Inside Line Equipment - Behind the Scenes
There is an interesting community in the cycling world that shuns the huge, highstreet market for bags. Rather than making bags in large production runs, inevitably at a compromise to longevity, there is a real push to support the guy making bags by hand, out of the most technically advanced materials. With the ability to nimbly adapt and update styles and introduce new technologies with ease, these small firms have caused quite an impression. The ‘designed for purpose’ feel and a confidence that the bag you ride is also worn by the guy who made it provides an honesty, that has long gone from mainstream fashion markets. This mantra is still proudly on display with many cycle-specific brands, such as Inside Line Equipment, who we spoke to recently.
Speaking to Eric, the founder of Inside Line Equipment, this close relationship between product and ride is obvious. “It’s integral. I cycle for transportation and fun” - a response that rings true with all of the team here at Always Riding.
Growing up in the bike friendly Bay Area, Eric took to life on two wheels from an early age. “I started riding when I was three without training wheels” he tells us, “I continued into BMX and when my parents were at Church one Sunday morning, I hauled all the materials for a 22" mini-ramp into the backyard and started building.” By the age of 16, local road races and criteriums became part of a normal week, “I was training before school and on weekends” - an approach to work that has not gone amiss in starting ILE. However, with less training on the cards an early start is now more likely to involve catching the European races on TV, rather than working out some power output threshold.
“I really enjoy hearing the race reports from friends that are still racing domestically, and I love following guys that I used to race with, like Andrew Talanksy. I wake up crazy early to check out the Euro feeds of the classics and the Tour.”
Inside Line Equipment is still based in California, just down the street from the University of Berkeley - a location that works perfectly for Eric and the business. “My favourite thing about running a small business is the people I meet daily” Eric says with some certainty. “ILE takes up a lot of my life, I work every day … but the people in my life are really understanding and supportive.” One of the best things about cycling is that it does seem to be an industry characterised by the people, not the profit.
“Cal brings in a fascinating and diverse group of customers, as does the California cycling scene, and those who have moved to the Bay Area in order to realise their tech or artistic dreams or immerse themselves in the outdoor adventure surf, skate, and snow scenes.”
This sense of community is important to small businesses, even Eric’s two year old Viszla puppy Kira is well known among the neighbourhood and comes to the shop every day, “she’s a great dog who loves backpacking and mountain biking with me. She gets along well with all of the people who work in and around my neighbourhood.”
Despite the commitments of running a small business Eric still gets out on the bike every day and gave us a rundown of some places not to be missed when doing the San Francisco Bay Area on two wheels. With good weather and impressive scenery there’s something for any ride style.
“In the East Bay we have Mt. Diablo where you climb to 3800 feet. Marin County, the birthplace of mountain biking, is just a bridge away and all the streets are as bike friendly as it gets. Guys do time trial practice in SF at Golden Gate Park Polo Fields. If you're visiting SF, you can ride along the water on the Embarcadero, across the Golden Gate Bridge, to the North Bay. The scenery is absolutely beautiful, city, ocean and landscape. You can get 100 miles in on the weekend and run across hundreds of cyclist out on a Saturday morning.”
So what's next for ILE? Well, the new Apex was nominated for a Carryology award on one of the top bag blogs out there, and whilst Inside Line will stick to their commitment to tech, it is people that influence Eric most. The photo bags were born out of friends asking for something between carry-on luggage and a full camera pack whilst there are plenty of collaborative products in the pipeline. At the end of a long day in the workshop Eric tells us his greatest satisfaction comes from seeing his bags being used, knowing that he has signed them off (look out for the EF signature on the tag) there is simply no better way than checking everything yourself.
“It’s a great feeling to pedal next to a cyclist and see a rack bag or backpack I’ve designed and sewn.”