I recently had a great chat with Ian from London Broil bag shop, a completely independent bag maker and designer from Cheltenham England. what an amazing life this guy has lived so far! here’s a few questions i ran by him and a few pictures of some of the stuff he’s made. links to London Broil website is below as well as a link to his Instagram for more pictures…
What’s your background, how did you get into making bespoke bags and products?
I grew up in Cheltenham riding mountain bikes and BMX through the 90’s. I feel like bags have always been a part of my bike life, saddle bags and frame triangles on my early 90’s mountain bikes, backpacks full of heavy tools to bash my mid-school bmx back into working order, bike cases small enough to sneak my bike on a flight as a massage table, messenger bags for making money and hydration packs for big mountain all day adventures. I worked in Bike shops until the mid 00’s when I took a leap of faith into working as a bike courier, at first in London and later in Sydney, and San Francisco. I was between jobs in SF when a friend offered me the opportunity to come and work for his small messenger bag company called Freight baggage in North Beach. It was pretty awesome, there were four of us working in a four by five meter shop Half way up Vallejo street on telegraph hill. I started out doing basic jobs, sweeping up, cutting fabric, and emptying the bins. With great patience Travis taught me to sew, using the powerful industrial machines was like learning to drive in a F1 race car! Every bike messenger has a design in their head for the ultimate work bag, Travis had basically given me the tools to bring them to reality. I started working on designs and once i had a part time messenger job, testing them out. It was kind of like learning to build good wheels- put something together and then take it out and see if you can break it. I bought my first machine from freight and have had a sewing workshop ever since. In 2010 I scored a job working for Santa Cruz Bicycles, for a kid from the Cotswolds this was the fruition of a childhood dream so I leapt at the opportunity. I was with SCB until 2018 and the whole time I had my sewing shop on the side. I spent most of my spare time (when I wasn’t riding) working on patterns for bags to ride bikes with; if you go to the Santa Cruz factory you will see a fair number of their staff rocking my bags and hip packs. I was lucky to have time without commercial demands to really develop my skills and designs. In 2018 we decided to move home (for me) so I could work on my bags and my partner Tiffany could continue her Studies, so here we are!
Why, given the amount of pre made bike bags and luggage out there did you design and manufacture your own?
To be honest I struggled with this for a long time, I don’t want to make unnecessary products, especially when most of the fabrics are made from some form of plastic. Up until this point I have been content making products for myself and my friends and by request. Honestly I am not looking to become a “global” brand, I want to be your friendly local bag maker, everything is available fully customised and tailored to fit the bike or the rider. Every LBB product is carefully designed to avoid wear points and uses the highest quality fabrics, the bags are made to last a lifetime and we back this up with a lifetime repair warranty.
What’s the London broil name all about?
It was a nickname bestowed on me by a (then) Portland bike messenger called C-Murder when I showed up at a courier race in Seattle in 2006. I took it as a complement, but it is also one of the cheapest cuts of steak available at an American butcher so who knows? To broil basically means too grill at a high heat. The name made me think of London as a forge, it’s one of the worlds true metropolises attracting people at the top of their game from all over the globe, a product of the London Broil must be truly world class!
What’s the most popular model you make and have you have any unusual requests?
My most requested item has been the zip closure backpack. About eight years ago I needed a new backpack for commuting that could carry my riding kit, lunch, and work laptop for the pedal across town to the office, pack my work clothes and laptop at the end of the day for a twenty mile mountain bike ride home on some of Santa Cruz’s burlier trails, and with enough space to grab some groceries between the trailhead and my house. The ability to strap a frame and a pair of wheels to the front of it if you need too was on the list too.What I have ended up with after 8 years of revisions is a bag that is pretty awesome for all kinds of riding and travel where you may need to carry up to 30 liters of luggage.
As for unusual requests nothing more than secret “stash” pockets, custom pannier bags for coffee delivery and custom tailored bags for really big and tall guys nothing really comes to mind, but I am always open to requests so bring it on!
What type of person is buying your stuff?
Generally speaking, riders. Bags by riders for riders. But really just anyone looking for bags that are designed to work well and last. I am always open to custom and customisation too. If you can’t find exactly what you want out there we are always happy to work with new ideas.
Where is the most far flung place that your products have ended up?
I have sent bags to friends in Mexico City and Australia, there are still messenger bags out there in SF, Sydney and London. I made a half frame bag for @cycling.jamie to race the trans pyrenees endurance event last year, and I have used bags i made to ride across the deserts of Nevada and Utah, and across the USA. Nothing on the moon yet.
What don’t you offer right now that you’d like to or plan to?
I have patterns for lots of bags that I have worked out over the years, I plan to get versions of everything i have worked out up on my website in good time. I am still hammering out my hydration pack design, there are a few out there already but I am not completely happy with it yet.
Can you tell us where you see Londonbroilbsgs in the next 5 years?
This is a really exciting question! I am hoping that we will have a cool space with windows! But seriously, I want to build the team, share and collaborate knowledge and skills and make some really cool shit! I want to be part of our rider community here in the cotswolds and the UK. We have such a cool island here, lets make it even better! I’m interested to see where the gravel (bike) path leads to and where mountain biking is going next. We will be here making bags for you to bring your sandwiches along for the ride!
London Broil Bagshop Made by hand in Cheltenham, England