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Collaborations are hardly unusual in the bike industry, but this is one that I didn’t necessarily see coming.
Bontrager recently introduced two neat-looking accessories: the Spring Roll Seat Bag and the Pro Ratchet Multi-Tool. The seat pack is a spin on a classic tool roll, with three pockets and enough capacity for most road and gravel repair needs, a large fold-over flap, a central strap to help tie everything together, and a Boa cable closure system to really hold the whole package tight underneath the saddle rails. Waxed canvas construction promises a degree of weather resistance, too, while reflective detailing provides some additional visibility in low-light conditions.
Meanwhile, the multi-tool is a bit-based item with a dual-direction 72-tooth ratchet, a wide range of useful handle configurations (all held together with magnets), a ten-piece collection of bits, as well as a bit extender and a twist-beam torque wrench for light-duty jobs between 2-8 Nm. The whole lot neatly stores in a “duck waxed canvas” carrying case that easily fits in a jersey pocket or larger saddle pack.
Retail price for the Spring Roll is US$60 / C$80, and the Pro Ratchet Multi-Tool costs US$125 / C$170 (sorry, these items are currently only offered in the United States and Canada).
Now, you might be thinking to yourself at this point that this stuff looks — and sounds — awfully familiar. Aren’t these just obviously knock-offs of Silca’s T-Ratchet Ti Torque and (now discontinued) Seat Roll Premio?
Well, yes, they are, right down to the red bands on the tool bits, the black rubber o-rings on the ratchet handle, and even the patterns on the fabrics. But this isn’t a case of blatant theft.
“You are correct,” admitted Nick Anger from Bontrager’s marketing department. “There’s no denying the similarities, and to be honest, we have partnered with them on these two things. We strive to be a great supplier for all of our retailers and be that one-stop-shop for all of their needs, so in some cases, that means partnering with others who already make killer products.”
Silca seems to have been more than happy to collaborate, too.
“Yes, we are doing a handful of projects for them,” said Silca president Josh Poertner. “It’s been a wild year for the industry, and I think that everybody is going like mad to try and find stuff to sell since business has been so good. But the standard supply chain is a nightmare when everybody else is just as busy. Production of all those tools is now here in [Indianapolis, Indiana], and our bag factory in Myanmar is dead slow as their core business is making luggage for Tumi, Oakley, DaKine, and others — and, of course, nobody is traveling or buying luggage, so we could offer Trek quick design and product turnaround at a time when the rest of their suppliers are struggling to ship.”
Seeing as how Silca’s T-Ratchet Ti Torque is a CyclingTips staff favorite — and while not perfect, the bag is genuinely a great application for Boa’s closure system — this seems like a legitimate case of good products that are now being made more widely available to more potential buyers.
But what does this mean?
While, again, collaborations are nothing new in the bicycle industry, this one still strikes me as a little unusual since it’s not exactly Bontrager’s standard operating procedure to work like this. After all, Bontrager has a sizable design and engineering staff in-house, and this is the first time I can remember that the company has worked so closely with another brand that has such a strong identity of its own. Granted, Silca isn’t mentioned anywhere on Bontrager’s product pages for those two items, but given the incredibly strong resemblance, it’s safe to say that Bontrager wasn’t exactly going out of its way to hide the association.
Perhaps the two brands will work together more moving forward? Or maybe Silca will begin offering its services to other brands as well? Or more intriguingly, perhaps this is foreshadowing Trek Bicycle Corporation’s acquisition of yet another smaller brand, just as it did with Bontrager in 1995.
These two new items from Bontrager look nice and all, but let’s just say our mental gears are turning pretty heavily over here.