Rad Women of Bikepacking: Part Two – Makers
Did you know that many of the bike and gear brands we feature on the site are women-owned and operated? In Part II of our Rad Women of Bikepacking series, we’re paying tribute to some of the talented women sewing bikepacking bags, welding bike frames, and designing women’s-specific cycling apparel today…
March is Women’s History Month, and to celebrate, we’re honoring the women—past and present—who have shaped the bikepacking community and the cycling industry at large. Each week, we’ll feature some of the movers, shakers, and makers who inspire us, both on and off the bike. We’re featuring the women behind some of our favorite brands on this International Women’s Day, from bag makers to frame builders.
Becky Newman // Makeshifter // Golden Pliers
She/Her / Age: 36 / @makeshifter
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Clackamas, Cowlitz, and Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde (Portland, Oregon)
Favorite ride snack: Avocado in a tortilla with hot sauce.
Becky started making her own messenger and tote bags at the age of 16 with a cheap sewing machine and some tips from her grandmother. She continued sewing throughout college, either fashioning her own goods from scraps or repurposing used gear for her hiking and backpacking trips. It was during college that she discovered bikes and she spent many hours in the saddle commuting on a pink Gary Fisher.
In 2014, Becky bought a used Surly Long Haul Trucker for $400 and very naturally took her love of backpacking to the bike. A few months after her first weekend bikepacking trip, Becky and her partner Kevin spent two weeks riding down the Oregon coast. It was then that Becky made her first frame bag, which she describes as “weird and obviously homemade.” But her friends liked it, so much so that they asked her to make frame bags for their bikes too. Little did she know those early frame bags would become the genesis of her company, Makeshifter Canvas Works.
Her bags today are made primarily from USA-milled canvas and wool. Although she’s constantly experimenting with new designs and fabrics, she says her favorite bags are old ones she’s made that are sent back to her for repairs.
“When a bag comes in for a repair, it means the person who bought it loves and respects it enough to keep it out of a landfill,” she says. “They see its value and they want to keep using it, and they’ve used it fully and maybe roughly. There’s a trust that is shown between me and the customer when they give me their beloved item to rebuild however I see fit. Repairs are precious times.”
Danielle Schon // Schon Studio
She/Her / Age: 32 / @schonstudio
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation (Squamish, BC)
Favorite ride snack: Stroopwafels, M&M cookies from the local bakery, and squished jersey-pocket croissants
Danielle Schön discovered the joy of riding bikes while going to school for welding and machining. She commuted at first, but quickly realized she liked to go fast. She became interested in seriously pursuing sanctioned racing, but Danielle had a dilemma: she couldn’t afford a fancy race bike. So, she found a workaround—she signed up for a framebuilding course. Taught by Mountain Bike Hall of Famer and Brodie Bicycles founder Paul Brodie, the course felt like the perfect alignment of her art and metalworking background. She built herself a road bike, which she still rides almost seven years later, and she hasn’t stopped framebuilding since.
“The bike industry desperately needs a different point of view and the more women, trans, and nonbinary folks who are involved, the better,” she says. “Take up space. Make the things you find beautiful and interesting even if it’s not what’s cool. Make your point of view known. Make weird stuff. Find other makers who are interested in the same things as you and work together. I would love to see a wider spectrum of people represented, especially in the very white, very male-dominated niche of framebuilding, so if I can ever answer questions or be a resource for anyone starting out, I’m happy to do so.”
Hilary Neevel // Pack NW
She/Her / Age: 41 / @packnw
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe (Bellingham, Washington)
Favorite ride snack: It’s impossible to choose just one but crackers and cheese are the first things that come to mind.
For Hilary Neevel’s first bikepacking trip, she took 15 teenagers on a month-long tour from Michigan to Maine. At the time, she was a trip leader at the outdoor program of a summer camp, and though she says the tour was meant to be impactful for the kids, she felt equally empowered by the experience.
Hilary’s journey into making bikepacking bags began as a sailmaker, a trade she pursued for years and one that eventually led to her opening her own sail repair business. Eventually, she started making bags, then panniers, out of old sails. Today, she exclusively designs and produces soft bags for bikes.
“I love the design process,” says Hilary. “It can be painfully slow, but there’s something really satisfying about having an idea and a pile of materials and then turning it into a useful object. [Making gear] has taught me to be patient with the process.”
Jacqueline Mautner // Untitled Cycles
She/Her / Age: 37 / @untitledcycles
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Leni Lenape People (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Favorite ride snack: Dried mango slices.
