Fern Cycles Chacha Touring Bike with Gramm Bags

The two-man team behind Fern Cycles really impressed me. Florian Haeussler and Phillip Zwanzig craft frames in Berlin, designed to handle their specific style of riding. In 2012 they toured throughout Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia and Turkey on two Chacha prototype frames. Their time on the road enabled them to dial in their preferences as to how a touring bike should handle and allowed them to design a line of bikepacking bags to compliment their custom racks.

This bike was built with Sugino cranks, Shutterworks generator hub, Supernova lights and Shimano Sora derailleurs but the standout products are the bags!

Gramm Bags are made in Fern’s shop and have some clever detailing, as well as minimal branding. Personally, I thought this was the best touring rig at the Berliner Fahrradschau and had a lot of fun documenting this bike.

Fern Cycles Chacha Touring Bike with Gramm Bags

Nice meeting you guys!

  • PGH_small_adventures

    Game changer.

    • ABW

      Exactly what I was thinking. Even on a weekend outing with my “standard” Jandd panniers, despite my best efforts to stay organized, by the end of the trip, everything’s a mess and I have no idea where what I want is located.

  • theimaginaryempire

    I love everything from the neat cable routing of the lights, the minimalist rack-setup, the bags, the aesthetics but WHY oh WHY did they have to put RIM-BRAKES on that thing?!

    • Matt O’Donnell

      Touring, especially outside of the US, calls for equipment that is easy to work on and to find replacement parts for. I couldn’t find replacement pads for my SRAM disc brakes in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz. And I went to three different shops.

      • theimaginaryempire

        I totally agree that this can be a problem. However, the bike doesn’t

        strike me as the kind of heavy duty world-touring kind of bike that’ll

        “take you to hell and back”. If it was, I suppose I’d spec it with a

        Rohloff drive-train, 26-inch wheels and canti-brakes. This bike looks to

        me like some nice light-touring bike for the french countryside. And

        again, in that case I’d love to have disc-brake reliability. I would

        make sure though to bring at least two sets of replacement pads !

        • Matthew J

          Rim brakes are light,easy to use, can have thinner tubing than disc and a reliability record that is what – almost 70 years and going at this point. Bully for you, you like discs. This Fern gives up nothing going with rim.

          • kasual

            Amen. Discs are great, but people have toured for a long ass time with rim-brakes. They get the job done, they’re easy to service and their lighter.

          • btompkins0112

            Especially the Extralite v brakes on this bike….hella light

            EDIT: They looked like Extralite, but I looked again and they aren’t…. :(

      • Good thing you can easily carry spares since they’re the size/weight of a few quarters.

        • Matt O’Donnell

          Yes, because this is a perfect world where nobody ever forgets to pack anything. Or, how about if you’re a bike hobo and you’ve been on the rode of a year, eventually you’ll run through your spare pads. Add to that, disc rotors, left exposed to the elements every hour of every day, eventually start to rust.

          • Not with you on this one, O’Donnell. I have a set of spare pads in a plastic bag, tucked away in my seatbag. Takes up no space, always there when I need it. No “remembering” or “forgetting,” it lives with the bike. If I did forget, that’s my own fault.

            If you’re saying disk brakes don’t work for a touring bike because you can’t ride 4,000 miles without having to replace a part… well, I’d like a word with your bearings, tires, cassette, and chain. Everything wears out. It’s not tough to carry spares, and it’s not tough to source replacements. Santa Cruz probably didn’t have your brake pads because Sram’s old Avid Elixir brakes aren’t used anymore by almost anyone, because they’re awful.

            I use Avid BB7 mechanical brakes. The pads are very common. Most shops have had them, and they’re pretty easy to source otherwise.

            The winning bike on this year’s 3,000 mile Continental Divide race had two pairs of spare disc brake pads with him for each brake (8 individual pads total)… and didn’t need any of them by the end. They last a long time, and it’s so easy to carry spares. If I were doing a 10,000+ mile bicycle hobo tour in the third world, I would gladly carry the ~1oz spares, two for each brake, and I’m almost certain I’ll still have a pair of new ones at the end.

            And I’ll tell you what, I’d rather wear out a brake pad than risk wearing out a rim and needing to source an entire wheel.

          • Matt O’Donnell

            They were SRAM Force, not Elixir.
            But just agree to disagree, I guess. I think it’s smart to build up a touring bike with more readily accessible parts and think it’s easier to find a rim than a rotor, you prefer the stopping power of disc.

          • Domingo

            Third world? What Mississippi?

          • Not ready for that one yet… cue the banjo…

          • btompkins0112

            Hey hey now!

          • Prozhgy

            I would think that repairing a malfunctioning rim-brake on tour is simpler than fixing a disc brake. Mind you, the two spent thousands of kilometers on these bikes, i.e. a 2000km ride on gravel through Patagonia. It’s a clever combination of classical light touring and a sturdy bike. But I’m biased, I own one.

          • Noah Behnke

            All the bike hobos in my ‘hood don’t have any brakes at all… just big bags of empty aluminum cans.

          • Matt O’Donnell

            They provide a surprising amount of stopping power.

    • joshhh

      Why are rim brakes so taboo for the last 18 months? They’ve worked for so long, can’t they just be allowed if people prefer them? Plz????!!!

    • ja.re.

      why not, plus more comfortable forkblades possible. that was what they answered when i asked them.

  • stringa

    So dialed! Love the custom hardware on the saddle.

  • Brian Sims

    That is really sweet! Lots of smart minimal design elements.

    I’m really into the front bag/rack combo. It would be interesting to see a slightly different version of the front rack that works with mid-fork / drop out brazons that are more standard than the brazon locations on this fork. This could marry up a light weight rack with bags that are kind of Anything Cage style bags, with a rack that is more compact than a Tubu Duo rack.

