We had our Griff Bohm sit down with Chris Boyd, a former adventure racer turned Dad who has developed the Slap Bag, a kangaroo pouch for your handlebars.
Alright Mr. Chris, what is the Slap Bag?
The Slap Bag is quite a simple device, and as we came up with the product we actually ended up defining what it was by its own name. Now we kinda refer to it as the Simple Little Accessory Pouch, which actually spells the word SLAP.
The coolest thing about the Slap Bag is the fact that it opens and closes with one hand. There are a lot of things that go on your bike that make it convenient to carry what you want to carry with you, but none of them do it in a way (in our opinion) that is as transparent to the user as the Slap Bag. So, you’re not behind a zipper or velcro to get to your stuff. It’s very clear to you whether the bag is in its secure state or not.
So for us, that has been kinda the most compelling part about the product, is its simplicity. And the bag is constructed with a product so that the front edge of it is something to similar to a slap bracelet from when you were a kid. You know, that slap bracelet has two states: a flat state and a rolled-up state. And the bag is quite similar, it has two states: it can be closed, or it can be open, and it’s quite easy to move between those two.
So, where did the idea come from?
The idea is not new. The idea came to me about nine years ago, which is when I developed my first attempt at a prototype. I was doing a lot of long-distance adventure racing, I’d kinda caught the bug of this team sport where you could orienteer and ride bikes and kayak and rappel and you know, do it all with your buddies.
We were doing races all over the United States, and at the time when I was kinda at my peak of racing, I was racing for a local company called GoLite, and Timberland was also one of our biggest sponsors. And that presented a lot of neat opportunities, I got to race in Brazil, I got to race in the French Caribbean, and all the while I was working on getting in shape, but I was struggling with getting enough calories, getting the food in. So I had come up with this thing where I took some Ziplock bags and I took my old badge from going to Outdoor Retailer, and I took the little clip off of it and I zip tied it to my handlebars.
And I took that little Ziplock bag, and my favorite food to distract myself from the effort was Goldfish, so I put my Goldfish in there, and I’d start the race and I’d undo the Ziplock and I’d start eating my Goldfish, and we’d start racing. Except we’re mountain biking, so we’re bouncing all over the place, and my Goldfish are bouncing all over the trail, and in adventure racing, one of the components is you’re really trying to outsmart the other competitors with one of your skills, which hopefully is being a good orienteer. So the fact that I was leaving this trail of Goldfish along the path that we had chosen, which we thought was the best way to go, wasn’t a great idea.
So I needed to improve the idea, and that’s where the idea of a slap bracelet came to me. So I adjusted my design and had my first prototypes made in 2007. So in 2007, I made about 12 bags, and I gave them to my best 11 friends and I kept one or two for myself. And I got such great feedback. People were like, “OK, sweet, where do I get one? How do I get one?” And I just really hadn’t thought it through that far at that point.
And life began to change, I was getting away from racing a little bit, starting to have a family, but the idea of this product was still with me, it was still one that I was really passionate about. I still rode with mine, my friends still rode with theirs, and even 9 years later I still have my original prototypes that have been riding around on my bike and on top of my car for that long, and they still work!
The neat thing about it is that when I decided to kinda reawaken the idea, I used the same fabric, and I think it’s important to know that it’s a new product, but it’s been out getting its paces through some of the tougher adventures for quite a long time. So we feel like we’ve blocked ourselves from one of the common problems with new products, and we’ve done quite a bit of testing. Over the last 18 months, along with finalizing our patent pending status for the closure, we have refined the design of the closure in kinda two significant ways: one, reduce the sagging effect that the bag was having when it had a lot of stuff in it. And the other thing we did that we thought was kinda novel was for the velcro attachments that attach to your bars. We sewed in the loop and hook a little bit differently on the bag so that the bag could actually hang underneath or against the bar. And the reason that became important was we were testing it on our cruiser bikes, and as my life had changed we were doing more of the “Riding into Old town Louisville with my family” and every time I get on my bike I typically have one or two of my cell phone, my keys, and my wallet, and today I’m carrying Band-Aids for my son who’s skinning his knees on his little bike.
So the uses for the bag are kinda up to the owner. In my own time with the bag, I’ve found quite a few uses beyond just going on extreme races. It’s really a great fit for the recreational use as well.
Chris Boyd during his racing days
So what moved you from making your personal prototypes, to now 7 years later, trying to hit the market with this?
I’m an idea guy. I just seem to have this interest when I’m doing things. I’ll be out on a mountain bike ride and I get kinda away from it all and my mind just starts to connect with what I’m doing, and I’ll just start thinking about what I’m doing and how I can make it more enjoyable.
So I’ll come back from all these rides and I’ll have all these great ideas, and this is one of those ideas. And it came down to, I had had enough ideas that I had not pursued that I had seen come to market, and I didn’t want this to be on that list. I wanted to find out, I wanted to prove it. I wanted to prove to myself that I had actually come up with something that was really good, and I wanted to follow through with it and I wanted to bring it to people and let them say “hey, that’s a product that we connect with. That’s something that I found value in.”
So that’s the driver. I didn’t want to see it on a shelf and think “oh man, that is my idea! Why didn’t I do that?”
So a little over 18 months ago, I started working on the patent. And I started working with a really good patent attorney who does quite a few of the patents for Pearl Izumi, trying to just make it so that if I go through with this that I’m protecting what I’m creating.
So where are you at now with your patents?
Our patent pending status was accepted in December. Now the process from that point can be kinda slow, they usually say it can be a year for them to go through the review process but there was quite a bit of legwork that happened before that for us to get the submission in.
We were doing patent searches, looking for previous existing utility patents that we were unique enough that we were a different product and not something that already existed.
And it turned out to be novel and unique enough for us to go through with the utility patent, and we’ll find out in the next 6 months here if it was novel and unique enough for the patent.
So where and when can we expect to get a Slap Bag?
So the when is now and up thru July 28th at 6pm. That when is being kickstarted through Kickstarter. We thought that Kickstarter was a great place to launch this and the reason was that I really wanted the market to tell that this is a great idea, and Kickstarter is a great place to do that. And building up to this Kickstarter has been a real fun adventure. Including writing a script, setting up shoot days, getting all your friends out, meeting up in downtown Denver, heading out to Red Rocks, riding our bikes up Flagstaff, mountain biking all over, just catching footage.
So the Kickstarter launches Tuesday [June 28] at 6pm. We are having a Kickstarter launch party down in Denver at a brewery called Joyride Brewing Co. They happen to be some close friends of ours and they’re quite bike focused, and we just thought it’d be a fun way to kick it off, get some friends together, and launch the campaign from the party, and get it out to the network. Hopefully, we can get people beyond our network to start giving it some exposure and doing a lot of sharing, trying to get the name out there. We’ll have the campaign open for about 30 days.
As it relates to when people get it, we won’t know that we’re fully funded. Our goal is to get $20,000, and if we get that, we’ll get the contributions people committed, and then we’ll start to ship bags. Right now we’re working with a cut and sew company out of Washington. Right now we have our first final goal samples already approved and ready for production, we have our first mini production that’ll be finished before the launch party. We made 100 of them to try and get some more exposure during that 30-day window when that Kickstarter is open. Then our lead times during full production is somewhere between 4 and 5 weeks. It’s short like that because we’re making our first set of runs here in the United States.
We want to get it in people’s hands as soon as possible, and we don’t want to miss our wonderful summer as best we can. As soon as we get some traction, and that we’re gonna get funded, we’re gonna start making the product.