Jackie has been riding bikes since she was a kid searching for waves with a surfboard tucked under her arm. Though she originally went to Cooper Union in New York to study art, design, and fabrication—an education that led her to working in the architecture field after graduation—it was while commuting by bike to and from school that she truly fell in love with riding bikes. In 2015, she left her career in architecture and moved to Portland, Oregon, where she studied at the United Bicycle Institute and learned to make her first bike frame.
After debuting her very own gravel/adventure bike at the 2019 SRAM x Philly Bike Expo, Jackie launched her company, Untitled Cycles. She specializes in handmade custom steel bicycles and seeks “to find elegant expressions in form without compromise to function, ultimately creating rideable works of art.”
To folks interested in learning how to make frames, Jackie says, “There are many ways to learn frame building and to make a bike frame. Don’t listen to curmudgeonly naysayers who believe that there is only ‘one, correct way’ to make a bike. They are wrong. Also, you’re bound to make mistakes along the way, but that’s okay—that’s how we all learn!”
Janina Haas // Ergon
She/Her / @ergonbike
If you’re one of the many riders who sport one of Ergon’s SR Women’s saddles, you owe Janina a drink. As head of ergonomics at Ergon, Janina spent nearly three years tirelessly working with the company’s research and development team to create a women’s specific saddle that was truly designed by women for women.
“In the past, the saddles we had were unisex or designed for men,” says Janina. “But when you take a look at the anatomy of the female pelvis, it’s obvious those saddles just won’t work.”
Janina—like most of the Ergon team—is a lifelong cyclist. She grew up watching her parents run their own bike shop. While studying for her master’s degree in sports technology at the German Sports University in Cologne, she completed her master’s thesis at Ergon and never left.
Her commitment to finding a better saddle solution was born out of her own experiences on a bike and a vested interest in finding something that worked for all cyclists, from weekend riders to pro cyclists. With the cooperation of the Canyon-SRAM women’s race team, Janina conducted several saddle tests and used pressure mapping to inform early prototypes. The team also studied X-rays and CT scans from 50 male and 50 female pelvises to understand the anatomical differences. The resulting SR (for road) and SM (for mountain) lines of women’s saddles maximize relief around the genital area and evenly distribute pressure for more comfort over longer rides.
Jennifer Kriske // Machines For Freedom
She/Her / Age: 42 / @jenn.kriske / @machinesforfreedom
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Tongva, Tataviam, and Chumash Peoples (Los Angeles, California)
From local day rides to grueling centuries, Jennifer has spent a lot of time in the saddle. She has also spent a lot of time in subpar women’s cycling kits. Instead of coping with ill-fitting chamois, though, Jennifer took the reins into her own hands. She decided to make her own cycling apparel.
At the time, Jennifer was working as an interior designer, a demanding career that often left her feeling stressed and exhausted. The bike was Jennifer’s outlet. With no experience designing clothes or working in the bike industry, she built Machines For Freedom from the ground up, squeezing in time after work to dedicate to her vision. In 2014, she launched Machines For Freedom out of her living room and has since left her job in interior design.
Starting with the Endurance Bib, Jennifer keyed in on designing and producing cycling apparel that not only functioned but also fit and flattered all women. Machines For Freedom’s apparel is a breath of fresh air for cyclists who have historically felt marginalized or misrepresented in the cycling world. This month, they’re releasing the Mystic Felines Collection, a line of apparel and cycling gear designed in collaboration with Dioscvri, a women-owned and operated art studio based in Alameda, California. The feline print celebrates the “power, savvy intellect, strength, and agility” of women (trans and cis), non-binary, and gender non-conforming folks.
“Early on in the process, I realized just how personal clothing design was,” says Jennifer. “In my prior career designing spaces, I thought renovating someone’s home was personal. But it paled in comparison to the emotions attached to the items people put on their body. Clothing has a huge impact on someone’s confidence, for better or for worse, and some people select brands as a reflection of their values and identity. My favorite part of the process is the fanmail we receive from folks telling us that wearing Machines is the first time they felt confident in a kit. We’re here to challenge the idea of what an athlete looks like and provide performance apparel that allows all body shapes to push themselves and reach their goals.”
