Where luggage and accessories become art
Designing durable and desirable equipment is one thing but creating kit that fits any custom bike adds several layers of difficulty. But that’s what Malle has achieved. The story started four years ago... with a doctor’s bag. Cousins Robert Nightingale and Jonathan Cazzola were chatting after a gig in New York when they hit on the idea of making soft luggage that would not only fit their old Brit bikes but would be suitable for any custom. “Rob was working for a design company in New York,” says
Jonny, “and I was running a digital studio here in London. We spent time as kids belting around fields on old bikes. We’ve always had bikes since and at that time he had a Royal Enfield and I had a BSA. “Strapped to his bike, Rob had this beautiful old doctor’s bag made from really heavy canvas, indestructible stitching and solid brass buckles and fittings, but it wasn’t totally practical. So we wondered if we could come up with a modern alternative with the same vintage appearance. “The thing we noticed was that any moto gear either resembled something you might buy in an S&M shop (ie heavy leather) or it was cheap plastic. My dad rides a Harley so he likes leather bags and is not worried if it’s a little bulky.
The sportsbike guys seem to want something slimmed right down – and it’s usually made of plastic. But we couldn’t find anything to suit our style of bike – except the old doctor’s bag! “We did lots of research into what people carried – things like phones, laptops plus the chargers, computer discs, sunglasses. The fact that most people carry a laptop meant any bag had to have a 15in sleeve or pocket built in,” says Jonny. “We took 50-year-old bags, deconstructed them, spoke to canvas suppliers and came up with the new product. We did a full year of designing the bags. Rob’s an incredible designer, having come from a background of industrial design and working with large brands.”
They sourced their canvas from the oldest canvas maker in the UK, based near Rochdale. All the fittings and claps are made from brass castings – unbreakable according to Jonny. The bridle leather used for the base and straps comes from Italy. “We’d like to think that it can stand being beaten around for at least 50 years. While it’s incredibly strong and durable, it also moulds to you if you are using it on a back pack.” The Malle bags have roll tops, making them waterproof and adjustable – you can vary the size of the bag depending on what you’re carrying. “I’m good at testing stuff because I’m very destructive – much more so than Rob. I’m the problem maker. He’s the problem solver.”
Malle also has a new universal pannier. “It’s a pure pannier bag,” says Jonny. “Lots of bags we’ve done have been multi-purpose but the new pannier is what it says. It fits over the seat and has a huge volume for stuff. Creating a universal bag for custom bikes is almost impossible but this new pannier has multiple attachment points to fix to the bike – 16 of them.” Malle has also produced its own riding jacket in the familiar blue canvas. “Because making jackets is new territory for us, we’ve got this guy who used to work on clothing for Navy Seals. We found him through our canvas suppliers. When you design for motorcycles you’re designing something that has to be pretty well indestructible but also purposeful without it looking like any other traditional motorcycle jacket.”
Thorough testing again threw up some interesting revelations – and things that needed changing. “We quickly realised the jacket needed a pre-wash lining. The first time it rained I ended up looking like a smurf as all the blue dye seeped out. The neck clasp rattled against the helmet so we put a popper on it. We created an inside pocket for a phone with a tiny button hole so you can feed the earpiece through and up inside your helmet. We’ve also added some pillion hand loops inside the side pockets – we call them love handles – so the pillion can use them to hold on.”
Creating Malle has given Jonny and Robert the chance to live the dream – to work and play in the motorcycle industry. Jonny says: “The reason Rob and I started Malle was that we wanted the freedom to do things we love doing. My grandma remembers how the two of us used to tear around the fields on bikes. And that’s all we were doing when we invented the Malle Mile in 2015 [an event with an off-road drag race as its centrepiece].” There are plans to run this year’s event over three-days, with camping and a film screening/party on Friday night. Saturday will feature the hillclimb and drag races but there’s talk of a full motocross style course being built for 2018.
And there’s more... This year will see the launch of The Great Mile – a road trip that spans the UK mainland in September. Over to Jonny: “We’ll start in Scotland and end up at in Cornwall. We’ll have teams with a minimum of two riders. There’s going to be a road book, which the teams follow, with check points. It’s up to the teams to navigate through some of the most beautiful roads in the UK. We’ll stop off occasionally for a party or a beach race. “The bikes will be taken up to Scotland in a truck so everyone can make their own way up there in a relaxed way. We’re not sure how many entries – about 50 maybe? It’ll be 1000 miles over four days and each day will end with a time trial. It’s more a celebration of the British countryside than anything.” And the future of Malle? “We’re talking about doing a helmet bag with Hedon and we’re designing a collection for the sailing industry. Anything that involves transportation that needs utilitarian luggage...”