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Designed to endure

A conversation with Ross from Straight Cut Design
Designed to endure
6 months ago
Notes On Provision

Designed to endure

We started to notice Ross’ handmade luggage popping up on bikepacking rigs early last year; beautifully fitted, rugged looking and minimal. An early iteration of one of his roll top frame bags appeared on a set up leaving Manchester on the Second City Divide, on loan from the original owner. Not long after, a friend based just out of Edinburgh sent some snaps of their new Brother Cycles Big Bro, featuring an unmistakably Straight Cut top tube laced frame bag... So yeah, Ross has been on the ‘would like to get to know better’ list for a while.

With the Great Covid Slow Down (you’re welcome future history books) in full swing, we’re taking the chance to speak to other small businesses doing things we rate. Straight Cut is based out of Edinburgh, so where we have the Peak District close by and the Lakes or Snowdonia not far, he has the Pentlands, Scottish Borders or the Cairngorms - an ideal testing ground for bikepacking luggage that is Designed to Endure. We’ve been chatting to Ross, when he’s not glued to the sewing machine, about what makes him tick and why you should consider Straight Cut when you’re looking for bespoke bikepacking bags.

The afore mentioned early iteration roll top frame bag spotted leaving Manchester on the Second City Divide

Outdoor Provisions: We gather you moved into a new studio recently, how are you settling in?
Ross O’Reilly: I’ve been in my new studio on the first floor of the Biscuit Factory for around 9 months, I needed a bigger space as I have been growing quickly. I am loving being able to expand and grow Straight Cut.

...what biscuits did it make?
The building was built by Crawford’s Biscuits who offer a selection of biscuits like your custard creams, bourbon creams, ginger nuts.

Speaking of biscuits… Tunnocks wafer, or Tunnock teacake?
It would have to be the Tunnocks caramel log. (V. niche - Ed.)

What first drew you to bikepacking?
My friend, Andrew, took me on a very cold February bothy bikepacking trip a few years ago. I've been hooked to the pain, suffering, and freedom that came from bikepacking since.

We also love a bothy. Have you got a favourite?
You can’t be a Bothy for a warm place to sleep during a winter bikepacking trip. The Glas-allt-Shiel bothy on the Balmoral Estate by the shore of Loch Muick is a firm favourite so far. (Just looked it up, looks ridiculous - Ed.)

Some amazing routes in the Cairngorms, I have included the recent trip route we did on Komoot.

What else are you into? Doesn’t have to be cycling related.
Fashion, architecture, and the wider outdoor industry. I’m lucky enough to really love what I do. I spend a lot of my time researching the mechanics and process of sewing, design and materials. I love looking at things like clothes and bags, etc. and deconstructing them in my head, working out how every element comes together.

How long has Straight Cut been going?
I started in June 2018, so I’m approaching the two year mark in a blink of an eye. I can’t really believe it, it doesn’t feel that long.

What did you do before you started running your own business?
I moved to Edinburgh for University where I got a degree in Product Design. I got a job in Evans Cycles before going self-employed with Straight Cut.

"I love looking at things like clothes and bags, etc. and deconstructing them in my head, working out how every element comes together."

What made you start making sweet bikepacking bags?
The passing of my Dad, Peter was really the catalyst behind everything that has got me to where I am today. It gave me a new perspective on what I was doing and instigated the drive to make my ideas a reality. I bought a sewing machine and taught myself to sew, learning all the technical aspects as I went.

Respect for turning a difficult time into something life affirming. There's a tribute to your Dad in the Straight Cut logo, right?
I wanted the logo to clearly represent the brand while also having meaning behind it. I've been working on it for ages and only just released it. The final logo is a square with a line through it at 20 degrees; my Dad passed away on the 20th of July. The remaining silhouettes create two frame bag outlines.

That lace-up top tube attachment system is pretty recognisable as Straightcut, is that unique to you?
The lace-up attachment is something I often recommend. Aesthetics aside, it allows the weight of your bag and contents to be spread across the length of the top tube evenly. There are a number of other custom gear manufacturers that use a similar design for frame bags, not just me.

