Migration Bicycle Supply Custom-Made Frame Bag
Cost: Varies (Currently $125-250)

I’m a bike commuter. I ride almost everyday and do almost all my daily errands-groceries, beach going, post office-by bike. Most of the time I just toss whatever I need into my backpack and go. No big deal if it’s heavy or awkward I’m probably not going far. But when I planned a day ride of 85+ miles through a relatively uncivilized region of the Wisconsin wilderness I cringed at the thought of carrying spare gear on my back.

Migration Bicycle Supply and Surly Long Haul TruckerI didn’t really want to put everything on a rear rack and throw my weight balance off so it was time for a gear upgrade. It was time for a custom-made frame bag from Migration Bicycle Supply made to the specifications of my Surly LHT.

Migration Tim makes custom bags for bicycles, adventure gear, everyday use. They do the designing, cutting, sewing and everything else using basic sewing tools or by hand. I met with Founder, Tim Stempel, for a coffee. He took the measurements on my frame, asked a question or two about colors and we talked about the functionality of the bag. We parted ways and MBS went to work. It took a minute but good things take time right?

Form:

It’s made of fatigue green waxed canvas, bright red nylon liner inside, YKK zippers and polyester thread. There is a slip pocket inside sized for my cell phone and it affixes to my frame on top with velcro & has rivets that match up with the screw plugs on my lower bar that my water bottle carrier connects with. Once in place it feels extremely secure, and the lower rivets still allow for the water bottle carrier to be attached if I want (I don’t). The velcro wraps up over the top bar but leaves enough separation between the bag and bar for my brake & gear lines to run through unimpeded. There is a full zipper on one side and velcro flap on the other for quick, easy access if needed.

Migration Bicycle Supply and Surly Long Haul Trucker

AND it looks sharp. The waxed canvas looks & feels rugged. It eases any fears that it won’t hold up to some battering from weather, mud, sun or stuff inside bouncing around. Riding it around the neighborhood before my longer ride people actually stopped to ask where I got it and how they could get one. At the coffee shop I caught more than a few people eyeballing it covetously. The rugged outside is contrasted by the “fun-ness” of the bright red interior.

However, looking good only goes so far. Function over form. At least when it comes to outdoor gear. My long day ride would be the true test. The path was a combination of pea gravel, dirt, mud, blacktop. The weather was hot. 90 degrees and windy. The route…straight East along the old railroad tracks through farm fields, forests and swampland. I got to the trailhead early & packed the new frame bag.

Migration Bicycle Supply and Surly Long Haul Trucker

The Things I Carried:

1-U-Lock & Cable & Keys
2-Windbreakers
1-Spare T-Shirt
2-Spare Tubes
1-Bike Tool
1-Flat Tire Tool
3-Water Bottles
4-Cliff Bars
1-Cell Phone
1-Wallet
2-Handkerchiefs
1-Roll Electrical Tape
5-Zip Ties
1-Thin Cinch Backpack (just in case)

Basically, a ton of stuff. Every bike is going to have a different size and modified shape so what you can carry will be different. However, having a bag custom sized to your bike definitely helps maximize the space you can use. The added pocket for my cell phone was a huge bonus. I didn’t have to worry about it bouncing around or getting dinged by the u-lock. It was always kept in place near the top of the bag.

Function:

Migration Bicycle Supply and Surly Long Haul TruckerWhile actually riding the bag made three huge differences. First, even at the end my back felt good because I wasn’t carrying a bag. My riding partner had a small backpack on, and halfway through the ride was complaining of some shoulder and neck strain. Second, having the weight centered, between my legs actually made for a smoother ride. I wasn’t compensating one way or another for weight. Thirdly, the bag acted as fender blocking any mud, sand, rock or water kicking up on the trail.

Both the zipper and velcro flap made my water or cell phone easy to access even while on the move. In particular the cell phone pouch was really handy. In retrospect I wish I had Migration add a second pocket for my wallet though I could almost fit both in the one pocket. I added a carabiner to the zipper of the pocket for my keys which worked great.

The bag is about a half inch wider than my top bar on each side. When it is loaded lightly it doesn’t matter, but when overloaded the sides of the bag have a little stretch. That causes my legs to brush against them when pedaling. I could avoid that by properly packing or packing less but I usually just leave it.

I never needed the extra tubes, tools, jackets, tap or zip ties, but knowing they were there took away from of the stress of a long ride. Having room for all the water made the distance between stops much easier especially in the heat.

Final Impressions:

Since that big ride I’ve never taken the bag off my Surly. Most days it just carries my cell phone, u-lock and cable. Even for that purpose it was worth having. If I pick something up dinner on the way home I don’t have to worry about hanging a grocery bag off my handle bars or riding one-handed. My gear is always accessible. I don’t really worry about it being stolen because it is held in place by the lower bar rivets. If someone tried to steal it they’d have to ruin it to get it off or be spending enough time to do so that they could just steal the whole bike which is a whole ‘nother issue.

Migration Bicycle Supply and Surly Long Haul Trucker

Before this I would have never have considered a custom bag but working with Tim made the process easy. He took my ideas into account & then made a high-quality, functional and stylish bag that has literally made my daily riding better and life easier. Plus, when I get together with other bikers it definitely draws a lot of attention. It is becoming rare that I’m not parked outside a coffee shop, bar or the beach that someone doesn’t come up and ask about it.

Grade: Lightning Bolts of Awesomeness

Six Lightning Bolts of Awesomeness! Love the bag. Ordering more for my other bikes.

Want your own? Contact Migration Bicycle Supply directly at:

migrationbicyclesupply@gmail.com
RE: Badass Bicycle Bag