Emily and Maria: Making Fab Bike Bags in Chicago

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On my morning commute last Thursday, stopping at a bike-to-work week station, I met two cool girls doing a lot for stylish cycling. Emily and Maria are friends who got inspired to create bicycle bags that reflect their personal styles. The result is Po Campo, a line of made in Chicago rack and handlebar bags that look just as good off the bike as on. They are impeccably designed and constructed – hands down the best stylish bike bags I have ever seen. I was so impressed that I wanted to learn more about their history with design and cycling. Read on for that, plus tips for new cyclists and the joy of riding a bike.

What inspired you to create these bags?

Maria and I have been biking for years and never really felt like we fit into the demographics. We saw Po Campo as a great opportunity to use our design background to come out with products that were functional for biking, but still fit our style.

What types of materials are they made out of?

The fabrics are all made from outdoor furniture fabric, so they are water and fade resistant. The inside material is a coated fabric to make sure all your stuff stays nice and dry. We are proud to manufacture in Chicago, so you can trust that our bags are made well and will last a long time.

Po Campo Rack Bag

Po Campo Rack Bag

Po Campo Handlebar Bag

Po Campo Handlebar Bag

Describe all the ways they function as a bike bag.

Po Campo bags are designed to look as good on the bike as off. They use an adjustable strap system we designed to fit on just about any bike out there and are equipped with pockets and loops so that you can attach and carry all sorts of things- we didn’t want to limit anyone, just create opportunities to use the bag as it works for you!

How did you go from idea to action? How was the process of getting stores on board to sell them?

The idea started with a bike accessory contest and a conversation. Once the idea became Po Campo idea we just went for it, and learned a lot on our own. We really wanted to see our bags in both bike shops that catered to city riders and boutiques that carried unique accessories because we believe our bags are one of the first things to truly bridge the gap. To our delight, both kinds of stores were equally – and enthusiastically – interested in our products.

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Tell a bit about your history with cycling and your bike(s). How do you like cycling in Chicago?

E: I just love it. I gave up my car years ago because parking was so stressful and I spent more money replacing stolen stereos than on gas! I am a big fan of the CTA, but biking just gets me there fast. I currently have two bikes, both vintage step-thru frame Schwinns, one set up to go fast & one slow so I’m ready for anything.

M: I love it too. For me, it’s one of those things you enjoy so much that it is hard to understand why anyone wouldn’t. Even beyond being good exercise and reliable transportation, it’s downright fun. I’ve been riding a Miyata road bike for the last 6 years or so that I inherited it from a co-worker who was into building bikes. I’m very attached to it. One time, I thought it was stolen and started crying on the spot, until I looked up at the street sign and realized I was on the wrong street. I had never felt so relieved and idiotic at the same time!

What do you think about the importance of uniting personal style with cycling?

It’s very important. Since I bike as a form of transportation that influences my style at work, meeting friends at a bar, going to a concert – all the places I want to look my best. Po Campo is working to help you look as good, if not better, than the girl who drove. And be yourself.

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Any tips or encouraging words for women considering city cycling?

You can do it! Once you understand the rules of the road (check out Active Transportation Alliance for info) it is very empowering getting around the city on your own physical power. Take your time and make it your own, there is no need to be intimidated by the extreme bike crowd, and don’t feel like you are alone! Po Campo and sites like Let’s Go Ride a Bike are always there for advice.

Thanks for sharing, ladies!

Po Campo bags will be in stores early next week. The stores that will sell them online will be Dutch Bikes, Smart Bike and Connect Chicago though it may take more time for the stores to get the bags up on the sites. All the store locations are on their website, http://www.pocampo.com.

Another fabulous made-in-the-US-by-a-cool-woman product is Betty Basket Liners. You can read more about the maker, Tara, and how she got started here.

Dutch Tulips style

Dutch Tulips style

I plan to get one of these for my Betty, once I have a bigger basket for her.

I think the market for high-quality and stylish cycling accessories is only going to get bigger. I love to see independent women leading the way!