Even as the custom and production bag maker community has continued burgeoning over the past few years, one name has remained an innovator in the space: Rogue Panda. When John was in Flagstaff, Arizona, last October, he swung by the shop for a quick peek and spent some time documenting one bike that stood out among the rest!
We have a vibrant community of makers in the southwestern United States, particularly in Arizona, where the landscape shifts from tall, caramel-smelling groves of Ponderosa pines, to the Grand Canyon’s unique cross-sectional geology, and down into the scrubby expanses of the Sonoran Desert with its famous indicator species, the mighty Saguaro. The riding throughout the state is as abundant and diverse as the ecoregions it traverses—it’s easy to see how brands in Arizona have a lot to draw inspiration from, and Rogue Panda is no exception.
Our camper vehicle was getting some bodywork done last year, and when I went to pick it in October, I was flabbergasted to find that Rogue Panda’s facilities were right next door to the body shop! Flagstaff has limited “industrial” space for shops and makers, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but the happenstance felt a bit like two of my worlds colliding within a few feet of each other.
We looked inside this shop a few years ago, but since then Nick and his team have been working on its modus operandi by focusing on bags with new and innovative designs. Spencer laid out the latest product offerings from Rogue Panda last year: the brand’s impressive dropper-ready, injection-molded harness and dry bag that make up the Ripsey seat bag system, as well as the Bismarck Bottle Bucket and Happy Jack Snack Snack. Not to mention the number of Rogue Panda’s custom framebags that have found their way on bikes featured–and designed by–The Radavist. Our Monsoon Camo bags were so cool!
With Spencer’s look at the new Ripsey and stem bag options, chances are you’re up to speed on what the brand has been working on. However, I’ll just hint here that there’s more to come! Today, we’re going to take a quick peek inside their Flagstaff-based shop, but we’re not going to spend considerable time ogling the process or procedure. Instead, we’ll vibe out on this sweet Rogue Panda tall bike.
Rogue Panda’s catalog runs the gamut from 100% custom framebags—tailored like a bespoke suit for your beloved, Beautiful Bicycles—to production bags, ready to buy. Across this spectrum are a number of material offerings to fit your desired pace for touring, or racing in bikepacking events. And, if you want to get really crazy, Rogue Panda can print any design or pattern on your bags, matching your custom frame bag to your Rincon or Alamo top tube bags.
After I got the tour of the modest workspace from the people working that day—Kai, Lani, Stephanie, Delaney, thank you!–I set my sights on this wild tall bike that was propped up in the entryway to the Panda shop. Immediately enthralled any time I see a tall bike, I had to wheel it out and document it in the setting sun.
Tall bikes first appeared in punk, DIY circles as a methodology to encourage adaptive reuse of bikes that were beyond repair and encourage personalization. I’ve heard people say that they place riders in a more visible plane for car drivers, re-centering the pilot of the bike as more human, particularly in cities where traffic can be dense. Tall bikes give the rider a better field of view in congested urban areas as well.
Ultimately, the tall bike is iconic in bike co-op, fabrication, and DIY maker circles, which is why and how this tall bike came to exist within Rogue Panda, a DIY maker entity. Each tall bike is unique and custom, just like the bags Rogue Panda makes day-in and day-out for its customers.
It’s kind of brilliant the way that Nick uses it to display many of Rogue Panda’s bag offerings. While the owner wasn’t in the shop that afternoon, the team and I joked that it’d make for a perfect trade show “booth” display. All they’d need is a wall to lean it on and some bags for sale!
I’ve often said bicycles can be utilitarian art, and I’d say that label readily applies here. Not only in the various materials used and patterns found on this wildly fun bike, but also in the manner in which they fill out all the nooks and crannies to create a collage aesthetic on the tall frame.
Ultimately, it’s not about the tall bike, though, as this team of talented craftspeople makes the bags that bring it—and your bikes—to life, offering new uses and expanded functionality. I know we cover a lot of bag makers over here at The Radavist and that’s because we really value our maker community. When it comes to the Southwest, if you have the need for a custom framebag, give Rogue Panda a holler!