by Hunter Hess
Based in Oregon's cycling epicenter, Portland's Black Star Bags has been producing bike-specific backpacks and bags for five years, gaining a strong following throughout the Northwest. Starting with a belt-driven sewing machine his friends found in an alley, owner Dave Stoops has built his company from the ground up by providing high quality, functional bags for everyone from working messengers to weekend commuters.
"I requested a two-week vacation to ride my bike down to San Francisco for the North American Cycle Courier Championships (NACCC) and got denied," remembers Stoops. "Three weeks later I had left that job and found myself in my sewing studio full time—I think that is officially when Back Star Bags was launched."
With such humble beginnings as a one-man operation, Stoops has a strong appreciation for his business and considers his employees family. "Not only was I starting to be able to pay my bills, I was helping others out too," he says. "I'm not exactly sure when it happened but eventually I realized that this was just as important as making a wage for myself."
Years of touring and messenger experience show in the simple aesthetic and functionality of every piece. Each bag is made from Cordura with ballistic nylon reinforcement and sealed with a heavy-duty vinyl liner to keep water out, creating a completely waterproof storage area. Stoops points out that hours of work and testing went into creating the back supports and shoulder straps, and the extra attention shows in the final product.
The straps and padding are meticulously designed and positioned to allow for the most comfortable fit even while carrying heavy loads or riding for long periods of time. Each bag also features standard safety accessories like reflective bottom strips and loops for attaching lights, but what really sets Black Star apart is their design flexibility. "We will always make and continue to improve our standard bags but we do a lot of one-off projects too," says Stoops. "Customers often request special features, special pockets, individualized graphics, we've even re-created new spec bags from the ground up."
By working closely with customers and keeping the production process small, open and personal, Black Star is able to create a bag that reflects the wearer—not just the manufacturer. To order a custom bag check Black Star online and for a closer look at the Black Star studio see the slideshow below.
Photography by Hunter Hess