Innovation Lab: e-Bikepacking with Marin Bikes
Bikepacking, traditionally a pursuit that involves riding long distances and nights under the stars – far from power sources, may not seem like a natural fit for e-bikes, but when Marin approached us to create a concept bikepacking pack for their new Pine Mountain E, we were intrigued and keen to meet the challenge. Here we take a look behind the scenes of how we created the Marin Pine Mountain E Concept Full Frame Pack.
Marin has been creating innovative mountain bikes since 1986, forging its own trail and playing a key role in keeping the scene moving forward. With such a legacy, it’s unsurprising it has embraced the e-bike revolution and is helping to define the role the technology can play beyond mere assisted pedalling.
As Aaron Abrams, Director of Product at Marin explains “Electronic mountain bikes allow you to go places you’d never think about with a standard bike, because you have the help of the motor. This is cool for seeing new places but also got us thinking about bringing more gear with us. Pretty soon, we were lugging around all kinds of gear, whether for a quick cookout at a campsite, or another battery and some food to be able to climb up and over Mt. Tam and drop to the ocean, and then back home in just a few hours. The idea of being able to explore like this and bring gear with you is really exciting to us.”
The assistance of an electronic motor also opens up bikepacking to a more diverse audience. “We see ebikes being a major step in bikepacking for those who are either limited on time or want to experience bikepacking but maybe aren’t quite fit enough to pedal a 25Kg bike around in the mountains. We want to help more people get out on a bike and enjoy their local wilderness, and we think combining the romanticism of bikepacking with the capability to actually do the cool and inspirational activities is a win/win situation. While the ebike can never take the place of the analogue bike on true long-term bikepacking trips, we believe the possibilities it unlocks are just too good to pass up!”
It’s not all easy riding, however, and there are a number of challenges to overcome to make ebikes a genuinely viable option for bikepacking. “The main barriers today are the limited number of bikes that are suitable for the task, and in some cases the range of the systems. Many electric bikes are developed for tame, on-road experiences, and have limited range and limited power. The modern electric mountain bikes are capable of legitimate mountain biking but are limited on storage capacity and options.”
With the new Pine Mountain E, Marin hopes to overcome these challenges; “Combining the capability of the high-end Shimano STEPS electric MTB system, with ability to carry tons of gear, and even additional batteries, opens up the possibilities immensely”. With a new genre of bikepacking to define, Marin turned to Apidura to create the bespoke packs to showcase the capabilities and potential of the new bike and illustrate where the future of e-bikepacking lies.
Apidura is one of the brands pushing the most innovation in the bikepacking and endurance pack space. We’ve always been impressed with their design, materials choice, and overall brand, and we feel that their forward-thinking and open mindset is perfect to explore this new category.
“When Marin approached us with the challenge of creating an innovative pack for the Pine Mountain E, we knew it was the perfect opportunity to bring the expertise of The Apidura Innovation Lab to bear to help define this new genre and show what is possible” Tori Fahey, Founder of Apidura asserts. “The Innovation Lab is where we push the boundaries of design, construction and ideas. It’s a key component of the continuous evolution of our existing packs, but also a way of bringing new ideas to life to improve cycling experiences.”
The brief was to create a bespoke pack that bolted onto the frame, maximised use of space and included a way to carry a spare battery. “We were also keen to match Marin’s innovative approach and look to the future with new materials, closures and construction methods. Everything we do in the Innovation Lab should influence future pack design; good design is born of necessary innovation.”
“This was a great opportunity to showcase some of the latest materials and designs we have been working with” explains Tori. “For example, we’ve been testing frame-mounted packs with Josh Kato, which meant we could address the challenge of frame mounting this pack head on with a strong understanding of how best to place the rivets and supporting PP board within the pack”.
“Alongside pooling existing knowledge, the design and development team created mood boards and drew inspiration from the sports and performance worlds to understand the themes they wanted to convey in this concept pack. The goal was to create something genre-defining for the new e-bikepacking discipline, not to create a sub-genre of our existing packs.”
Creating a pack to define a new genre of bikepacking
Our design and development team split the task into three main areas – fabrics, internal storage and hardware. Here, the team talk us through the decisions that led to the final pack design.
Olivia tells us about the fabric choices, the external construction of the pack and the innovative side opening:
“Marin sent us the CAD drawings for the frame, so we were able to create full-size cut-outs, including a full-size mock-up of the battery. This allowed us to start playing with the concept in real space and understand how everything would fit together.”
Next came extensive testing of materials to find the right combination of feel and functionality. “We wanted to retain the main aspects of our current philosophy – precision and quality manufacturing – so knew we needed a material we could RF weld, rather than stitch”. Through a process of elimination to determine which fabrics could achieve the desired effects, the team settled on Hypalon for the rear compartment and ripstop nylon with a two-sided TPU coating at the front. But it’s details that really make the pack, such as Hypalon facings that guide the user’s hands around the opening. The subtle transparency of the ripstop nylon also creates a feeling of space and makes the inside of the pack brighter.
The closure system is also a first for a full-size frame pack, combining a zip with magnets to create a wide yet secure opening. “Magnets are increasingly featuring in our packs and offer new ways to seal packs against the elements while creating easier access”, explains Olivia.
Betsy tells us how the team ensured there was no unusable space in the pack and that everything included and added utility without sacrificing more space than absolutely necessary:
“The most exciting – and completely unique – aspect of the pack from this point of view is the custom bladder we have created with components from HydraPak. Normally a hydration pack doesn’t fit a frame pack perfectly and there’s dead space that could be better used. We completely rethought traditional water bladder design to create this shaped bladder that perfectly fits the space available. It even uses Velcro to ensure it holds its shape.”
We expect to see similar shaped hydration bladders becoming popular in the future. The space freed up by creating a bladder that fits the space precisely is significant and we believe bikepackers will start to expect this level of design and space optimization in their packs once they’ve seen what’s possible.
Ross tells us how the team ensured the pack was easy to mount and remove and that the battery is held securely:
“Frame bosses make a lot of sense for bikepacking – reducing paint damage from attachment straps and holding bags taut. However, they’re also a challenge to mount and remove, with restricted access and visibility. For this concept pack, we designed a 3D part to allow the bolts to be finger tightened and allowing the pack to be fitted or removed quickly.”
The team also created a custom battery mounting system for the rear compartment to hold the spare battery secure. Modern batteries are surprisingly robust, but also relatively heavy, so we created a custom bridge with Hypalon bonded to Velcro to keep it in place. The same foam padding that is found in our top tube packs was also added to provide some extra insulation between the battery and frame.
The finished pack is unmistakably Apidura – lightweight, waterproof and technically advanced – but also future-focused, incorporating new materials and construction methods that we expect to become more commonplace in years to come. Our hope is that it will inspire other makers and creators to push the boundaries of bike luggage design and begin thinking about a more diverse future for bikepacking as technology changes the ways we ride.
As Tori outlines, “not all of the design features and materials used will end up being incorporated into our mainstream products, but this pack signals our direction of travel and the way we believe the industry is headed. We’ve learned a great deal from creating this pack and those lessons will certainly influence the products we create in the Innovation Lab”.
Similarly, Aaron tells us that “This is our first project legitimately focused on e-bikepacking, so we’ve learned a lot! From geometry and ride quality loaded and unloaded, to gear mounting, to parts spec, we’ve taken a lot away from this project that you will likely be seeing in Marin Electric Bicycles moving forward!”