Bikepacking brand Restrap on its decision to bring distribution in-house

BikeBiz editor Alex Ballinger travelled to Leeds to visit the Restrap workshop, to learn how the bikepacking brand has expanded in recent years

This piece first appeared in the November edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here

There are few brands in cycling with the same unique origin story as Leeds-based bikepacking specialist Restrap. Starting from humble beginnings in the bedroom of founder Nathan Hughes, Restrap started out with hand-made pedal straps for fixed gear bikes, recycled out of old car seatbelts.

Walking into Restrap’s workshop in an industrial area just a short walk from the centre of Leeds, it’s clear the brand has travelled far from those early days in Hughes’ bedroom. BikeBiz travelled to Restrap HQ in late September to hear about developments at the brand, including the notable decision to bring distribution in-house.

The story
Jon Hicken, marketing manager for the brand, said: “We started with pedal straps made out of recycled car seat belts. So hence the name Restrap. Then we moved into some backpacks and on-body products, and then from there slowly into the bikepacking.

“It’s kind of evolved as the team’s evolved as well. We all come from fixed gear or BMX or something like that, and then got into mountain biking and I think everyone in the office has got five plus bikes. So primarily now we make luggage solutions for bikes.

“As backpacking kit and putting luggage on the bikes is becoming more acceptable, I think we’re starting to see more of the smaller products come to the fore a bit as well, like the canister bags, the small frame bags, top tube bags, and the smaller saddlebags. I think people are realising that backpacking doesn’t just mean that you can go camping, or that you can go travelling with your bike. With gravel riding as well, you can take your stuff to be more self-sufficient.”

Founder and managing director Nathan Hughes added: “As the gravel market’s got bigger, you need to take a little bit more kit with you and rain jackets and things like this. People are getting used to riding with luggage all the time. When you remember five or six years ago, you had carbon road bikes and there wouldn’t be a thing on the bike where now we quite often see someone with a frame bag, or canister, or toolbag, or something on the bike.”

Restrap manufactures almost all of its kit in-house, from fabric cutting to sewing. Currently offering a range of around 70 different product from frame, top tube and handlebar bags, to unique bikepacking solutions like the bumper bar, Restrap has been able to ride the wave of bikepacking and gravel riding popularity.

But the most recent development is that the team has decided to bring its distribution in-house, allowing Restrap to work more closely with stores, help educate retailers about the product, and find businesses that suit the Restrap philosophy.

Hughes said: “I think it’s about representing the brand in the right way. We felt like the product needs some education behind it just because there’s so many different setups, and options, and the way you pack things. It’s the only way we could really represent the brand in the right ways.

“A lot of the dealers already know the product sells and it means that we can bring out merchandising and point of sale displays. It just gives us that room for growth in their shops, rather than having to go through a third party. We’re looking at it from a way of making sure we’re in front of the right kind of customer.”

Having launched the sign up process for stores earlier this year, Restrap now has 65 accounts on board. Hughes added that cycle luggage can often be an afterthought for retailers when stocking the shelves, so he hopes Restrap can help fill that gap in the market for some stores.

Future plans
After expanding into its current workshop two years ago, Restrap is now focused on plans to expand its range of products, including some new soft goods that are currently top secret, and even more luggage solutions. Restrap is also focused on the technology aspect of its business, working with Leeds University to develop new materials.

Hughes added: “A lot of things that we’re looking at are around technology. We’re really trying to push to be the best luggage company in terms of technology, so we’ve got the most resistant fabrics and hardest wearing stuff.”

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