Nice write up on Culture Cycles
Dense mist drifted through the sunshine visible above the towers of the Golden Gat bride. A group of my friends gathered around the steps at the entrance. We had our camping gear tucked snuggly in a motley collection of panniers and trailers. The goal: ride our bikes across the bridge, gear in tow, through Marin County to camp for the evening at the Bay Area’s tightly guarded camping locale, China Camp. We had scrambled together the requisite racks, hardware, and gear to make the early spring adventure possible. Much of the gear was procured at the fabled REI used gear sale. But one member of the crew, Cleveland Motley had different plans…
We were standing around waiting for Cleveland and his lovely girlfriend. They were 30 minutes late. I grew restless, called him, “Hey man, yeah, uh I just finished the panniers, we’ll be there in a jiffy.” I turned to the group, “He’s finishing sewing his panniers…” Cleveland and Katherine showed up, fresh and crisp with a brand new set of handmade panniers and custom backpack. The trip was spectacular. Weather, splendid. Scenery, verdant. Comradery, lush. Gear, perfect.
It’s now 6 months later and Cleveland has taken his craftsmanship to the market with Motley Goods, his one man company churning out handmade, supreme quality bags designed with your cycling needs in mind. The international community has responded and his sewing machine hums day and night.
San Francisco is one of the US’s few authentic cyclist paradises. Cycling there is dually edgy and elegant, much like Motley Goods bags. Cleveland has been biking SF and volunteering at the local bike co-op, Bike Kitchen, since 2007. But he’s been crafting handmade bags since he was in the boy scouts. He took construction classes in college and worked for Freight Baggage, another small cottage industry designer, where he learned the industry. Cleveland told me, “I moved to SF right when Chrome bags was taking off, but I wanted a bigger bag than they were offering, and something of my own.” He bought an old school home sewing machine on Craigslist for $30 which he has been rocking until recently, when Motley Goods expanded, justifying an industrial strength machine.
The new machine is still in his home, but Cleveland has been able to expand his repertoire of materials to include more modern, technical exterior fabrics like cordura and vinyl. “They’re more durable and waterproof than say, waxed cotton,” he said. “I combine them with really nice brass and leather accents so you get a bag with technical prowess, but the style of and material of an older, more traditional bag.” Motley Goods are made to last a lifetime of cycling – everything is kept as simple as possible, no zippers, no overly technical pockets everywhere. Simplicity, durability, technical prowess, and aesthetics are included.
As a passionate cyclist, Cleveland has designed each bag for the cylist’s lifestyle. All bags are totally waterproof with cordura exteriors and viynl liners. They have thick foam pads so your goods won’t stab you in the back and your gear won’t be crushed. The straps are especially important for a cyclist: “I find the leather shoulder straps are way better than modern foam and nylon straps, because they conform to your body. I designed the packs to sit higher on your back, but stop when they get to your neck. When you’re riding it’s not pressing on your lower back and not impacting your helmet or blocking your view over your shoulder when a cars hurls towards you.”
The best selling model is a pannier backpack combo that takes you from work to home to your next tour. “Most panniers are really technical and ‘bikey’ looking,” so Cleveland designed it to, “provide people with an option that is more refined.” Other models found in the Motley Goods catalogue include a basket bag, rear satchel, tote, laptop sleeves, and several backpacks with utilitarian dimensions.
How do you get your paws on Motley’s Goods, you ask? You can make your custom order internationally from Cleveland’s Etsy @motley goods, or his website motleygoods.com