Celebrating Local Craftspeople – Shovel Research and a Sim Loader Deep Dive

One of my favorite things about working for SimWorks and in the bike industry is meeting small niche makers who are gifted fabricators and watching our business and personal relationships grow. It’s a pleasure to get to work with talented folks who go on to become your friends.

We’re pleased to now offer a range of Shovel Research products through SimWorks. Shovel Research is a small machine and fabrication shop that makes thoughtfully-designed products that address a niche market. We saw an opportunity to work together and see a lot of parallels in the kinds of products and attention to detail that are synonymous with both of our brands.

I first met Sal outside of my work with SimWorks, but in the women’s cycling community, through the WTF (RAR) Summit in 2019 here in Oregon. Sal moved to Portland from the Bay Area afterwards, and we got to meet more often, enjoy some bike rides and got to go bowling. Sal has a great sense of style and her attention to detail shows in all walks of her life- including with the wonderful photographs that she takes. I admire her calm, cool, and sensitive personality. Sal started Shovel Research in 2022, and I’ve enjoyed watching her progress with it, and had hoped we would get to work together some day.

When SimWorks released the Sim Loader Series at the end of the last year, we had seen Shovel Research’s bag support ‘Rod Steward’, as a great complement to our new handlebar bag. We asked Sal to borrow a bag support for demo, and quickly found it to work seamlessly with our handlebar bag! We requested a slight modification to the standard cross bar length, which Sal was happy to accommodate. It’s the ability to make these small but meaningful changes that make working with smaller brands and makers a true pleasure at times.

Another thing we really love about the Rod Steward is the optional light mount that works with it for mounting a dynamo lamp or tube stock for a removable light cradle.

We appreciate that Shovel Research products come with 100% recyclable cardboard packaging, that’s minimal but as thoughtfully crafted and spec’d as the parts it holds.  You don’t have to stress about it, and you could even throw it in your fireplace or on a campfire. Who doesn’t love that?

Simple problems need simple solutions, and that’s exactly what Shovel Research is offering through their intelligently conceived, engineered and produced offerings.

A Sim Loader Deep Dive

As we just reiterated, SimWorks is extremely fortunate to get to work with a talented roster of creatives, makers, craftspeople etc… whose contributions to the industry color our bike lives, and create a lot of reward for the work that we do. A benefit to working with people locally in our communities is the opportunity to interface with them in person on projects, and ideas. We can create samples quickly and cut down on transit times and costs. These savings on costs allow us to trim and streamline our POs and to pivot on requested products to coincide with responses to new product demands. It makes us a more agile business and gives us a lot of freedom and flexibility to try new things without burdensome overheads. Obviously, for all of those things to work out the way that you hope, you have to have a partner in that maker/craftsperson/creative that’s equally skilled at pivoting and responding to requests on short notice, a willingness to offer insights, be honest about timelines, and reservations about proof of concepts.

SimWorks has worked with Cody Forsythe for a few years now on a small handful of projects. He helped us bring the ‘JS’ Loader bag to life as a limited collaborative product with Chris King a couple years ago, and sewed the “gas tank” bags for the Doppo High Plains Drifter frame sets. He operates his own brand under the ‘Jack Supply’ name where he puts out his own collection of purpose built, thoughtfully designed and crafted bike bags.

When we decided to develop our own new line of bike bags under the SimWorks name, we knew that Cody would be a tremendous resource for us in creating a line of bags that were a complement to SimWorks mission as a parts maker that wants to promote certain style, ideals and a lifestyle around riding bikes- where they can take us, our attitudes along the way, our pace, the meaning they create in our lives. The RAL Loader line of bags has served us well over these past years. They provide a great value and solutions for riders with predominately urban carrying needs. The intention with the SimLoader line of bags was to offer some bags that had some clear distinction from the RAL Loaders, incorporate some more modern technical fabrics with an emphasis on recycled materials, and for the bags to lean more heavily in to a style of ‘adventure riding’ that we’ve come to appreciate while living in the Pacific Northwest. While not necessarily tailored for extended bike packing trips, the SimLoader line of bags offers a quality selection of bags for riders looking to venture off the beaten path, to find themselves in challenging and remote environments, and to have the carrying capacity to bring along the necessary and desired elements to make those adventures safer and more enjoyable- while being versatile, durable and stylish.

The initial offerings within the SimLoader line of bags are a starting point. Where we end up with it will be the result of customer feedback, and some gut checks on where we hope to ultimately end up with it. We’ve learned a lot in developing the line, and we have already begun discussions on how we can improve it, whether that’s through new features, revisions or additional bags that should be added, or omitted going forward. We have a lot of flexibility with it, which is where we hope to stay. The SimLoader line gets to serve as a complement to some of our more core and established product lines, it helps to round out a growing collection of goods that feel true to our business and our brand, and it affords us the pleasure of getting to work with a gifted maker, friend and collaborator.

The other benefit of the SimLoader line is that it serves as an example of domestically produced product here in the US that we get to share globally, but particularly with our colleagues in Japan. The concept for SimWorks was started in Japan as an effort to introduce the world to a heritage collection of long-established and highly regarded manufacturers through collaborative efforts at product development, branding and marketing. The flip side to that coin is the Japanese market, and their proven enthusiasm for high-quality US produced goods. So SimWorks USA gets to fulfill our mission of acting as a conduit for introducing the work of talented people here in the States to a larger audience; and in the end that’s the most rewarding part of the work that we have the good fortune of doing here at SimWorks.