A Scientific Approach to Designing a
Duffel For Outdoor Sports Athletes
Isaac Howe B.S. Biochemistry, Colin Jaskiewicz B.S Mechanical Engineering
Asa do’er of many different types of bikes and outdoor sports, one persistent challenge I’ve faced is how to keep the stink from the day's dirty kit off of anything clean that's still left in my bag. At times it's been seriously difficult, especially during long crit series where I am on the road for weeks, leaping around from one hotel to the next. Obviously a regular old bag or a plastic tub works perfectly when coming home from a weeknight ride or a session in the climbing gym, but for trips where the pace of your adventure leaves no time or ability to do laundry, more often than not, everything in the bag gets stinky pretty quick.
Making a duffel has been on our list for several years, but because of the comparative high costs of design and manufacturing, we opted to wait until rounding out our accessory lineup before taking it on.
By working closely with our ambassador team and select customers, we designed a product that we think resolves our major frustrations with smell and lack of organization, while also including all the must-have features people want to have in a multi use cycling duffel bag.
Withthe cost of travel seemingly always on the rise, checking another bag in addition to your bike can be a significant expense worth trying to avoid. Over the years I’ve found that stuffing my bike case with all my gear, up to 49 lbs, then bringing the remainder in my carry-on, gave me enough storage for any length of trip while helping me avoid a second check bag fee, which can be $60 each way. The problem with this single bag method is lack of adequate organization. I often needed to separate wet sweaty stinky clothes from clean, my helmet from any other hard objects in my bag, and or any parts like my pedals and shoes (always carry these on) from clean clothes.
The bags I’d used lacked adequate protection for expensive helmets, and the pockets rarely were the size I needed them to be. Most of all, the old technique of stuffing anything wet and dirty in a plastic bag just kept everything sealed, and in the summer that would quickly lead anything sweat covered to develop a stench that could never be washed out.
I’ve always preferred my carryon to be a duffel because backpacks usually require everything to be removed to find anything, and roller bags are only convenient while strolling through the airport. That being said, duffels haven’t been perfect either. Shoulder straps can be painful and awkward, imbalanced, and constantly allowing the bag to slide down and in the way. Duffels also rarely have storage pockets that are the ideal size for all the different ways I use the bag. I’ve also noticed that well made brand name duffels often lack some useful design features that make traveling with cycling gear more difficult, and unfortunately, other cycling brand’s duffels seem like afterthought products that don’t work as advertised and have poor construction that rarely justify the products price tag.
As Colin and I’ve grown this business, with the memory of years of imperfect improvised packing solutions burned into our memories, we’ve known that tackling this challenge was important. The problem we faced now was that since those years, we’ve added a number of additional sports to the list, and this bag needed not only to be perfect for cycling but also ideal for every other sport that each season brings.
Aftera few dozen interviews and a couple hundred people surveyed, we ended up with a short list of well respected existing products that people currently used, and a bunch of insights, some of which are itemized below.
What we found is that the number of thoughtful product features is the most important aspect of consideration when purchasing a duffel bag. People want cycling specific features but most people do more than one sport and are willing to spend more if the bag works well for the other things that they do. People overwhelmingly preferred a carryon sized bag that was made with durable, and to a lesser extent, eco-conscience materials. Lastly, we also found that people felt comfortable spending between $150-$200 in order to get a product that checked off all their needs.
Must Have Features (top 5 ordered by priority)
1. Lots of Pockets
2. Multiple Compartments
3. Backpack Straps
4. Shoe / Helmet / Wet Gear compartment
5. Durable materials
Carry-on (<40 liters): 63.9%
Small Checked Bag (40-60L): 22.2%
General Use - 83%
Road Cycling - 67%
Racing - 47%
Camping - 35%
MTB Biking - 39%
Day to Day Use - 28%
Other Sports - 22%
Current Favorite Duffel (ordered by priority)
North Face Base camp Duffel
Patagonia Black Hole
Topo Design Mountain Duffel
Asit seems to be the case with many products we develop, Colin and my initial ideas couldn't have been more different from one anothers. We agreed fundamentally on what we were trying to build and why we were trying to build it, but that's about all our initial design concepts shared in common.
We took to analyzing each feature the bag needed to have, this made it easier to agree on the best existing and new ways to incorporate the features that people asked for. One by one we worked through each component of the bag. What started as a rectangular paperboard box, began to get physically pinned with pictures of the best ways to add specific features, slowly the duffel started to take shape. Next we worked to find ways to integrate and blend the features in a stylish way that was on brand, considerate of manufacturing efficiency, and optimized for material use.
After months of research, several paper models, and 7 fabric versions, we landed on a design.
TheJanus Duffel 50. A single bag that is perfect for everyday use and long trips alike. It is designed with a 3rd point strap that anchors the bag firmly to your back, making it both easier to carry while riding your bike, and also easier to sneak on to frontier flights as a personal item! Its dimensions are optimized to fit perfectly under an airplane seat, while still being large enough that you can pack everything you need for any length of trip.
We added side pockets large enough for most helmets, shoes, or a few days of dirty clothes. Each pocket also has oversized zippers on the bottom that when opened reveal large breathable mesh vents that help aerate and dry any nastiness, while keeping it separated from anything clean in the main compartment by a multilayered vapor barrier.
With multisport use in mind and a wide range of peoples preferred packing styles, a modular internal organization was essential. We divided the main compartments into 3rds, making two sizes of removable storage bags that are offered in two types of materials. The bag by itself comes with 6 storage areas, some closed and some not, but the addition of these removal storage bags can give a user up to 9 separate compartments to divide all their gear.
Below is a detailed summary of features
16" x 12" x ~14"
Side pockets ~5" x 12" x ~14"
Laptop Sleeve- 16" x 11"
Small Items - 16” x 6”
4 - 7”x 2” handles (easily slide over roller bag handle)
- Removable padded 3 point strap
- Adjustable to be worn on either shoulder
- 3rd point secures bag to stay in place and out of the way while riding or walking
- Fabric - 200 Denier and 450 Denier Challenge branded recycled Polyester
- Zipper - Oversized durable #10 Zipper that will never get snagged
- Liner - 1/16th dense closed cell foam for impact protection of delicate items
- Modular internal storage compartments
- 2x Ventilated side pockets large enough to hold a helmet or shoes
TheJanus Duffel 50 is exactly what you want it to be, and it is not too much of one thing. It’s a perfect bag to suit your needs as a cyclist and offers versatile features that will leave you bringing it along for more adventures than just those on your bike. We named it the Janus 50 (even though it's less than 50L) because of the asymmetrical mirrored faces of the roman god Janus, but it’s also fitting that Janus was known as the god of all beginnings. This bag is the start of something new at Orucase. Customers have trusted us for years to carry and protect their bikes with our innovative bicycle cases, but now with the introduction of the Janus 50, we’re hoping that our design and attention to detail will bring a similar value to customers and confidence in knowing that we thought everything through so that you don’t have to.