Jennifer “Lane” Willson // Oveja Negra
She/Her / Age: 39 / @ovejanegrabikepacking
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Cheyenne and Ute Tribes (Salida, Colorado)
Favorite ride snack: Dried mango…but let’s be honest: GF, DF powdered doughnut holes. You know what’s not my favorite snack? Instant coffee mixed with oatmeal. We were bikepacking, running low on water, and feeling a lil delirious…seemed like a logical/good idea.
Lane has always had a bike. First, it was a banana seat Schwinn, then a ‘98 Mongoose. But the bike that really changed her life was a Salsa El Mariachi, which she rode all around her then home of Leadville, Colorado.
“Wanting to go further, faster, and have fun with like-minded friends, getting into mountain biking changed my life for the better,” she says.
Lane has also always had a gift for working with needle and thread. Prior to starting Oveja Negra with her husband, Monty, Lane spent 15 years sewing everything from bridal gowns to outdoor apparel for Leadville-based Melanzana. But in 2011, Lane and Monty started designing and producing their own bikepacking bags. At first, it was out of necessity (there were limited bikepacking bag makers at the time), but before long, they were making bags for their friends and the local bike shop.
Today, Oveja Negra (Spanish for “black sheep”) employs 17 people in Salida. Their company culture is as quirky and colorful as the bags they make. Lane says from day one, she and Monty have always made business decisions based on their “moral compass,” not their bottom line. While that can make it financially challenging sometimes, she says in the end, it’s always worth it.
Her advice to the next generation of gear makers? “Be kind and patient with yourself, make business choices you can sleep well with, trust your gut, and always reinvest in yourself and your work. Plus, always remember: seam ripping makes you a better person.”
Jessica Chan // Tunitas Carryall
She/Her / Age: 31 / @tunitas.carryall
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Ramaytush Ohlone (San Francisco, California)
Favorite ride snack: Potato chips or anything crunchy and salty.
Jessica Chan has art school to thank for introducing her to the world of bikes. The last class she took before graduation was a course in bike frame welding. The class piqued her curiosity. After graduating, Jessica signed up for a charity trip through Bike and Build, a nonprofit that raises money and awareness for affordable housing through service-oriented cycling trips for young adults. That summer, she rode from Portland, Maine, to Santa Barbara, California, and has been riding ever since.
When Jessica was laid off from her designing job, she decided to start her own bike bag company, Tunitas Carryall. Her favorite bag she’s made is the Bar Keeper because she dedicated an enormous amount of energy into making the handlebar bag different in design. Interested in making your own bags? Jessica has only one piece of advice: do it.
“The cycling world is so heavily dominated by the same rhetoric of ideas from the same type of people, that anything outside of that should be welcomed and celebrated,” she says. “While it might seem like the boutique cycling bag market is heavily saturated, I think there’s always room for new ideas from a different perspective and narrative. All other women bag makers I know of really have a unique approach to the way they make bags and it makes them stand out.”
Martina Brimmer // Swift Industries
She/Her / Age: 37ish / @swiftindustries
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Duwamish, Suquamish, Nisqually, Snoqualmie, and Muckleshoot Tribes (Seattle, Washington)
Go-to ride snack: Haribo Gummy Frogs.
Martina Brimmer has been designing and producing bags professionally for 15 years, but she made her first bag—a red messenger bag—during her eighth-grade handwork class. She later built upon those skills while working as a production sewer at R.E.Load Bags, an experience that cemented her love for creating and designing
“I loved working with my hands, was totally obsessed with process innovation, had a knack for precision, and could fly on a sewing machine,” she says. “I fell in love.”
Around the same time, she also fell in love with riding. When she was 19, Martina’s Volvo station wagon overheated outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. She says she got on a bike and “never looked back.”
Today, she leads a talented production crew at her company, Swift Industries, a bicycle bag company she founded when she was 26 years old. She says Swift’s mission goes beyond making top-notch bags—it’s about challenging the industry, too.
“Swift is here to bend, shape and reframe culture,” she says. “Not a day goes by when we’re not talking about equity, visibility and liberation at Swift. We’re here to facilitate joy, humility, curiosity and liberation by way of the bicycle. The most radical part about our mission is that along the way we find like-minded folks already committed to and working hella hard on the very same things. We’ve found a family of radical thinkers, change-makers, and culture re-designers in outdoor and business spaces. It’s wildly inspiring!”
Randi Jo Smith // Randi Jo Fabrications
She/Her / Age: 38 / @randijofab
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and the Cow Creek Umpqua (Elkton, Oregon)
Favorite ride snack: Chocolate!
