May 05 2019

Projects (Almost) Every Zugster Ever

In early 2006, I started experimenting with sewing bags to use on my bike, and then got captivated by a blog post on DIY messenger bags (note: it seemed to be vanished from the Internet for quite a while, but it's back!). By late 2007 I had developed a lot of sewing skills, accumulated material and heavy duty sewing machines, and turned the hobby into a (very, very, very) small business. I kept it up, turning out a few dozen every year, until 2013 or so, when I took a six month hiatus that turned into forever.

Early Bags

I went really over the top with the first ever messenger bag I made, with sparkly orange vinyl accents and liner. I posted it on and immediately got lots of "Can I buy one?" questions, sparking the idea that maybe I could fund my bicycle obsessions this way...

First Generation Messengers

These had a non-floating lining, a split strap made from seatbelt-type webbing, and old-school Fastex acetal hardware.

Second Generation Messengers

The second generation design was distinguished by switching to a floating liner. With a floating liner the lining and the outer shell are only joined around the rim of the bag, rather than all the way down the side seams. This limits the chances of rain seeping into the bag via the side seams. I also redesigned the flap to have better coverage in the corners - how good the side seams are at repelling water isn't worth a damn if there's a big gap between the flap and the body!

In practice, it doesn't really make a huge practical difference, but I think it did lend itself to a cleaner look to the bags, and it made the final assembly easier before I got my Juki!

Along with the lining, I redesigned all the pockets, increasing the amount of pocket space, and changed the shape of the flap.

Third Generation Messengers

The third (and final) generation of bags was a refinement of the second generation. The floating liner, flap shape, and overall body remained the same, but I redesigned the pockets again, making the exterior pockets fully lined, expanding them greatly, and making them much simpler to construct. Most significantly, however, was a completely new strap design, with integral padding (at both ends) instead of a separate strap pad.

That was made possible by upgrading my sewing machine to a Juki DNU-1541. Its 3/4" of space under the foot allowed for a lot of material!

I also started buying all my hardware from John Howard Company, which gave me access to the entire Duraflex hardware line. The buckles were upgraded to Mojave nylon side release for all 3/4" and 1" buckles, and the "Lock Monster" 2" buckle for the main strap.

Throughout the final run of these messenger bags I continually looked for ways to refine the construction, so there are a lot of minor changes that happened over time - cleaner seams, better hardware, smoother strap constructions, various ways to make the bags more efficiently.

More of the details of the third generation can be seen on the Standard Messenger product page on

This is only almost every bag because there's a 2 or 3 I made towards the end that I only got snapshots of, no studio photos.

Deluxe Messengers

The Deluxe model is a third-generation messenger bag with an articulated strap which can be adjusted by suspension webbing, like you'd find on a hiking pack. It's really comfy, has all the extras, and only came in one size - really big. I still have the last one in this list - the bright orange bag with the blue and white stripes.

More of the details of the deluxe messenger can be seen on the Deluxe Messenger product page on

Randonneuring Bags

The Rando Bag is actually the reason I started sewing in the first place. I wanted a class French style front rack bag, like the Gilles Berthoud handlebar bag. At the time, Berthoud was the only manufacturer keeping that classic style alive. Being handmade in France, with a not very favorable exchange rate with the Euro at the time, they were expensive.

I couldn't see spending $300 or so for a simple cube of fabric.

"I can get a sewing machine for $50 - how hard can it be?" I said.


Five years later I finally felt I had the skills to start designing my own replica of that classic design (and, of course, I charged just as much! It takes a lot of time to make one by hand).

Errand Bags

The Errand Bag was a lightweight, vastly simplified messenger bag for lighter duty usage.

Roll-Top Tote Bags

In an effort to have something that didn't take me 6 hours to make, I designed these simple roll-top tote bags. They turned out to be supremely useful. As I, ironically, almost never wear a bag on my back while bicycling anymore, a pair of these in a cargo bike will carry a week's worth of groceries. Hmm...with San Francisco's new grocery bag law, I should get on making another couple of these....


Not much to see here - backpacks were a fairly late addition, and less popular than the one-strap bags. I made a first prototype years earlier that didn't really work out, then came back after a couple more years of thinking about it with a very large bag, and then made a roll-top variant. They were very comfortable, but also very sweaty, with a padded bag and no ventilation. I wish I still had the roll-top though. The plaid pocket exterior is a Burberry raincoat fabric I found in a clearance pile at Discount Fabrics.