SPEARFISH — Need a bag for a bicycle?
Look no further than DirtBags Bikepacking, a company that specializes in handmade, high-quality bike bags, which moved to Spearfish from Laramie, Wyo., in June.
“Bike-packing is kind of this up and coming, growing sport among mountain biking,” described Emily Brown, who co-founded and owns the company with her husband, Heath. She likened it to backpacking on a bike, and after she and Heath experienced the sport on a three-day trip along the Centennial Trail in the Black Hills, they were all in.
Emily Brown, who grew up in Belle Fourche and Rapid City, and Heath Brown, who grew up in Newcastle, Wyo., spent a couple of years at Black Hills State University and then lived in Laramie, Wyo., for the past 12 years. Heath Brown taught junior high, and Emily, an entrepreneur, owned a yoga studio. After teaching for a number of years, Heath was interested in other opportunities, and in 2015, he began researching the growing sport of bike-packing. Recognizing that those participating needed a variety of bags, he pulled out the household sewing machine, sewed a variety of bags for the couple’s trip along the Centennial Trail, and along the way, had many soul-searching life chats about the outdoor industry, how it helped people find adventure and embrace simplicity, and whether there was a place for the Browns to be part of that somehow.
When they got home from the trip, they had decided that yes, they could do it, so Heath taught for one more year, teaching during the day and at night, figuring out the measurements, designs, pieces, etc., needed to create the products that DirtBags Bikepacking specializes in. The couple created a website, quit their professional jobs, and have been running the company ever since, working other jobs part-time to help make ends meet as they get the business off the ground.
The name of the company is meant to be endearing to those who need to be in nature. The company’s website describes that society often labels those who need outdoor recreation, “climbing rocks, skiing mountains, surfing oceans, running rivers, carrying all they need on their backs, and riding their bikes across continents” as “bums, loafers, or deadbeats. We prefer to affectionately call them dirtbags,” it states.
Emily Brown said that they have always been trying to get back to the Black Hills, so once they committed fully to the business, it made sense to make the move, and in June, they moved to Spearfish. They have connections to the area, and to the biking community already — Emily’s uncle is Perry Jewett, who with his wife, Kristi, started and continue to organize the popular Dakota Five-O mountain bike race that begins in Spearfish each Labor Day weekend.
Brown said that they’ve had a booth for DirtBags Bikepacking at the Five-O previously.
Written by Kaija Swisher and reprinted by permission of the Black Hills Pioneer