  • Brian Richard Walbergh

    Look at that cute little rear triangle bag!

  • Matt O’Donnell

    This. This is so good. Really smart looking packing, really spread out across the bike. Love it.

  • Guy

    Florian and Phillip, the bag/rack design on this is exceptional — minimal and elegant. Kudos.

    I’m curious where you sourced the sweet all black Sugino crankset?

    • Richard Carle

      Try Radplan Delta, they ususally have them in stock and offer custom gearing along with affordable bottom brackets.

  • CTDSAC

    Does the non drive side rear bag cover the tail light?

    • It’s hard to tell in the photos, but the light makes the whole rear of the bike glow since it bounces off the bags…

  • I really like this setup!

  • eviction party

    Wow. That’s a lot of bags.

  • Nicholas Tingey

    Thinking about picking up a Brooks C13. Anyone have horror stories of pairing it with a seat pack similar to this setup?

    • joshhh

      I think that is probably not a C13. The rails look metal af.

      • Nicholas Tingey

        You’re right, good call!

    • Matt O’Donnell

      yeah, my guess is a C15

      • Charles Southgate

        wide enuf to be a 17

    • I have a C15 which is great but it eats shorts for lunch. The material is pretty abrasive. Also, the rubber base squeaks a lot unless it’s wet. My three attempts at contacting Brooks for some sort of solution have gone unanswered. Beyond that, it’s a pretty great saddle.

      • Evan Homan

        Is any of the hardware loose? Might be able to separate the rubber from the steel with some wax paper or something. Rubber and metal will make noise if it is not secure or lubricated. Also, contact Highway 2, they are the warranty reps for brooks in USA. Not that this would be warranty, but they might have some tips on how to fix the issue.

  • White Mike

    Wat are those homeless dudes doing holding that bike? :-)

  • Now all you need to do is remember which of your 9 bags has the TP in it…

  • Peperbek

    Wow, what a nice design of both bike and bags! Only thing is it has no tapered steerer, oversized bb, disc brakes, 27,5+ tires, through axles. Man, how did these guys actually survive that trip :p

    • Slc29er

      So true. People are going to criticize something no matter what you do. Most people are going to find some fault even with a bike they would have built themselves from scratch. I’d have gone with discs too, but my best friend swears by his cantis. This is a damn well thought out bike and deserves serious credit and admiration.

  • recurrecur

    This is just amazing. There are some rough edges here and there, but props for a whole mess of original thinking.

  • stefanrohner

    beautiful bike, Kristin does great work! here a bit too much overdone bike packing show.

  • Charlie D

    Beautiful but something is not right. I can’t decide if it’s too much capacity or not enough. If I am CC touring it’s too much and if I am “touring” it’s not enough. Also, why no fenders? Also, E-Tap and a dedicated spare battery pack. Also a right proper handlebar bag. Also that little bento bag up top is definitely got the weed in it. Nice work boys.

    • Tim Guarente

      It’s got more capacity – you can run a full rack on the back for bigger panniers, There are rack and fender eyelets on the fork too. eTap will be sweet for super fancy touring, especially if you can rig up an on-bike charging cradle for that spare battery (Which probably won’t even be needed because of how long shifting batteries tend to last).

      • Charlie D

        True, this bike can certainly be configured differently than it is. As is it seems more like a project bike. I’m open to new ways of thinking tho. Cool stuff.

    • Matthew J

      Unless you are bringing dress clothes on tour to visit museums, old churches and the like, that bike has more than enough capacity for an extended self-contained tour. People have through hiked the PCT with a lot less luggage capacity.

      • Charlie D

        I’m not saying it’s not a reasonably way to go but I still think it’s less than it appears. If I am camping for 2-3 weeks it’s not enough and little ability to add on to with no rack decks etc. I’m not saying I’m right, just sayin’ Those bags are not large. For a mountain bike packing trip for a few days, sure. I realize this bike rides nice with all the weight distributed like it is but I could care less.

  • my favorite part of this bike is the fork, that crown is really nicely done and i love the minimal racks, no more than necessary. fine work gentlemen.

    • Western Rapid

      Yeah, that fork crown is really nicely done – minimal and neat, but with a classic touch.

  • Daniel Lemke

    That little triangle bag in the back is a clever use of space.

  • skunk ape

    I might be needing some of those fork bags. Great stuff.

  • Paul

    so what bottles are those?

    • Alexander Hahn

      Tacx Shiva

  • sturtlovinggood

    I’d probably cram these bags full of paper and keep them on when I’m cruising around town so people would think I’m about to go on some sikk bikepacking trip but nah i’m just going to buy more kale

  • Froste

    I really like this. It is creative. I’m not sure this is the way I would go if I was carrying this much gear but I really appreciate the smart design of racks and bags.

  • The world needs more single-bolt stems. One day when I get a custom road bike it will have a custom stem that looks just like the one on this bike.

  • Arne Göbbels

    Happy that you wrote about these guys. Their bikes are amazing!

  • maldoror meeks

    So once you finally finishing velcro’ing all those bags to the bike I guess the plan is to avoid taking them off again while on tour? No thanks – I’ll keep my racks.

  • Christopher Jensen

    i always question the placement of static lighting off to the side of the wheel. you introduce a permanent shadow because of the actual wheel and tire. my dyno lights are always center and/or front. tougher to do when using a handlebar bag, but i’ve never had issues with just mounting it on my handlebars.

  • Luke Doney

    I love the drivetrain! costs less than a dura ace shifter and works just great!!

  • Gavin Hyde

    What tires are those?

    • sehrsehr

      Compass.

  • Zac

    Want. Black Sugino.