For Nathan Thomson, necessity was indeed the mother of invention.
Along with a thirst for craft beer.
The 26-year-old criminology graduate who works in government said he’s never designed or built anything, nor had any entrepreneurial inclinations.
But riding his Kona bike two blocks from his Port Moody home to the city’s renowned Brewers Row to meet friends and enjoy the latest offerings at its five craft breweries changed that.
Frustrated by the challenge and inconvenience of toting a pack of a newly discovered beer he really liked home on his bike, Thomson developed the To Go bag. It's a canvas cube-shaped sack that tucks underneath the saddle of his Jake the Snake bike and is large enough to accommodate four tall cans.
It sounds like an obvious idea, but after Thomson had his light-bulb moment last spring, he discovered no such saddle bag existed.
So he started sketching out ideas and sampling materials to build a prototype.
Creating a beer conveyance for cyclists, it turns out, isn’t as easy as it sounds at first blush.
Thomson said the bag had to be large enough to hold the four cans, but not too bulky to be an annoyance on the bike.
It had to be strong, but not overly heavy.
And it had to be easy to use, without complicated flaps or straps, but still secure.
“I didn’t want it to throw you off balance,” he said.
Using mock-ups Thomson created out of cardboard, friends were enlisted to try his designs and provide feedback.
Angle proved to be the key factor.
Thomson said by finding the right pitch to suspend the bag, it wouldn’t sway from side-to-side or interfere with the cyclist’s pedalling motion.
Material was another challenge. Nylon was too flimsy, leather too heavy and expensive.
Instead, a canvas exterior with nylon lining offered the optimal combination of strength, durability, weight and insulation. The straps that secure the bag to the seat rails and seat post are made of synthetic leather.
Thomson said the development process took several months, but by July, he’d enlisted a manufacturer and was ready to go to market.
Online sales have placed Thomson’s bags under bums across Canada and into New York State and Minnesota. They’re also on the swag shelves of a couple of Metro Vancouver craft breweries: Container in East Vancouver and Five Roads in Langley.
He said he’s had discussions with others, even explored co-branding opportunities.
Thomson said he’s continuing work on more refinements, like adding side pockets and more colours.
He said there seems to be a natural connection between cycling and beer that makes his ToGo bag the right product at the right time.
And considering its genesis on Port Moody’s Brewers Row, the right place as well.
To find out more about the To Go saddle bag, go to www.togocycles.ca.