At the Rough Stuff Fellowship Wayfarer Centenary gathering back in March 2019 I was using a saddlebag I’d made for myself based on ideas I’d had while out riding, and that appeared to be unique in what is a very crowded world of bicycle bag designs. A number of folk stopped me along the trail during that weekend to ask about it, and where they could get one; as such, given the level of interest, making the design available seemed like a good idea… It me took a while, what with being away much of last year, but thanks to the patience, and gentle nagging of those same folk, a few instances of the now much refined design escaped into the wild a few weeks ago under my new brand “Chough Stuff”.
Symbolic of Cornwall, the Chough has been closely associated with the Duchy for several hundred years, and appears on the Cornish coat of arms. As a member of the corvid family it’s both intelligent, and rugged; without making any particular claims, the name Chough Stuff seemed appropriate.
The bike bag market is a crowded one. It’s for that reason I have no plans to give up developer work, and no plans to make the same sort of bags as can be found elsewhere. I also don’t have a great desire to find myself in the position of having to relentlessly market product in order to keep sales going; the cycling world has enough of that sort of thing going on already. Rather I’m primarily interested in making a couple of designs that folk have asked for – the original saddlebag, now called The Puffin Burrow, and a refinement of the camera bag I mentioned in this article.
As for why the seatpack is called the Puffin Burrow… well, you could say there is a connection that puffins are also a bird that makes its home in parts of Cornwall, and given that they nest in burrows on the cliffs it’s possible (although unlikely) that a particularly discerning pair might move in if you left your bike parked outside your tent at night (you’re more likely to collect a few spiders, or snails… maybe a hedgehog), the reality is that it is called that simply because I liked it, and it’s a bit of fun. The original was 7 litres in size but most people that have ordered have asked for the 9 litre size; it’s a good size for days out with flask, sandwiches, maybe a down pullover for stops, a rainjacket and a camera. Being roll entry it’s compressible/expandable to to suit the load being carried, and a couple of internal pockets help keep things organised. It’s also very light. It does however need a saddle with bag loops, but the upside is that it’s super stable once mounted without the need for a bag support.
Bags have been going out the door at the rate of one or two a week, which suits me fine, and a turnaround of one to two weeks seems fine also for the good folk that have made the leap of faith and bought one. A mate in New Zealand has been using one of the prototype for 18 months or so now, so I have high hopes for the durability, and it was also partly his feedback that persuaded me it was worth making them available. There isn’t a website yet, just a holding page at choughstuff.com ; that will change in due course – I’m still thinking about the best approach. We live in a very fast world of “buy it now” and “same day delivery” that I have no desire to embrace; I find value in engaging one-to-one with the folk that want bags, it makes it more fun for me, which is important, and more satisfying for the right kind of buyer too. A chap currently waiting for a bag said to me, on receiving an update, “that’s awesome but don’t miss bike riding time!!“. I liked that!
It is early days so I’m still working through some supply chain dependencies, and settling on a ‘stable’ choice of colours but there’s also lots of experimentation to be done. Typically, I’m also going through a busy period with dev work again now, but self-employment can be very up and down, and one very definite takeaway from the covid-flavoured events of this year is that it really doesn’t hurt to have a couple of different things bubbling away if possible. So far all sales have been through the instagram community and word of mouth which is just perfect. I keep my own instagram private as I have no interest in accumulating followers for the sake of it, but instead really appreciate a community of real people that I can enjoy engaging with. In recognition of reality however there is a new, public @choughstuffcc account which I’ll try and keep up to date too.
It seems inevitable that at some point the design of the Puffin Burrow in particular will be copied by a larger manufacturer; it appears to be the way of things in the market. The key I suppose will be to be such that people recognise it for what it is, and would prefer to have one with a Chough Stuff badge on instead :-)
At the moment the Puffin Burrow is £100 + post, and when folk want one they generally just get in touch. There’s an email address in the footer, or on the holding page, or just message me via instagram. I’ll update as and when.