used kits to sew packs and sleeping bags.

Granite Gear moved to Two Harbors in 1988 and was sold in 2013 to a larger company.

Since selling Granite Gear almost five years ago, Cruikshank has been thinking about his next business venture, which he knew would have something to do with bikes.

The result was Spokengear, which he owns with his wife, Kirsten. Under Spokengear, there are three trademarks: Cedar Coffee Company, Spokengear Cyclery and Outdoor and Cedaero Packs. The bike and coffee shops opened in 2016. Once those were in a rhythm, Cedaero Packs began production about a year later.

On track for continued growth, the company is hoping to offer more types of packs.

"We want to expand into different segments of the bicycling packs. We kind of started out with the frame bags and top-tube bags — basically the bikepack packs — and now we're starting to get into broader products, like handlebar bags and seatpacks. Our next segment is going to be more of the road-touring panniers (a pair of bags attached to the sides of a bike) and commuter bags," Cruikshank said.

He expects to stick with bicycle packs and leave backpacks to companies like Granite Gear. Cedaero's competition is entrepreneurs who make custom bike packs out of their garages and sell directly to customers.

"I have kind of a dream of expanding the market ... where you can go into a dealer, go through the process of getting a custom bag when you get your new bike," Cruikshank said. "That's different from a lot of my competition."

For now, the growth is happening just how Cruikshank planned.

"I'm not really surprised. The plan is coming together," he said.