Known for their iconic messenger bags, SF-based Chrome Industries recently launched the Cardiel Attack Travel Series, a collection of three bags designed legendary former pro skateboarder John Cardiel.For a good majority, waking up from a traumatic accident to a doctor’s diagnosis of never being able to walk again could mean the end. To a professional athlete this news might extinguish the will to continue.
Not so for John Cardiel. Respected for his brilliantly fearless skateboarding style and abilities, Cardiel woke to that depressing diagnosis. Determined to prove the doctors wrong, he’s walking and shredding on bicycles harder than anyone’s business.
In between riding and building custom bikes and skateboards for his company Break Free, among other things, John is a member of the Chrome “familia.” His most recent project for the locally based bag company is the Cardiel Travel System.
We spoke with him at the bag release party to get the low-down on the Cardiel bags, which currently consist of three styles—the Fortnight ($180,) a weatherproof travel pack that holds the other two; the Operation Readiness Pack ($110), an ultra-lightweight waterproof rolltop daypack; and the Shank ($60), a waterproof hip pack (yes, it’s a fanny pack). The Shank and Fortnight are made in Chico, California and all three bags launched in black, with hopefully more colors in the future.
Can you tell us a little bit about the design process?
It was totally from the ground up. Basically just wanted stuff that was light and waterproof and that can last a long time. I wanted three [bags] because you kind of get stuck; [you might be] in a situation where you need a different bag and you can’t just use the one heavy bag you came over on a plane with. You want other bags when you get there. It was kind of like designing all three was a necessity, almost.
Especially when you’re riding bikes, you carry a bunch of stuff to a lot of different spots so you’re kind of overloaded. It was good to be able to design the Fortnight for traveling on a plane and when you get there you can bust out a waterproof light sack that you can easily pack a sleeping bag into or whatever [the ORP] and then you can put your tools and all your other stuff into a hip pack [the Shank] that would get you from A to B.
Did you design these from the ground up or work off existing Chrome designs?
It was all from the ground up and it was all basically my idea of how it should be. I really wanted to be able to bring my sleeping bag and my sleeping mat with me and I like all things to be with me on the plane. I don’t like checking in [anything] except for my bicycle.
Do you travel with your bike a lot?
Yeah, everywhere I go, the same bike—a fixed gear.
Where are you traveling to these days?
Lately it’s been LA. I’ve been going back and forth. The next place is going to be Phoenix for the Tampa Am [skate contest], then New York to release the bags.
Will your bags come in other colors [besides black]?
Hopefully. I really like the old Jansport look; it’s kind of inspiration to me. I like leather bottoms and those type of things. Those type of things are really awesome to me. I like leathers and expensive materials, but it’s not always the most practical; they get chewed up.
It would be awesome to go with synthetic leather. That’s what’s rad about Chrome; I really appreciate the fact that the bags are indestructible and waterproof and handmade—it’s dope.
Tell us about the patch—what’s its significance?
It’s a label for the bags. I was trying to find an idea that was semi-close to the griffin. I wanted to incorporate the griffin into the graphic and I’ve always been into long-distance shooting and I like to target shoot from long distances. This came from a long-distance shooter that worked for the armed forces. I found it on the Internet. I like military-type things that are militant and strict.
I think it looks cool and I grew up with a father that was a total marine and everything was Rambo—all these different things growing up like knives, you know what I mean? It all comes from that vibe. And that’s what [the patch represents] to me: going camping or going into the woods with a knife and you’re on your bike and you’re setting up a fucking campfire. Basically, that’s what I’m into. I’m not always into staying in a hotel.
Tell us a little bit about your company, Break Free.
When fixed gear bikes started to make a move, I really took to them, so I started buying some Japanese bicycle frames and selling them. Then I started to paint the bikes and suit them to people’s liking, and so, after I did that people were getting excited and it could be an outlet for me. Why not try to sell some bikes and get them online and do something? So I did that.
What are your favorite places to ride?
New York City or Downeyville, CA, which is just past Nevada City, for downhill mountain bike riding.
Have you been doing much skating?
Yeah, every now and again, it depends on the vibration. If there’s people around me I’m enjoying being around, I’ll give it a try. I can’t really do it—it’s not like I’m going to do a kickflip. I’m hurt, you know?
Any favorite records you’ve been listening to lately?
Mungo’s Hifi. It’s a record label and they put out the album Forward Ever. It’s awesome.
Last question. What particular people or things have inspired you most?
I’ll tell you what inspires me the most. I get emails all the time from people that have been hurt and have been through the situation. They find bicycle riding or they try, they dig deep within themselves to get back on their feet. Through all this exposure I’ve gotten after I’ve been hurt, they’ve caught that and it’s brightened up their life in such a unique way. They’re coming from zero and they’re regrowing their life. To me that’s been the most amazing part of it all.
It’s intense. You’re talking to people like 12 year old kids that have had the same injury and have been cancelled and they come to you and say “Yo, you give me hope.” It’s truly awesome because I truly understand what they’re going through.