2 Wheel Gear was founded in Calgary, Canada with product manufactured using a borrowed sewing machine. 18 years later the brand is selling successfully throughout North America and has just landed in the UK for the first time as part of a partnership with Quella. The Fix finds out more:Reid, thanks for talking to us, firstly tell us how a bike luggage brand from British Columbia ended up working with a UK fixie brand? ‘A good buddy of mine, Chris Ford, who is heavily involved in the Whistler mountain bike scene introduced me to Mike from Quella, having met him on a recent cat-skiing trip in Canada. We hit it off straight away and it was clear we had much in common, with a very similar ethos and a shared passion for cycling. Quella will make a perfect partner to support our entry into the UK and European market.
Tell us a bit about 2 Wheel Gear’s background?
The founder, Craig Coulombe worked in downtown Calgary as a geophysicist. His daily attire would typically include a starched white dress shirt and smart pants to the office but got fed up of pulling out a wrinkled set in the locker room following his morning trip to work. Ahead of the trend, Craig would regularly cycle to work, however, there were very few options to transport clothes. Backpacks made his back sweat and were uncomfortable. Panniers at that time were nothing more than open sacks for dumping everything in one place. He decided to make his own way. The first step was asking his mother-in-law if he could borrow her sewing machine!
What was the first product?
In 1999, a very rough looking Classic Bike Suit Bag was born, and It was the first garment bag that kept clothes pressed on their hangers and strapped to the bike rack. Craig knew he had created a new way to bike commute and teamed up with longtime University pal, Ken MacLean to start selling the bags. For years, the Classic was sewn one by one in Calgary and assembled with hand rivets to order.
When did you join the party?
I was brought in by the guys to manage the business in 2010 as a fresh-faced business graduate. I strongly believed in the movement that Ken and Craig had started and felt both the product and brand had a much greater market appeal than its current audience. It was quite low-key to start with, working mainly from my basement on the side of a full-time career. In the early days, a local delivery normally involved me taking an extra suit bag on my commute for delivery on my lunch-break.
When did things start to get serious?
We all agreed the business had great potential from day 1 but required a full-time commitment to be successful. In 2012, using my life savings, I purchased the company outright from Ken and Craig. It was tough to start with but in 2014 we had really broken into the North American market which is when I moved up to Vancouver.
In 2015, Two Wheel Gear started working with MEC, Canada’s largest and most trusted retailer of outdoor and cycling products. The focus is to create the very best bags in the world for professional business commuters and to keep pushing boundaries with bike commuting gear. Our focus is straightforward and simple. We want to make it extremely easy to bike to work.
We love some of the imagery and video you guys have done, how did that come about?
“What do you have there?” Was a common question at 7:30 am while changing in the men’s locker room in my corporate days.
Half or fully naked 40 somethings would always be asking me about my bike bag while towelling off in the men’s change room. I would be pulling my suit out of my Classic Garment Pannier and the bike commuters at the company had never seen anything like it before. I would often go into a full product demo while keeping my eyes up at shoulder height. These moments were the inspiration for our ‘locker room’ comedy footage that everyone loves.
We wanted a strong brand and knew that we wouldn’t create an impact unless the imagery was unique, and our videos generated attention. Our vision was to mix both style and humour across our social media platforms. We have created some great practical photography and video to help explain the product. They both work in different ways.
Finally, how do you see things developing in the UK?
I know that Quella work with some great distributors and they will use those contacts to give the product exposure through retail channels, as well as marketing the range on their website. A Quella bike with a 2 Wheel Gear garment pannier must be the perfect commuter combo! We aren’t expecting miracles, but we truly believe that the product is well-suited to the UK, particularly in the larger cities. If people are worried about the weather, you need to remember that we launched this product on the North-Pacific Coast of Western Canada, no one gets more rain than us!
Thanks Reid – we look forward to seeing you for a few beers in the UK soon.