Rad Works: Sewing Bags in Southeast Idaho

During an overnighter with the crew at Oregon Trail Bikes in Pocatello, Idaho, Daniel Zaid and Karla Robles cross paths with Ben of Rad Works. Ben got started making hand-sewn goods for climbing, but has since expanded his lineup to include a smattering of bike bags. During their time in Idaho, Karla even had Ben sew a custom full-frame bag for her Esker Hayduke—read on for more info on Pocatello’s resident bag-maker and for a closer look at his handiwork! 

Last summer, I attended an overnight bike trip put together by local cyclists in Pocatello, Idaho. The folks at Oregon Trail Bikes, whose story we documented here before, were part of the organizing team and their shop served as the hub for the attendees to gather at and depart from. The destination was a campground in the Mink Creek Recreation Area just south of the city. I was happily surprised by the number of families who had their younger ones along for the trip, from kids riding their own bikes—one being pulled with a strap but still riding—to toddlers inside a trailer.

Even though we were well into summer, our sunny day suddenly turned into a hail storm which added some adrenaline to an otherwise chill ride. Some of us had rain jackets, some didn’t. Luckily, as suddenly as it started, it stopped. We made it to the campground and a little later our group grew by a few more—another family!

It was Ben and his daughter, who were on an e-cargo bike with dad spinning the pedals and daughter kicking it on a chair on the back, and I was glad to notice that they looked perfectly dry. It turns out that they were at a gas station and about to leave when the storm started so they just waited it out.

As the evening went by each of us took turns sharing our background with the others. Ben said that, among other things, he was a climbing gear and bike bag maker. I later asked him for his contact as my partner, Karla, was looking for a custom frame bag for her Esker Hayduke. We took Karla’s bike in for service at Oregon Trail Bikes, which Ben used as an opportunity to go take measurements.

He then reached out to talk about mounting options, pockets, and different shades of purple. When the bag was ready, we asked Ben if he had time for a chat and some photos of his project.

Ben’s history with sewing goes back to when he was a kid: seeing his mom at the sewing machine raised curiosity and he started learning from her. He later attended Idaho State University to study Outdoor Education. He got his start making bags like most makers, out of necessity, when he needed something to haul his climbing rope around in. So he went to the ISU’s craft shop and used the sewing machine there to craft his first bag, and continued doing more climbing gear after.

With a growing interest in sewing and a rising tally of friends asking him to make them bags, Ben decided to officially open Rad Works a year ago. Now, all the sewing operations happen at Ben’s family’s house, where several sewing machines and rolls of fabric have moved into the basement. On a fortuitous note, Ben has good reasons to believe that one of the machines was previously owned by the folks at Porcelain Rocket, based on who he got it from and the remains of a sticker with the company’s recognizable logo.

Ben named his bag project after the 1986 film Rad, which follows the adventures of a BMX rider, but also for its double meaning in the German language where “Rad” is the short for “Fahrrad,” or “bicycle” in English. To live up to the name, Ben constantly gets a little rad with the fabric colors he uses and I personally like the outcome a lot.

Karla’s frame bag uses a mix of techniques for its mounting points. Because of the small size of the frame, there are no bolts on the seat tube so a strap keeps that side in place, while the bottom makes use of the mounting bolts for a clean down tube, allowing Karla to keep the frame sponsor happy when the bike gets photographed. The top is held by a cord because Karla prefers that instead of velcro since it shows more the color of the frame; it takes longer for the bag to be installed and removed but unlike me, she doesn’t ever take her frame bags off.

Rad Works’ offerings can already be seen among the community in Pocatello. I feel like there’s something special about having someone you can talk to face-to-face when it comes to bags for your bike, which I sadly don’t have in my hometown in Sonora but I’ve certainly done my best to meet makers in person when I have the chance. If you live in the region, Rad Works is an excellent option to get your stuff made!