In my ever ongoing search for new bike packs I discovered Stealth Bike Bags on Instagram and liked the look of what they are doing. Stealth Bike Bags make everything from frame bags, saddles bags, bars bags to bum bags as well as custom work for your next adventure ride, daily commute or a local mountain bike loop. I sent Michael a message and this interview is the result. I hope you enjoy it.
Who are you, tell us a bit about your backstory and the history of Stealth Bike Bags and how it started?
I am Michael Trudgen, 28 years old and have grown up in Wellington NZ. I first started making bags in 2013, I have always liked making things and could not afford any of the bikepacking bags available at the time. By 2014 it had progressed into a small business making and selling all kinds of bike bags. Until April this year, I was running the business 3-4 days a week and working another job 2 days a week.
How did you get into making bags?
I needed bags for a trip so I made some up. I enjoyed the process of designing and making the bags so found myself making more and refining the designs.
When did you start?
My first sale was in October 2014.
What or who influences the design of your bags?
I aim to design and make products that function to the highest level with the simplest design possible.
What keeps you excited about making / designing bags?
I enjoy coming up with new designs that people get excited but mostly hearing the appreciation from the customer when receiving their products.
” I needed bags for a trip so I made some up. I enjoyed the process of designing and making the bags so found myself making more and refining the designs. “
Is it just you or a team of people?
Just me currently. I do employ some contract workers from time to time when busy.
Who are your target customers?
Anyone who rides a bike or appreciates finely made gear.
Which is your favorite bag?
Probably the Hightop bum bag, it’s just so comfy and versatile.
How many pieces in your current range?
Around 25 I think.
Are you looking to expand the range?
Yes, I have a bunch of new designs I am currently working on.
Which product is most in demand?
Probably Frame Bags. I make these to order to suit each individual frame.
Do you do any custom bags?
I make all frame bags to order to suit the frame and am happy to do any other custom work as well.
What fabrics and hardware do you use and why?
500 and 1000 Denier Cordura Nylon – I believe this is the ultimate pack fabric. A supple feel, super durable, lightweight and easy to work with.
YKK zips – No point using crappy zips, they will just break.
“I aim to design and make products that function to the highest level with the simplest design possible.”
Do you use any recycled fabrics?
Not currently, though I am working on a line of products which the main component is 100% recycled.
How do you come up with new ideas?
Usually, start with a problem or a current product that could perform better and work from there. I generally like to make samples and testers rather than designing on paper.
Who else is making stuff that you admire?
Do you sponsor any riders or have brand ambassadors?
Yep. Have a few people that I sponsor, currently one of them is riding across Australia by bike – @brandoyellavich
How do you sell your bags? Direct or through shops and distributors or both?
Mainly direct to consumer. I have a couple of bike shops that stock my bags.
What’s next for Stealth Bike Bags? What’s new? Anything exciting in the works?
Lots of exciting things in the works. I have a bunch of new products that should be coming into fruition over the next couple of months. I am also expanding my workshop so will have more space and potentially take on staff if it stays busy. One of the goals for this year was to make a living so hopefully, that comes true too.
Do you have any advice for aspiring bag designers/makers?
Think long and hard if this is something you really want to do for a living if you are after money I would look elsewhere. I have not found it easy and certainly in New Zealand, it is not an easy task trying to make outdoor gear here as most of this industry went to China/overseas years ago. Stay fresh, don’t steal people’s ideas and don’t claim things to be waterproof when they are not.
What are your website address and social media contacts?
What’s the best way for people to get in touch?
If you liked this interview please leave a comment below or check out the last interview we did with Mack Workshop.