Published on Gear Patrol on October 4, 2018 by Bryan Campbell
It’s a fact that commuting is hell, especially on two wheels. The daily rat race can take its toll, and your gear probably picks up most of its patina and battle scars as a result of the Monday-through-Friday nine-to-five. Road debris and dirt, the beating sun, the pouring rain, traffic and possible falls and slides are all intensified by highway and traffic speeds. And so, gear must be over engineered for survival, which is where Kevin Murray, the founder and designer of Velomacchi, saw a gap in the market.
The name Velomacchi comes from an amalgamation of the Italian words velocità and macchina, translating to speed machine. The name, partly inspired by Murray’s time in northern Italy, draws influences from the region’s style, craftsmanship and approach to cycling, motorcycles and commuting; it makes even more sense when paired with the brand’s motto: Built for Speed, Made to Last.
A linen suit paired with brown leather dress shoes wouldn’t stand up well to barreling down an open highway in rain and smog or worse, and neither would your precious belongings if stored in a bag made from pedestrian materials. As a motorcycle rider, Murray sought tough-as-nails commuter gear out of necessity, but he couldn’t find anything that met his standards. Nothing outside of military-spec packs and ballistic materials rose to the level of toughness he was looking for.
Murray is a lifelong traveler. He globe-trotted as a kid and later got into adventure travel. “I’d be gone for a year. I’d work for a year, save up money and then travel for a year. This was long before cell phones; this was when traveler’s cheques were cutting-edge technology,” Murray says. He admits that “having lived on the road for years at a time” is what led him to a career in industrial design. “I would pick grapes in Mildura, Australia, so we could go climb at Mount Arapiles for four months or so. Then we’d save more money and I’d buy a plane ticket up to Nepal or India, climb Everest and do a bit of trekking around there. I was full nomad. I just worked and lived along the way.”
Eventually, Murray finished a degree in industrial design and joined The North Face in the ’90s. He remained ever the globe-trotter, visiting Africa and Europe to explore new markets and test products. This was when the idea for Velomacchi, at first a pet project, was born. Murray left The North Face to start Syren Industrial Design, working with the USIA (Under Sea Industrial Apparel), which supplies SEAL Team operators, and the United States Coast Guard — organizations for which you would think there’d be nothing too tactical or too protective. “As I ran across really interesting stuff nobody else would touch, whether it was too expensive or whatnot, I would always kick it over to Velomacchi and experiment with new materials and processes. Once we commercialized it, we’d offer it to our military, public-safety gear or outdoor active lifestyle clients.”
During this time Murray gained an in-the-trenches view of factories and manufacturers. A factory’s ethics and environmental approach, he says, is “critical” for his brands. “When it came time to start Velomacchi I had my pick of the top manufacturers around the world — in terms of environmental and social-ethos concerns, as well as performance and quality. And I really didn’t focus in on cost or price point at all. I saw such a huge opening within the luggage market. There was such a gulf between the stuff we were building at The North Face for extreme conditions and what was being made for luxury. And that’s where we wanted to position ourselves,” Murray says.
Over the past year, Velomacchi has established its name in the adventure- and commuter-motorcycling community with products from its Speedway collection, including leather motorcycle gloves, 28-, 35- and 40-liter fully waterproof bags, impact cases for laptops, and other sundries like a tool roll and tie-down straps. The eternal battle between function and form is alive and well and few know this better than Murray. When it came to the design of his bags, he kept the Built for Speed motto front and center. “If you’ve felt our bags and the material we use, the reason it’s so substantive is because a regular bike bag will cavitate at speed,” he says. “At twenty-five miles an hour, your bag or a strap flapping in the wind is not a big deal, but at a buck twenty-five, it’s a distraction and distractions at those speeds can be dangerous and deadly.” Hence Velomacchi’s tri-point harness on the chest-straps take the weight off your back and shoulders and its straps tuck away or tie down. The adjusted weight distribution lessens rider fatigue and the hidden straps can’t repeatedly whip your sides.
Early next year, Velomacchi will roll out its second line of bags and accompanying equipment to complement the brand’s inaugural Speedway collection. Using what he’s learned from the field testing and feedback of his first line, Murray designed the Urban Tactical collection to bring “military precision and industrial strength to the problems of carrying heavy loads at high speeds in extreme environments, while integrating a variety of battery packs and internal cabling to charge your devices.” So whether your daily commute from hell drags you through the concrete jungle or through an actual one, Velomacchi is working on making sure your everyday carry and workday essentials get there with you, day in and day out, with engineered overkill sewn in with each stitch. Because if you can make it to work and back without falling apart, shouldn’t your gear do the same?