Robb Report Vices

Cycling with a Six-Pack

  • Shaun Tolson

You need only tune in for a few minutes of the Tour de France to understand that the event is all about speed. As you watch the world’s best cyclists powering up the French Alps and tearing through the streets of Paris, you’ll notice that there’s nothing superfluous on their racing bikes. If an item doesn’t make the bike lighter or faster, if it doesn’t provide the rider with any advantage, or if it can’t be designed in a streamlined way, it’s simply not on the bike. Not a single bike racing in the Tour de France will be equipped with Walnut Studiolo’s handcrafted leather six-pack or four-pack beer transporters—but there are plenty of reasons why your bike should be.

These beer lover’s bike accessories are the brainchild of Geoffrey and Valerie Franklin, who first began crafting handmade leather cycling accouterments out of their Portland, Ore., garage back in 2009, though at the time it was a part-time venture and one that Geoffrey pursued only for his own benefit. “The business started from my obsessions with cycling, but it has grown into the process of replacing all the things in our lives that are mass produced with better handmade items,” he says. “That’s a lifelong pursuit. In the past year we launched a number of products that aren’t related to bicycling.”

The Spartan Carton 4-Pack (from $94) and the Spartan Carton 6-Pack (from $108) both fall within that category, but they’re easily adapted to a bike thanks to the company’s six-pack frame cinch (Geoffrey also designs growler leashes, rack straps, and bottle belts, which make pedaling with a bottle of wine or your favorite single malt an easy proposition). “Beer and bikes have a really healthy interest in this town,” Geoffrey says, explaining that both beer transporters were initially designed to make a trip to and from the craft-beer store a simple excursion. “A lot of cyclists like good beer, and a lot of beer fans like to cycle.”

“Portland is a capital of bicycles and a capital of beers,” Valerie adds, explaining that their location lends extra credibility. “When you [live here and] make bicycle and beer products, people know that you know what you’re doing.”

Despite running a business that has grown exponentially over the last few years, the Franklins continue to operate from a headquarters situated in their garage. Over cups of French-press coffee, they streamline their business plans and continue crafting a variety of leather goods. As Geoffrey explains, the six-pack holder may look simple, but it’s deceptively challenging to make, and it’s a time-intensive process—he burnishes and polishes every leather edge by hand. “You really understand what craftsmanship is after making something by hand dozens of times,” he says.

“Geoff has said before that assembling one of these is like wrestling a raccoon,” Valerie adds with a laugh.

To date, the six-pack holder is one of Walnut Studiolo’s most popular items, which Geoffrey believes is due to its versatility and durability. “You take this camping and can toss the whole thing in a cooler of ice or in the river,” he says, holding up a recently finished example. “Cardboard just disintegrates, but this . . . beat it up as much as you can!”

Geoffrey has retired the four-bottle transporter from his portfolio of active products, but he will happily take special orders for them. “They’re a lot of work to make, but if people are really excited about it, of course I’ll support that,” he says. “I’m excited that they’re excited.”

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