From Testing to Touring
Supporting our ambassadors is about more than gathering epic bikepacking photos and stories to share. It allows us to collect feedback and insights on our packs and riders’ needs in the most extreme use cases, helping us perfect our designs and meet unmet needs. Read on to find out how the feedback from our community shapes our designs and how the samples we test become the packs you ride with.
For us, supporting riders, races and communities around the world isn’t just a marketing exercise. It’s a two-way, reciprocal relationship and our community plays a key role in helping us develop our packs and better understand the evolving needs of bikepackers around the world. Our global view is strengthened by feedback from across every continent and every riding condition imaginable, allowing us to consider, challenge and test concepts ahead of making them available for purchase. The packs that we create need to function just as well in the heat of sub-Saharan Africa as on the snowy trails of Canada and our community of ambassadors and testers reflects that.
The feedback that we gather from our community is essential for our design and development process and our team are always looking to spot patterns in rider feedback and better understand riders’ needs and prioritise features that improve the packs we produce. The opportunity to work with our community even before a pack is fully developed helps us achieve the attention to detail that we strive for and ongoing feedback on existing designs helps further refine them over the years as needs change and materials and production methods improve.
These strong relationships allow for insightful critiques and in turn deliver extremely well thought through packs based on unmet needs and optimised to perform in real-world conditions. With two podiums at the Transcontinental Race and a Transatlantic Way win to his name, Björn Lenhard is one such member of our community and can always be relied on to provide invaluable performance-focused feedback on our Racing designs. The Packable Backpack is just one such example.
Racing with a drawstring bag was causing him grief – particularly when carrying heavier items that caused the strings to dig into his shoulders. Building on this unmet need meant making Björn’s problem our own and beginning work on a Packable Backpack that was as compact as the drawstring bags he was using, but significantly more comfortable. Throughout the testing period of our Packable backpack, Björn’s feedback and insights helped us refine the strap design as he took samples to races including the Transcontinental Race and tested them in extreme conditions. Those early prototypes are still being ridden in the wild – other than being bright blue, they’re almost impossible to distinguish from the final product.
Everything we create goes through this process. As soon as we have a design we are happy with and have tested through careful prototyping, we create samples – in the same facilities and using the same tools and materials as our production packs. While samples are produced in small runs and are designed to test and prove ideas, they are built to the same standards and quality as our production packs as they are designed to be used and abused so need to be built to last. Typically, samples are made once we’re very close to putting a pack into production, so they tend to be very close to the end product and are often indistinguishable to anyone outside of our product and customer service teams.
Some samples will be used by a single rider over a particular trip or race whilst others spend longer in the field. Lightly used samples are often returned to us ‘as new’, so can go straight into Revive. Samples that have seen more use sometimes need more attention before they can find a new home and so enter Revive as ‘refurbished’ packs once we’ve given them a once over. Stock tends to be limited though as many samples simply stay with their testers – as they are indistinguishable from final products, riders who have grown to cherish the pack over a few races or adventures often ask to keep hold of them and we’re only too happy to oblige and see our packs being used for years to come.
Our Racing Hydration Vest followed just this journey. When our Creative Content Lead, Chris, was racing the inaugural Atlas Mountain Race but didn’t have a perfect water storage solution figured out, our design team knew they had a challenge. An early vest prototype was produced in-house for the Apidura team to test fit and scope some initial ideas. Then a first sample was made. It performed well through further testing, but there was still room for improvement. Riders made a note of one pocket being difficult to use and it was soon removed. The final samples were sent out ahead of launch and have already been on the start lines at events like Badlands and Sonia Colomo has already ridden hers to a podium at Across Andes.
The minor deviations between a sample and its production equivalent are similar to comparing production packs from today to their earlier counterparts. Without seasons, our approach to improvement is continuous and incremental – when we find a better way to do something, we simply roll it out immediately. We stand by all of our designs and because our packs are built to last, many of our earliest production runs of longstanding designs are still going strong, despite looking subtly different to their modern counterparts.
From early prototypes and samples through to final production, all of our packs have been subject to the same rigorous testing. All have been Built to Last and are in perfect working order. This ethos is central to the Sample packs in Revive. They have all been returned to our HQ and temporarily put to one side, ready waiting for more adventures through Revive.