Contextual Design; The City Series

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A man walking up a flight of stairs with a City Messenger on his back

Designing for Adventure

Bikepacking presents unique design challenges. Bags are strapped to bike frames, rather than worn, and easy on-the-go access and weight distribution are paramount. It’s a different way of looking at carrying gear and one that forces us to be creative and discover new ways of doing things.

The constraints for creating bags that attach to bikes mostly revolve around maximizing usable space while avoiding getting in the way and prioritizing durability and waterproofing. In contrast, bags worn on a rider’s body focus primarily on comfort and are marketed by their ‘features’ and complexity.

Typically, when an outdoor brand designs packs for the urban environment, they focus on the adventure heritage of their brand – a bag you can wear to the office, but also climb mountains with. It’s a ‘more is more’ approach built around their current understanding rather than an exploration of a whole new set of needs.

Backpacks designed for adventure riding are more at home in the outback than the city
Riders in the desert wearing cycling packs

Backpacks designed for adventure riding are more at home in the outback than the city

Designing for City Life

There’s nothing wrong with using the same bag to climb mountains, go paddle boarding and commute to the big meeting, but it’s a compromise. It’s neither the perfect bag for adventure nor the perfect bag for daily life. Many of those features you paid more for will either never be used and just add complexity to your daily routine.

Rather than focusing on bringing adventure into the city, we wanted to bring the benefits of adventure proven, precision crafted design in a much more simple, durable and versatile package that perfectly suits the commute, the office and social environments.

We’re big fans of exploring cities, but we don’t think you need a hydration bladder for an extended commute.

An Apidura City Messenger on a male rider

A male rider reaches into an Apidura City Messenger

Good Design is Subtle

The City Series isn’t designed for our normal adventures, but that doesn’t mean it’s not technically advanced. Look closer and you’ll see influences from our other series.

With our Racing Series, we pioneered zipperless, easy one-handed openings. The influence can be seen in the City Messengers, taking what we learned about ease of access and waterproofing to create a secure closure system that keeps the weather outside in conditions you’re likely to encounter in the city.

Through the development of the Racing Series, we also really got to understand Hypalon – a material we use for straps and high contact areas on most of our packs – and its full capabilities. In this context, it improves durability and adds structure, without adding bulk. The facing also helps ensure the velcro closure engages reliably and securely.

A strict focus on avoiding adding bulk also heavily influenced the design of the shoulder strap. The width of the strap creates comfort through a larger contact area with the body, not excess padding. Using bonding techniques perfected through developing our other ranges, we were able to make the strap really wide, while keeping it lightweight and slimline. It adds manufacturing complexity, requiring the use of a micro-spandex over a polyurethane sponge core, but the result is a strap that contours perfectly to the shape of the wearer’s body.

The width of the strap creates comfort, without the need for excess padding

A closeup of the City Messenger shoulder strap

The width of the strap creates comfort, without the need for excess padding

A closeup of the rear of the City Messenger shoulder strap

Triple locking Velcro construction provides strength and is concealed by Hypalon backing

Triple locking Velcro construction provides strength and is concealed by Hypalon backing

Similarly, the EVA moulded back panel is designed to facilitate airflow no matter which shoulder the pack is worn on and contour around the body by flexing around the grooves in the material. Using a moulded construction keeps the pack size and weight down and creates a much cleaner finish visually.

These elements are balanced with the need for the bags to have an ambidextrous fit – without compromising durability or strength. To create the reversible shoulder strap, we’ve used a triple locking Velcro construction that provides a great deal of strength, while being concealed by Hypalon backing to keep everything clean and subtle.

The least subtle design cue from our other, adventure-focused series is actually the waterproof zip. Despite the zipped pocket being covered by the flap, it’s taken us literal years to find a waterproof zip we’re totally happy with and there was no way we weren’t going to use it for the City Series too.

A woman places an iPad into a City Messenger

Seamless Transitions

By focusing on context and our ‘less is more’ design philosophies, we’ve created a range that is suited to the needs of urban cyclists, without advertising the fact they arrived by bike. They are packs that feature the subtle reflective details you want while you’re riding in low light, but that aren’t obvious when you’re walking between meetings or introducing yourself to that new client for the first time.

Your commute and your ride through town are only part of your day and shouldn’t define the rest of your day. Our goal is to maximise the enjoyment of your time on the bike while also enabling you to seamlessly transition through your professional and social lives.

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