Outershell SF

Back in the 1970’s, a group of long-haired hippies threw knobby
tires on their beach cruisers and raced them down Mount Tamalpais, unintentionally inventing the “mountain bike.”

In the 1990’s, a group of urban riders in San Francisco started making shoulder bags for bike couriers using car seatbelt buckles, helping set off a global love affair with “messenger bags.”

The history of bike culture in the Bay Area runs deep. The pioneers above paved the way for a new generation of pedal-powered companies seeking. Among them is Outershell, a tight-knit company that fashions bags for “bikepacking:” using your bicycle in lieu of
a backpack frame to carry your gear on endless adventure.

Space Makers

When you walk into Outershell, the first thing you notice are bags
of nearly every shape and color of cordura piled to the ceiling. Heavy tool chests are covered with all manner of retro bike brand stickers and slogans. Well-loved two-wheeled steeds hang in the rafters.

But if you look a little closer, there are clues that this isn’t your average bike shop. A lego brick maneki-neko, that white cat statue that waves from the counter of sushi restaurants, sits on one counter. Snippets of quiet Cantonese drift through the air. On the day we arrived, someone had very purposefully placed oranges, a symbol of the upcoming Chinese New Year,  in front of every sewing machine.

These little elements are all part of the family culture that Outershell founder Kyle Ng seeks to bring to his company. A quiet bike nerd who grew up in the skate scene of Southern California, he fell in love with bikepacking and began making his own bags. Quickly realizing he needed expertise to help scale, he brought on Zi, who has been working in sewing both in the U.S. and China since before he was born. Together with assistant Jana and spreadsheet master Jim, they form the tight-knit family that is Outershell.

A Day At The Shop

Build it Well

Outershell products don’t come cheap. Kyle doesn’t want them to be. He believes strongly in building things locally, and building them well. Creating products that aren’t throw-aways, and don’t play into the norms of fast fashion that dominate the textile industry.

Outershell is also about giving respect to those who are doing the sewing. Kyle believes in honoring and learning from true masters like Zi, who are often invisible to the consumer. While she may never throw a leg over an Outershell-equiped bikepacking steed, she can lay down a bar tack stitch that will last a lifetime.