Inside Spokengear and Cedaero Bags
Bike shops and small bikepacking bag companies are what make this community thrive. That truth hit Neil and Lindsay as soon as they walked through the door at Spokengear and Cedaero Bags in Two Harbors, Minnesota. Here’s the full scoop from their visit…
Community is what has brought all of us together today, as evidenced by this site and platforms like Instagram and Facebook. While most of us from this online circle will never meet one another in person, we all have some sense of local community where we live. Whether it be at a local co-op, a coffee shop, or cycling club, these chosen ways of life bring us together to grow, feel accepted, and simply enjoy life. The scale of these communities often differ, and some are stronger than others, but that doesn’t take away the simple idea of what they are.
This particular example of community is located near the 47th parallel, in the small town of Two Harbors, Minnesota. Two Harbors sits just north of Duluth along the North Shore of the largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Superior. This small community of around 3,000 people is far enough away from the hustle and bustle of Duluth, but close enough for employees to commute between the two towns daily.
Four years ago, Dan Cruikshank and his wife Kirsten opened up Spokengear GBC, which brings cyclists and coffee drinkers together in a healthy and happy environment. Originally a co-owner of Granite Gear (also based in Two Harbors), Dan sold his share of the business and quickly found his footing with this new opportunity.
This spring, Lindsay and I went north to escape city life in Minneapolis. We have explored much of what the city has to offer in the six months we’ve lived here, and we’ve been looking forward to seeing more of the North Shore. It’s not new to us, but it’s been roughly 10 years since we last adventured in that area and it holds a special place in our hearts.
The region as a whole is just so welcoming. It provides endless recreational opportunities, from water sports to cycling and everything in between. In the summer, the area gets nearly 16 hours of daylight, something that lends itself to a lot of outdoor time.
Spokengear GBC is the business behind Cedar Coffee Company, Cedaero (their bikepacking bag company), and Spokengear. The newly built facility is conveniently located just west of downtown Two Harbors, far enough away to feel like you’re in the middle of the woods, but close enough to be down the street from the Castle Danger Brewery and North Shore Pizza, two business I fully endorse. You don’t have to try too hard to see the shores of Gitche Gumee from here, either.
As we walked into the coffee side of things, Cedar Coffee Company, we were promptly greeted by Josh Kowaleski, the Spokengear Sales Manager. We grabbed a cup of coffee and let Josh give us the lowdown as we worked our way through the space. The space is well thought out, with the bathrooms forming a slight separation between the coffee and bike businesses, while still making it easy to navigate between the two.
Behind the bike shop service area is where the Cedaero magic happens. A large, albeit tight workshop houses seven sewing machines, plenty of work stations, and even some of the shop’s back stock. Tucked behind that is Dan’s office, which also gains access to the coffee shop (and the smell of homemade caramel in the making). This space lets Dan oversee the operation, but also gives him a little nook to put his head down and get stuff done.
It’s always cool to witness employees working on bags, or parts for bags. I’ve visited many of these shops over the years, and it gives me great joy knowing that people are making a living from these efforts.
While I’ve seen a lot of this, what I had yet to see was an Autometricx self-cutting machine. While most bikepacking bag manufacturers still hand cut their fabric, Cedaero uses a machine to precisely cut fabrics and foam for all of their bags.
After plugging in the shapes on a computer, laying out some fabric, and adjusting pressures and cutters, the machine is ready to go. It’s pretty incredible to watch. This machine not only saves time, but it allows them to consistently achieve above 80% fabric use efficiency across projects. A lot of planning and a little bit of “Drunk Tetris,” as cutter Reggie so eloquently calls it, goes a long way.
The hand-me-down Autometricx from Nike not only cuts fabric for their standard bags, but they can also plug in the numbers for their custom frame bags, ensuring a precise fit for any dimension. While they don’t have dimensions for every bike on the market, their long list is easily accessible and ready to plug and cut within seconds. They can also take a photo of your bike to create dimensions if it’s not already in their library.
Having an automated cutting machine affords the team more time to pump out bags, design neat products that are consistent and reliable, and to do what they are good at: sewing. In a saturated bikepacking bag market, it’s nice to see unique bags such as the Alger and Drummond Draw seat bags and the Devil Kettle.
Many of their bags are multi purpose, and while they strive to make a variety of smaller bags for overnighters, they understand many of their customers are looking for storage for rides like Dirty Kanza, longer day rides, or winter rides that require more layers. That’s where the Alger and Drummond Draw Bags find their place.
Cedaero is not only 100% made in Two Harbors, but the materials that make up the bags are also made in the USA, including fabrics, buckles, straps, zippers, zipper pulls, and so on. This is something that they are certainly proud of. And while that may limit them on a few fronts, it’s true to the essence of community, something they pride themselves on.
Walking around the shop, I couldn’t help but reflect on how difficult it must have been to build something so grand from the ground up. There were so many bikes on the floor, so many people drinking coffee, so many employees working (they employe 19 people in total). It’s a rewarding sight to see, even for me, with zero stake in what I can imagine is a very difficult time to be a business owner.
Dan and the whole team were so kind to us in our brief visit. They treated us like friends and even invited us to crash on the lawn before or after a bikepacking trip this summer, an offer we will certainly take them up on. Next time you’re up in the Northwoods, make sure to stop up in Two Harbors. I have a feeling you will be right at home.
After our tour we took to some gravel roads for a short spin before returning back to the facility for a sandwich, beer, and more conversation. It was a wonderful afternoon in Two Harbors, and we can’t wait to visit again soon.