Randi has been riding bikes since she got a cherry red Cannondale for her 16th birthday. She rode bikes so often that she didn’t feel the need to get her driver’s license until she was 31 years old.
She first started sewing cycling caps as a senior in college while working in the costume shop for the theater department. Today, Randi runs Randi Jo Fabrications out of a 10’ x 22’ trailer her father built next to her home in Elkton, Oregon, where she was born and raised. She and her husband Eric are still making cycling caps, as well as bike bags and saddle covers.
“I get so much joy from watching a piece of fabric become a finished product,” says Randi. “The chance to hold a tactile item in your hands and then know that it will bring use and happiness to someone else is something that so few get to experience in their work, and I’m really glad for that.”
Tia Evans // Framework Designs
She/Her / Age: 29 / @framework.designs
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation (Melbourne, Australia)
Favorite ride snack: Dark Chocolate and Espresso Nut Bars.
The first bike bags Tia ever made were for a trip she and her partner Joel took to Japan in early 2018. They were handlebar bags that served two purposes: storage on the bike and storage for the bikes themselves. The bags, once expanded, were large enough to fit their folding bikes and acted as checked baggage on their flights. Not long after that trip, Tia purchased an industrial sewing machine and got to work. To date, her favorite bag is Framework Designs’ latest handlebar/fanny pack hybrid, The Middle Management. She says she loves the pattern making and design process of making bags, but also the supportive community of bike lovers that she’s found.
“I’m extremely proud to be making products for people who just want to get off the beaten track and immerse themselves in nature,” she says. “I’m by no means an athlete, but I think it’s important to show people that you don’t have to be to get involved [in bikepacking], you just have to start.”
Tori Fahey // Apidura
She/Her / Age: 42 / @apidura
Favorite ride snack: Ice cream.
Apidura founder Tori Fahey’s first long-distance cycling trip was in 2011. The supported expedition was 12,000 kilometers in length and stretched across the entire African continent from Alexandria, Egypt, to Cape Point, South Africa.
“It was a four-month crash course in patience and discipline,” says Tori. “I remember crying before I even started because I was overwhelmed by everything that was ahead.”
She passed the crash course, finishing the journey in 126 days. She later rode the Tour Divide, her first long-distance ride without a traditional rack and pannier setup. Her experience riding unencumbered by unwieldy panniers on the Tour Divide planted a seed. In 2014, she launched Apidura with three bikepacking bags. Today, her company makes everything from waterproof saddle bags to packable backpacks.
In bikepacking and in gear creation, Tori has a natural aptitude for problem-solving. That cycle keeps her endlessly motivated, whether she’s on the bike or thick in the design process.
“You have to face yourself and your limitations—and your sometimes surprising capabilities—and deal with things that you’re not prepared for,” she says. “Getting past these challenges creates a strange combination of pride and humility, the reminder that you have limits, and the discovery that sometimes they are a bit farther than you thought, which gets you back out to try again, to go further.”
Veronica Lowe // Wizard Works / @ve_lowe
She/Her / Age: 34 / @wizard.works
Favorite ride snack: Quite partial to Nutella straight from the jar or picking all the M&M’s out of my trail mix (or scrogen, as we say in New Zealand). It’s important that the M&M’s spend time in the trail mix before snacking so they pick up all the salty goodness of the peanuts. You don’t get the same result if you directly salt M&M’s (I’ve tried).
Veronica reckons it was frugality that really got her into cycling—public transportation in New Zealand is expensive, she says, and traveling by bike afforded her the cheapest means of traveling the furthest distance. That ethos is, in part, how she and her boyfriend Harry traveled by bike for an entire year in 2016, and how the idea for Wizard Works came to fruition. Initially, Harry was the one making the bags, since they couldn’t find any bags that fit their needs. But over time (and after making what felt like a billion snack bags herself), Veronica’s sewing talents started to shine.
In 2018, the couple formally started Wizard Works out of Veronica’s family’s garage. Veronica says the company’s mission is simple: “We wanted to bring the party to bikepacking. We like to go slow and snack often. We are serious about not taking ourselves too seriously, but we’re also serious about giving back to our community and our planet.”
In case you missed it, be sure to check out part one of this series, Shakers. Who inspires you? Give a shout-out to the women who are movers, shakers, and makers in your cycling community this month. Tag @bikepackingcom and #RadWomenBikepacking and we’ll keep an eye out and share a few through our stories.
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