Full Straight Cut custom bags set up

So what makes Straight Cut different to other cottage manufacturers?
Each company, big or small, has its own style and approach to providing solutions to problems. At Straight Cut we are focused on high-quality functional gear. Being small scale allows us to create a rapport with our customers and design products that work for them.

You mention ‘us’ and ‘we’ when you talk about Straight Cut - is there a small team or literally just you?
I am a one man operation, for now at least. I would like to think I am organised and am able to learn from my mistakes. I find the work/downtime balance difficult because I love working; often I have to be persuaded to take a break.

OP have a low impact ethos, but energy bars are a very different thing to bikepacking luggage. What is your approach to minimising your impact?
#designedtoendure and built to last. We feel this is one of the best ways to minimise environmental impact. We are researching recycled fabrics as it is something we would like to offer if possible. We use recycled or recyclable materials for our promotional material and packaging.

Atlas Mountain Race spec, featuring split frame bag

Your bags have been used for some pretty serious trips, like the recent Atlas mountain race. Do you feel any pressure, knowing where and how they are going to be tested?
The background work I do into the materials, designs and testing of products means there is no pressure, only pleasure seeing where people take their gear, often paired with a bit of jealousy too.

"I have been asked to make a harness/holster for a dog to be attached to the handlebars while riding... needless to say, this didn’t go into production."

Tell us a bit about how you go about new product development.
Begins typically with feedback from friends and customers that ride/race often, or an existing shortfall I’ve found. Concept sketching is a massive part of the process. This allows me to make loads of iterations and changes before a single piece of fabric is cut. I have a solid couple of friends that I trust with testing prototypes and providing feedback.

Any odd custom requests so far?
I have been asked to make a harness/holster for a dog to be attached to the handlebars while riding... needless to say, this didn’t go into production.

What’s your go to bikepacking set-up?
Handlebar Harness with 13L drybag
(Sleeping bag, mat, pillow, spare change of clothes, tent poles, and puffa jacket)

Stem Bags x 2
(Cooking/coffee kit in one bag other full of snacks)

Top Tube Bag
(more food)

Half Custom Frame Bag
(Tool roll, spare tube, mini pump, food, and water filter)

Custom Saddlebag
(Tent, waterproof jacket, food, sandals)

This set-up doesn’t vary that much as my gear list is the same if I'm away for one night or two weeks.

Ross' set up is pretty well dialed in, as you'd expect

What’s always in your bikepacking bags?
Whisky, I always have my hip flask for my adventures. Nothing beats a long day on the bike followed by sitting beside a fire with a nip.

Favourite mid ride snack?
Right now it is tangerines. I go through phases of loving something then eating it till I’m sick of it. The Cherry Bakewell flavour of your bars I reckon will take over the tangerines. (Aw, shucks - Ed.)

You’re spoiled with good bikepacking on your doorstep but you’ve been further afield too - any destination recommendations?
I feel incredibly lucky to be based in Edinburgh and have the landscape and access rights that allow me to explore wherever I want in Scotland.

I have been bikepacking in Slovenia and Iceland both drastically different, but I would recommend both to everyone. Iceland was jaw-droppingly beautiful, vast, and very cold. We returned from that trip skint and windburnt. Slovenia (In the couple of images below - Ed.) is amazing; so green and lush with a network of amazing forest roads to explore.

The Great Divide route in the US is a goal of mine before I turn 30.

COVID19 has everything on hold, but have you any plans for the year? Can we tempt you with Second City Divide?
It’s an interesting situation for sure, turning life upside down. Always got plans to get away on the bike but finding time can be difficult, I haven’t mastered the art of juggling my time yet. Second City Divide has been on my radar for a while - looks like a great route.

Anything in the pipeline with Straight Cut we should keep an eye out for or is it top secret?
There's a few bubbling away in the background being put through development and testing - a couple of new storage solutions in particular. Nothing gets rushed.

Any accounts we should be following?
With the current lockdown situation and you fancy a quiz check out Goose’s Quizzes. He has started doing online quizzes that are a great way to break the boredom. If you're into neon signage you should hit up a friend of mine, Solas Neon, he does some awesome work.

Cheers Ross, see you for a ride soon.

For more on Straight Cut, head to straightcutdesign.com or follow @straightcutdesign

Bikepacking in the Cairngorms looks OK
The Majesty of Raptors
Riding north for winter