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Spring is in the air. In the Colorado Rockies the dormant snow covered trails are melting out to once again be traveled by foot, bike or horse. At the annual early year cycling events such as the Sea Otter Classic, riders and manufacturers alike are eagerly in attendance to display their fitness and their new wares for the upcoming season. As always, with this shift in the seasons comes change. This is very evident in our own world of bikepacking. What was once an outlier pursuit in the cycling world pursued by a few select pioneers, is now firmly established with a growing market that the once skeptical big players of cycling are scrambling to push their way in. For the visionaries who were at the forefront and helped to legitimize the pursuit, the pressure of being slowly squeezed out by the likes of these big boys who are flush with cash, have extensive manufacturing resources, and access to large distribution networks is being felt. In order to avoid such a demise, unique partnerships are being formed by those who built their livelihoods by sewing, designing and creating innovative products for the bike explorer out of their home basements, garages, or even bedrooms. The mountain bike mecca of Durango, CO is home to one of these new partnerships. As the flowers bloom and the dirt turns from mud to tacky, a merger between Joey Ernst of Velorution Cycles, and Andrew Wracher, the guiding force behind Bedrock Bags, is emerging out of necessity. Joey, whose shop has evolved into one that focuses on bike exploration, and Andrew, whose handmade bike bags are innovative with unparalleled craftsmanship, are now equal partners under one roof with a bike service center, showroom, and manufacturing space. Additionally, right out their door is a plethora of some of Durango’s finest trails for all of their testing and demoing needs. As we visited their new space, it was evident that to truly understand their alignment, we needed to revisit their beginnings… Joey Ernst, Velorution Cycles Joey has been around bikes, either racing, exploring or wrenching, for nearly two decades. Growing up in rural Indiana, the bicycle was his source of freedom and inspiration. A self-proclaimed tinkerer at heart, at the age of 14 he volunteered at his local Schwinn bike shop. As an extremely adept, organized and passionate teenager, he was managing the shop within a year and had a nice Schwinn mountain bike to show for it. After a few years of racing mountain bikes on the dirt of the Hoosier state, he moved onto another shop which also needed his much needed organization and visionary skills. It wasn’t long before he was on the World Cup Circuit tuning bikes for some of the world’s best. Through this experience, he developed a relationship with athletes Todd Wells and Tad Elliot, both Durango natives, who spoke highly of the riding opportunities for the likes of someone such as Joey. With the urge to leave the non-stop travel of World Cup mechanic life, Joey made the move to southwest Colorado where he started Velorution Cycles. In a town with a bike shop nearly on every corner, he had a long road ahead to gain a foothold into a very competitive market. Through an evolutionary process of relying on his experience in the industry and his childhood passion for escaping on the bike, he began creating his niche: a shop focused on commuting, touring, and bikepacking. Beginning as the first Colorado dealer of Revelate Designs, his shop slowly found its focus in a small, albeit growing market. At about this time, Andrew came walking into his shop… Andrew Wracher, Bedrock Bags A California native, Andrew grew up in Bakersfield. As a kid he was drawn to the outdoors, spending much of his time backpacking and exploring the Sierras and beyond. Once again, riding bikes was a central focus to his childhood exploration. He learned about and eventually landed in Durango through his brother who attended and graduated from Fort Lewis College, a small liberal arts college located on a mesa overlooking downtown. Following in his brother’s footsteps, Andrew sought out a geology degree at the Fort. With the varied landscape of the Four Corners region at his doorstep, his sense of exploration and getting away from others continued to flourish. Upon graduation he put his geology degree to use for a short stint, before he made his way into the outdoor business industry as a manager of several outdoor retail shops around town. Having learned how to manage a team of employees in addition to the many nuances of retail sales, his creative side started to take hold as he ventured into the world of graphic design. Shortly thereafter, a new type of biking was being pioneered—guys like Eric Parsons of Revelate Designs and Joey were strapping camping equipment onto their frames to explore or race such epic trails as the Colorado or Arizona. As a wanderer at heart and with a vast landscape that just begged exploration nearby, it wasn’t long before Andrew was attaching equipment to his own bike. Already an experienced sewer due to repairing his own equipment over the years, he was soon designing and sewing his own bags. With the popularity of YouTube growing, Andrew posted a “how to” video of his new creations. His video went big with nearly 70,000 views. At about this time he made a visit to Joey… The Start of a Partnership During the late winter of 2012, Andrew walked into Velorution Cycles to meet Joey and show him the bags he had been making for himself. He was lured into what was a very small shop in the high rent district of main street Durango, because he had heard that Joey had recently started carrying bikepacking bags. From the first meeting, the two began forging a strong partnership. Joey had raced the Colorado Trail the summer before and had made his own bags. Additionally, the tinkerer side of him was constantly thinking about how to improve his designs in order to carry his equipment more efficiently. Upon seeing Andrew’s bags and their craftsmanship, he was immediately impressed. So much so that he told Andrew that he should start producing them for sale to others. In fact, he would be more than happy to add them to his growing wall of bikepacking equipment—right alongside the Revelate Designs bags. This meeting was the beginning of a collaboration to solve the problems of carrying equipment on a bike for off-road use. The focus was not on duplicating what others were now creating, but rather solving such problems as seat post bag sway. With Joey’s affliction for racing hard over long distances and Andrew’s more enthusiast approach to just getting out and away from others, they found complementing qualities in each other which could benefit a broad spectrum of users. Joey could test the bags at the extreme end of the sport—testing their design and ruggedness. In such conditions, design flaws quickly become apparent. From these tests, the Bedrock Bags “Railwing” came to fruition. Both men like aesthetic and highly functional equipment. The typical sway that most seat post bags exhibit was an irritation to both. There had to be a way to eliminate this issue. With team work and the ability to think outside of the box, a simple piece of