Rogue Panda Designs is a rather young bikepacking bag manufacturer based in Flagstaff, Arizona. Flagstaff is a beautiful town in Northern Arizona that is host to some fantastic singletrack, good eats, and an astronomical amount of breweries. Nick has lived in a few great states in his life including Colorado and Michigan, where he went to and graduated from Michigan Tech in the beautiful Upper Peninsula. For the past 6 years, however, he has called Flagstaff home. He moved to Flag to work for the Conservation Corps, putting two years time into working on trails, including the Arizona Trail outside of Flagstaff. More recently he was earning a living as a math teacher at the community college, teaching 3 classes part-time.
Last spring, Nick’s life took a turn for the better. He found himself overwhelmed with Rogue Panda Designs, sewing 40 hours a week out of his room. His apartment was covered with sewing materials, and his bed became his work table. He soon realized that this could likely be a full-time gig, and he was right. He quit his teaching job, moved his shop to the garage and put his head down, cranking out bags for bikepackers all over.
Nick has always been a handy man, fixing and modifying things, and he in enjoys doing it. He showed me some 45 year old panniers that he still uses today thanks to his handy work. Nick started with making what he needed for bikepacking, but also backpacking trips while teaching himself how to sew.
Nick sure has a way of going about his business. Since making Rogue Panda Designs his full-time job, he has been busy developing new bags while keeping up with his orders. Hidden within Nick’s professionally crafted and functional bags is his resourcefulness, efficiency, and smarts. Nick has a keen sense of what he is doing and what needs to be done, like pre-cutting fabrics and making parts for the smaller bags he makes to speed up the process. Nick has gone as far as creating his own python script code that helps him measure frame shapes and sizes from just a photo. A little over my head, but check out this link for how he does away with a frame template.
It’s all about the bags
“It’s kinda fun to watch a bunch of bags get put together… a lot of that is stuff I’m doing with employees now and It’s really satisfying to pay someone’s wage.” Because of the demand for his bags, Nick has one part-time and one full-time employee, and for Rogue Panda’s short existence, I would say that’s pretty good. Since January, the crew has been extremely busy, trying to keep wait times down to 2 weeks, but at times, it has been difficult to keep up with the demand.
While Nick enjoys sewing all of his bags, one that stands out among the rest is his custom frame bags, and it seems to be some of his most popular as well. He showed me the sizable stack of orders for this year alone, January and on. Nick tends to work on many frame bags at a time, so he can focus on tasks like getting all the zippers done at once, another efficient trait that Nick and the Rogue Panda Team has adapted.
Nick also enjoys making smaller bags, and like I mentioned above, having pieces and parts pre-made helps streamline the process. The Oracle is a downtube bag, and his Alamo series of top tube bags round out his smaller bags. Nick also makes a handlebar bag called the Canelo Handlebar Roll as well as a Picketpost Seat Bag, which is a different take on the Saddle bag, but one he says reduces sway.
As far as the bikepacking industry is concerned, Nick mentioned that he has already exceeded over half of his sales from last year, and this was when we spoke in the middle of April. He also mentioned significant interest at his booth during the Sedona Bike Festival last month, saying there were over 200 people mentioning their interested in getting into bikepacking.
Nick makes bags for everyone, racers, folks that tour, and first timers, but recently Nick has seen a lot of repeat customers. In a competitive bikepacking industry, this is a great sign. While you won’t find any of his bags in bike shops in Flagstaff and Sedona, he would like to sell his top tube bags in bikes shops eventually. He knows this is not a big profit, but he sees it as more of a way to connect to and give back to the communities he loves. Currently you can find all of his bags, and order them directly on his website.
Nick is a motivated individual, with a vision and a passion to manage. Just from hearing him talk, he has seen a lot of success in the past year, and it seems like there are no signs of slowing down. If you are in the market for some new bags, head over to RoguePanda.com. Be sure to ask him how he got the name – it’s certainly comical.
Check out the video recently released by 4 Flag TV