"Offering handmade bike gear is my way of reaching into the bike world to signal to people that there is a place for them, even if they don't race bikes or weigh their gear or look like the people in the advertisements."
1. What is the goal/mission of Makeshifter?
Makeshifter is all about welcoming more people to ride their bikes more, especially those who are underrepresented in the bike industry--women, transgender people, all body types, people of color, and those who simply ride for fun and transportation. Offering handmade bike gear is my way of reaching into the bike world to signal to people that there is a place for them, even if they don't race bikes or weigh their gear or look like the people in the advertisements. The characteristics of my bags--natural materials, durability, bright colors, fun patterns, versatile designs--are meant to encourage people to ride more, ride slow, have fun, and look good doing it.
2. What is your backstory?
Growing up I spent a lot of time outdoors. My family lived on 20 acres of northern Michigan forest, and my parents valued self-sufficiency and making do with limited resources. More than anything this shaped who I am and what I'm doing today, and I'm especially grateful to my folks for raising me to rely on my own creative devices. Through college I did a lot of hiking, running and backpacking. As a broke art student seeking gear, I used a cheap home sewing machine to up-cycle clothing and outdoor gear I found at thrift stores. After college I became an art teacher and worked in public schools for about 5 years. I loved teaching and poured my heart into my work, but this work was exhausting and often heartbreaking. It was the Recession and I got laid off a lot. From this experience I learned the value of balancing work and life, and the need for self-care. I took a break from teaching in 2012 and spent a lot more time investing in my personal health and creativity.
I've always had a bike, always been fascinated by bikes, but the bike community so often felt cliquish and closed off to me. I rode a bike for basic transportation, never raced or rode long-distance, never really rode with other people until a few years ago. While I was teaching I volunteered at the bike co-op in Durham, NC where I lived at the time, which was all about bettering the community through bike education. The co-op was in a low-income neighborhood, and I saw firsthand the layers of positive impact of helping people keep their bikes maintained. Years later my partner, Kevin Purcell, taught me much of what I know about bikes today. He took me on my first bike overnight when we first started dating--to the coast along the Trask River Route. Shortly thereafter, in preparation for a longer trip, I made my first frame bag and a handlebar bag. I noticed there wasn't much in the way of bike bags that matched the style and function I was looking for, and I continued to experiment with making my own bags. I toured with my handmade bags down the Oregon coast in 2014 and on the Oregon Outback in 2015. My bags are distinctive with their bright colors and wool designs, and other riders frequently asked about them. I made custom bags for friends, and friends of friends, and Makeshifter sort of took off from there.
3. What is your favorite cycling route in the NW and why?
The Oregon Outback is easily my favorite NW cycling route. We rode on the official start date in May 2015, and I loved seeing the incredible diversity of bikes and riders on this tour--lycra to flannel, mountain bikes to cross bikes, loaded-up trailers to minimalist setups. I absolutely love that you could complete this route however the hell you want on literally whatever bike you want, and while the terrain was challenging, there's really no technical riding involved. The Outback felt very democratic in this way, very welcoming to anyone with a bike and some backcountry skills. I also love that the route brings you through a full range of Oregon landscapes--subalpine forest, high desert, grasslands, agricultural and grazing areas. The infrequent tiny towns you pass through feel like shangri-las, and the residents of rural Oregon are a trip to meet.
4. What is the go-to bike in your personal lineup and why?
Most of the time I ride my Surly Long-Haul Trucker. It's my daily commuter, touring bike, and fun-time get-around mobile. Again, such a democratic bike--it's super utilitarian and versatile, comfy and upright, you can find parts for it anywhere, its configurations are limitless, it's damn near indestructible, and rides with great stability on a variety of surfaces. In my bikes I always value comfort and practicality, and I pretty much can't do without generator lights, fenders, a basket, racks galore, and wide tires. Sometimes I think I'd like a lighter, faster bike for getting around town, but somehow I always end up carrying 20 pounds of whatever on my bike, and I'm so glad I happen to be on my LHT.
5. What does the next year look like for Makeshifter?
Things have just become a little crazy for me, since I've been running Makeshifter part-time out of my home for two years, and I just quit my day job and decided to work for myself full-time. I’m writing a business plan and chasing down resources so that I can expand Makeshifter to a production space and bring on an employee or two. The future space will offer workshops and host community bike events, and include a retail shop that will offer Makeshifter gear and all my favorite goofy bike stuff. Ideally, we'll open in the spring of 2018. This might be obvious, but I've no illusions about getting rich or outsourcing bag production overseas. My hope is that Makeshifter can impart its greatest positive impact on the bike world while maintaining its identity as a small and thoughtful company.