The BMW Atacama Luggage Project
August 19, 2016
If you’ve been following this blog, and you ride a BMW, you might have noticed that the new BMW Atacama Adventure Luggage has a lot in common with our Backcountry pannier/duffle kit. This is the result of a design partnership that we’ve been working on with BMW since late 2014. We’ve alluded to it a couple times in the blog as ‘private-label design work,’ but BMW wanted to keep the details under wraps until the bags were in stock and ready to ship. Now the Atacama Luggage has been publicly announced, so we can talk about it!
Here’s a quick history. In November 2014 our booth at the Seattle International Motorcycle Show was located directly across from BMW. That was one of our very first IMS shows. We were using my 2003 BMW R1150GSA as a display bike, and a bunch of riders were shuttling back and forth between the two booths, asking if our bags would work on various BMW models. We struck up a conversation with someone from BMW, gave a demo of our bags, and handed off a business card. A few weeks later, Mike – who’s in charge of parts & accessories for BMW Motorrad USA – visited with Dusty at the New York IMS to check out the bags in person. A dialog started about creating a brand new luggage system specifically for BMW bikes, and the Atacama Luggage project began.
That was 21 months ago. Initially we exchanged sketches and estimates. As the project progressed, we moved on to prototypes and quotes. Last November I flew out to visit with Mike at BMW headquarters in New Jersey. BMW’s US headquarters are a lot more impressive than Mosko’s headquarters, to say the least. We even had lunch in the BMW cafeteria. Here’s a few pics from that trip.
To become an official ‘BMW Part,’ we had to overcome a number of interesting design challenges. For example, BMW wanted offset 25L and 35L pannier sizes to accommodate their exhaust, but the oil-cooled bikes have exhaust on the left side, whereas the water-cooled bikes have exhaust on the right side. So we had to design bags with symmetrical patterns that could easily swap from one bike to another. We also created a bunch of new features, like extra pockets and hydration ports, while keeping other features the same, like beavertails and strap-keepers. It was a fun design challenge and we had a blast working on it
For BMW, the fact that we only sell direct is an advantage, because we’re not competing with them as an aftermarket accessory in their own dealerships. For us it’s great, because we gain a national network of dealers without actually becoming a wholesaler. The pricing ends up a little higher at retail, but with good reason, because customers can a) inspect and purchase the product in person, b) benefit from a variety of new features created specifically for BMW bikes, and c) finance the purchase along with their new ride. We’re very excited to be partnered with such an iconic brand.
Making and assembling the BMW bags was a big project, and that’s putting it mildly. Huge thanks to Ted & Steve and the entire R&D and manufacturing team at our factory for making this possible. Lee, who practically relocated to Portland for a month, and who redesigned the assembly process making it way more efficient: you the man, seriously. A bunch of friends pitched in: Kip, Lindsay, Araabi, Matt, Devin, Ashley, and the pdx crew: thanks for helping us get this order out!
Here’s a cool promotional video for the Atacama bags created by Shawn Thomas, featuring our very own Dusty from Mosko (D-Train on advrider):
Once the bags were assembled, we shipped them to BMW’s two US distribution centers, who then shipped them to dealers. A few weeks ago we went to Portland to see the team at BMW Motorcycles of Western Oregon and describe the various features of the Atacama bags. Scott & Madelyn (owners) have been Mosko supporters from the start, helping with industry/product knowledge, and allowing us to test-fit various prototypes on their display bikes.
When we showed up, Scott’s R80 already had the Atacama bags mounted, thoroughly dirty from a weekend trip.
The Atacama project has been an interesting and unexpected twist in our development as a business. When the opportunity arose back in 2014, Andrew and I discussed the various risks/rewards, and ultimately decided to go for it. We’re glad we did. It’s a great complement to our direct-selling strategy, and it provides exposure to riders we might not otherwise meet. We’d love to see the BMW partnership expand in the years to come.
In other news
We received some final trims for our apparel:
We met Mike & Jenny from Pack Animal and got to check out their very cool bags. These guys were funded from a Kickstarter campaign, and have great things in the works.
We met with Dan Cox to work on our next ADVMoto Magazine advertisement, which will feature the Backcountry 30/40L Duffle.
And we had our second anniversary party at the Mosko shop in White Salmon. Thanks to everyone who showed up! Technically this was actually our third anniversary, because we spent a year in development, but it’s our second anniversary of shipping products.
Ashley and I are currently in Deadwood, South Dakota at the KTM Rally, where we’re temporarily rained-out, waiting for a storm to pass. Dusty is riding up from Colorado with his broken foot, and should arrive at any minute, crutches strapped to the bike. I’m waiting outside a mechanic shop getting the truck fixed for the ride home. Ashley is manning our half-setup booth in the rain.
Check out this awesome free camp spot we found in Idaho, all to ourselves, on public land, just a few miles from I-90, with its own dock, and a warm lake to jump in after a long day of chores and driving.