Behind the scenes with Two Wheel Gear
Behind every brand is a story.
For Two Wheel Gear, it began in the corporate locker room where gear was the topic of conversation. We sat down with Two Wheel Gear President Reid Hemsing to learn more about the conversations that shaped the evolution of the product.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career path?
I grew up in a family business in the prairies. In grade 7, I was ‘enlisted’ to work in the family shop where we would build a drilling rig every year and fix various parts as they would inevitably break down. By high school I was a shop welder and learned to put things together with my hands. In university I studied business and entrepreneurship and started a landscape and irrigation business in Calgary. I ended up going back to school for a year and helped lead a variety of studious micro business initiatives with the group SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise). Then I went to work in the corporate sector for 4 years at TransCanada Pipelines and landed the role of Commercial Account manager. It was during this time that I really became a serious bike commuter and worked on Two Wheel Gear in the evenings and weekends as my dedicated passion project.
How long have you been working on Two Wheel Gear?
It started for me in 2010. I would build the bags in my basement, sell them on our online store and ship them one by one at the post office on my evenings and weekends. For local orders, I would deliver them on my lunch hour by bike. I spent the next few years running the small online shop and started talking seriously to our niche set of early adopters on the changes they wanted to see from our home grown bike suit bag. Then I started designing it. I worked with a third party design firm out of Toronto and ripped apart the bag drawing and measuring new patterns with a sharpie. I am not a trained designer so this was really difficult at first. I left my corporate job in early 2014, moved to Vancouver and launched Two Wheel Gear full time inspired to get our Classic 2.0 out to the masses. Still working on that part.
What inspired your vision for the video?
When I was working in the big corporate tower in downtown Calgary, I would bike to work and I would often have guys approach me fresh out of the shower. I would be changing and pulling my clothes out of the Classic 2.0 Garment Pannier bag. They would always ask me “what is that thing?” while drying off with a towel. I would basically be forced to pitch my product to half naked (or fully naked) colleagues. The salesmen in me would diligently show off all the bag’s features. Earlier this year I was rehashing my experiences to the group at Noravera and it lead to a discussion about the culture and daily rituals in the corporate locker room. You see a lot of the same characters on a daily basis depending on the time you get to work. From that conversation, we devised the idea to setup some short comedy sketches in the locker room based on those experiences. Basically the video is humorous version of me giving product demos and chatting about bike gear to the other guys in the locker room.
Who are the main characters?
Haha…I guess the main character Dick is loosely based on me…Johnson is kind of a combination of different corporate personalities I encountered in the locker room over the years. He is super curious, not quite sure what to think about it at first but is generally impressed.
What did you learn from these conversations?
I actually learned a lot. It was pretty much the deepest version of consumer testing a guy could invest in. I also learned a lot about how commuters carried their gear. I watched what people were using and how they packed. I also listened to a lot of the justifications people had for carrying things the way they did. That helped me understand the barriers and questions I would need to overcome if I ever wanted to make my product widely accepted.
One of the biggest things was the feedback on the old school mounting system we used back then. We used an old D-Ring and Velcro strap system we came up with ourselves. Racks have changed over the years and a lot of newer racks don’t have a lower “post” to hook the D-Ring on to strap the bag down. A lot of guys said it was cool but it wouldn’t work on their bike / bike rack. So I recognized this needed to change with the 2.0 and I re-engineered the mounting system with German parts that are much more adjustable and universal.
What changes have you made over the years to the product line?
A lot of small things and some really big changes. One of the best compliments I hear from our old school customers is that the Classic 2.0 kept all the best things from the original Classic and completely evolved the rest. The new mounting system was huge, configuring new pocket orientations, figuring out how and where to design the padded laptop pocket, adding multiple new organization pockets to the interior, completely re-sourcing the materials to a more environmentally friendly and durable fabric option, re-designing the custom reflective pattern, designing the invertible waterproof rain cover, improving the top hanger/handle, making it so the bag clipped together on both sides for off bike travel, providing hidden internal access to replace/change the mounting hardware…the product has evolved so much. Most of it thanks to passionate suggestions from our early customers. I continue to keep an open design document updating with new suggestions from customers all the time.
Which products were featured in this video?
This video features the flagship product that started the company, the black Classic 2.0 Garment Pannier. We also make it in a graphite grey colour and an executive, military grade black waxed canvas.
Where do you see the Bike to Work industry going?
Up. More people are seeing the benefits of a solid commuter bike and reaping the benefits. It really transforms the day and I think the small amount of time and sweat really puts you in a way better mindset. More companies are recognizing the benefits of adding programs to their health and wellness plans. Better facilities for storing bikes and showering at workplaces are being integrated in the private and public sector. Local policies are making things like this mandatory for new commercial builds. I think only more people will catch on and its our job to help encourage that.
Which stores is Two Wheel Gear merchandised?
Two Wheel Gear is at heart an online store. We started by selling direct to customers from our website and are still super proud of our direct lines of communication there. We are very grateful to have a good support base of local shops in Vancouver and were lucky to start working with Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) stores in the spring of 2015. Our products are available in a good chunk of MEC stores across Canada where bike commuting is prevalent.
What’s next for Two Wheel Gear?
We always have new initiatives on the go. We are working on some new exciting partnerships in the corporate bike to work space. We have partnered with Momentum Magazine’s e-bike lending library which allows you to try out various e-bike models for two weeks at a time. We’ve also run some cool pilot programs with cycling centers like the Vancouver General Hospital. We have a new product in the works, bag collaborations with a NYC bike company and some pretty hilarious new marketing episodes coming out in the New Year.
Learn more about Two Wheel Gear HERE