We recently caught up with Martina Brimmer, our genius bud behind Swift Industries, a bicycle bag company based in Seattle, WA. And they’re not just about making mighty fine bags. They’re about integrating a love of adventure into every stitch, fine-combing fabrics for the most durable they can find, and dreaming up new ways to have fun on two wheels. As the team at Swift says, “We love bicycles, chase adventure, and have deep admiration for high quality craftsmanship.”
We were eager to hear about their latest brainchild, the Sonora Pannier…as well as biking in the Montana wilderness, cycling culture, biking liberation, the Swift design process, and rad upcoming events.
What’s new these days with you and with Swift Industries?
I just returned from the first-ever WTF Bikexplorer’s Summit, in Whitefish Montana. The event was a weekend of learning, sharing and connecting with other trans, femme and female-identified bicycle adventurers and it was a wildly impactful experience for me. Our collective experience and skillsets as adventurers was astounding, and I met so many people who blew me out of the water. The classes, panels, and discussions were timely, challenging and painful as we explored themes of identity, discrimination and validation all together.
From there I hopped on my bicycle and pedaled south on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route for eight days, which gave me time to ruminate on the summit experience in the peace of Montana’s wilderness.
How has cycling culture changed since you started Swift?
Cycling culture has shifted in all sorts of ways since we started Swift ten years ago!
What do you think is holding most people back from biking regularly or bike commuting?
I hear stories from people that they don’t feel safe riding with traffic, so driver awareness is key and urban bicycle infrastructure as well. There’s also a perception that cars are less of a hassle than riding bicycles, but my experience has been that in the city I feel liberated being on a bicycle. It’s always faster than being in rush hour traffic, I don’t have to look for or pay for street parking, and I’m out in the fresh air. With the right bags (wink wink) I can haul my groceries, work necessities, and daily essentials on my bicycle–sure, it’s a little heavy, but I feel super strong and really capable getting it done by bicycle.
What were your goals with the Sonora Pannier? Who is it for?
The Sonora, just like every Swift Industries design, is meant for anyone arriving by bicycle. Whether that’s to the office, or wrapping up a two month bike trip in _____________________ (insert dream destination here). I’m smitten by design that strips down features to their essential purpose, and the Sonora follows that inclination with discrete but critical pockets, the elimination of needless straps, and a focus on durable materials that last adventure after adventure. Less is more.
What inspired the Horizon Line Collection?
The fabric led the way, the Horizon Line was inspired by the development of a specific material called XPac Canvas. It was as if we found the very textile that embodies the character of Swift Industries in its fusion of old-school aesthetics (canvas) with technical characteristics (the technical XPac laminate). Putting the XPac Canvas to use across our product line has been a stellar celebration of our ten year anniversary.
What is your design process?
As a product designer, my inquiry is rooted in the tension between form and function, so my ideas are born out of the gap between usefulness and the style of a product. Sometimes it’s that a bag has all of the perfect features for it’s purpose, but leaves me wanting aesthetically, or vice versa.
I start with written lists and sketches, and then move directly into 3D modeling. That’s just a fancy way to say tearing up paper grocery bags and doing origami or fiddling with fabrics and materials until the foundation of a design starts toward resolution. The next step is patterning, which moves through an extensive cycle of refinements–some have to do with materials, some have to do with shape, and others are linked to features.
The final step is testing, which is clearly the very best part! Our prototypes hit the road, some of them for months and months, to see how they stand up to our goals.
Do you have advice and gear recommendations you might give someone just starting out in cycling?
Attaching panniers, or a basket bag to your bicycle, instead of riding with a heavy backpack, is really liberating! The best decision I ever made when it came to gear and cycling was to let my bicycle do the heavy-lifting.
Swift is hosting so many cool events this year–what are you most jazzed about?
Eeeeek! That is super hard to answer. Out of the kajillion social events, classes and workshops Swift Industries has up our sleeves, I’m crazy-excited to have the artist Tessa Hulls presenting at Stoked Spoke, our annual adventure series, in January. Tessa has been nose-deep in research about trans, femme, and female bicycle explores over the course of North American history. Her findings weave the history of the bicycle along a timelines of sexism and racism in this country, and the general badassery of womxn who used the bicycle as a tool for bucking the systems that held them down. She presented A History of WTF’s in Adventure Travel at the WTF Bikexplorer’s Summit, and her illustrated journey was mesmerizing. We’re so excited to bring it to Seattle!