aluminum was designed to give such bags increased rigidity and allow an easier bag attachment without having to continuously thread straps through the seat rails. The final test of the “Railwing” was on Joey’s race of the Arizona Trail in 2015. It passed with flying colors. Voila—problem solved! The Merger As small business owners in a very competitive environment and in an industry where the sales margins can be slim, each man found themselves working long hours for weeks on end without time off. They were each having just enough success that it was hard to keep up with customer demand, but yet the demand was not so large that they each could afford to hire additional help. They were both one man shows. Additionally, as bikepacking gained in popularity and the big players in the cycling world began to enter the market, there was a growing concern from both as how to survive as business owners and not get swallowed up by the competition. As they each thought about the future of their respective businesses and continued to bounce ideas off of each other, the concept of a merger began to take shape. Why couldn’t they combine their individual talents and passions to create a comprehensive bikepacking concept store? A one stop shop for all things bikepacking, where a consumer could purchase a high quality bike (Salsa and Advocate Cycles) and then meet with a designer to have their custom bags made to suit. Furthermore, the consumer could purchase any additional equipment they may need (alcohol stoves, sleeping pads, tents, bivy sacks, etc.), as well as get expert advice on where to go and how to carry it all.Envisioning the future, Joey and Andrew went all in and began looking for a new space that could house both of their businesses. Previously, Bedrock Bags was based out of Andrew’s home where industrial sewing machines and materials were spread throughout. Likewise, Velorution Cycles was squeezed into a small space on the highly trafficked main street of Durango. The overhead costs of such a space were expensive and despite a recent expansion remodel, there was no room for Andrew to set up shop. A new space had to be found. When things are meant to be, opportunities appear. In the fall of 2015, the ideal space became available that could meet their partnership needs. Plus, it was in a prime location—at one of Durango’s most popular trailheads. The build out began during the holidays and was completed in early January. Shortly thereafter, the new home of Velorution Cycles and Bedrock Bags was opened. Andrew’s home was at last free of sewing machines and he had a beautiful new space in which to work. Likewise, Joey had room to grow with plenty of storage, something he was in dire need of at the main street store. Their new merger was already paying off in the form of brick and mortar. More importantly though, their combined resources allowed them to hire additional staff. Harris Bucklin joined the crew in the fall in anticipation of the upcoming merger. This ace of a mechanic with years of shop experience is now responsible for sales and service. Additionally, the Bedrock Bags side of the house recently hired Tae Hillyer who is well-versed with industrial sewing machines and the precision it takes to sew a quality product. Furthermore, there are plans to hire an additional staff member to help with purchasing and product distribution in the coming months. With the additions of both Harris and Tae, both Joey and Andrew have been able to slow down their work weeks and get some time away from the business. Additionally, the new staff, who are being trained to work on both sides of the business, are helping to better meet the demands of their market. During the winter when the bicycle side of the business was slow, the entire staff could be found in the sewing room cranking out bags. Though there is still a backlog of orders to fill, the new merger has poised Bedrock Bags to better serve its customers.Beyond the new shared space, additional staff, business diversification and shared financial strength perhaps the most important outcome of this merger is an increase in collaboration on creating innovative and unprecedented designs. There is no stronger example of this creative process than Joey and Andrew’s recent “Best of Show” at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS). A couple of years ago, Joey contacted Todd Ingermanson of Blackcat Cycles. Joey wanted Todd to build him a 27.5+ bike that had additional braz-ons located in some not so typical places. He had a vision for some special bikepacking bags—let alone he placed his order before 27.5+ bikes became even an option in the cycling world. Once the bike was nearing its completion, Andrew and Joey began working on the creation of the complementing set of bike bags. As stated, both men like products with clean lines that are functional. Joey’s vision was to design a frame bag and top tube bag that attached via braz-ons versus the standard Velcro or straps. This was new territory that presented many design challenges. With each man having the ability to conceptualize the end product, the bags were created—all without the bike being in their hands. Not knowing how they would look or even fit to the frame, the bags (including seat post and handle bar bags) were shipped to California just in time for the show. Not surprisingly, the bags fit like a charm and were the perfect addition to an already amazingly crafted machine. The result was an outstanding feather in their cap from one of the most prestigious shows in the bicycle industry. The Future Time will tell how this unique partnership will fare. Ultimately, Joey and Andrew want to build a business that is sustainable for the long term providing its staff the ability to make a comfortable living. Both men have worked extremely hard to make this goal a reality. Their passion for cycling, bikepacking and getting outside is evident in every aspect of their new concept store. By seeking out and carrying high quality brands such as Salsa Cycles, Advocate, Arkel, Revelate Designs, Big Agnes, Black Diamond, Nemo, Vargo, MSR, and of course, Bedrock, they are poised to mitigate the effects of corporate growth in the industry. Their hope is that their small size makes them agile and better suited to adjusting to industry fluctuations and changes. With design and manufacturing all under the same roof, they can immediately solve problems or quickly produce a product without having to wait on the impetus of others who are on the other side of the globe. A design can be thought up, and within minutes or hours, it can be on a bike being tested on the trails out their front door. These guys are problems solvers who want to create the best gear possible for whatever adventure their customers embark on. If you have an idea and are not sure how to make it a reality, a phone call to these guys may be all that you need to make it happen. Regardless of the merger’s future though, there is little doubt that both men will continue to innovate and share their passion for exploring the world by bike. After all, we all know that the bicycle is the key to saving our planet. Join the Velorution, outfit yourself with some Bedrock Bags, and get out and ride!