While Specialized is a company synonymous with the cycling scene, Sweden’s Fjällräven, a brand specialising in outdoor equipment, is one you might not have heard of if most of your exercise is done on two wheels. The fusion between the two companies and an exchange of expertise – coined "CaliSwede" by the brands themselves – has led to the creation of a product range designed to help users enjoy exploring nature on their bikes. From on-bike storage solutions to technical apparel, The Great Nearby sees hiking meet biking as Specialized and Fjällräven both hope to encourage more people to explore beyond where the tarmac ends.
For those less acquainted with Fjällräven, it’s a brand that has long been a leader in the Scandinavian outdoor equipment market. Founded in 1960 by Åke Nordin, who was dissatisfied with the hiking bags on offer at the time, Fjällräven created the first commercially made external framed backpack. From then on, the brand expanded further into the sphere of outdoor equipment. Now creating sleeping bags, jackets, trousers and, perhaps most famously, the miniature children's Kånken backpack – a garment which became a staple for Instagram influencers worldwide.
While the Swedish brand’s partnership with Specialized – famous for making the highest performing bikes and kit – may come as a surprise to some, the companies share a similar ethos when it comes to appreciating what nature has to offer. As more people are living in towns and cities, and priorities are shifting towards improving mental and physical health, both Specialized and Fjällräven agree the world will benefit if more people can access the outdoors.
Rather than a collaboration, The Great Nearby is described as an exchange of ideas. Fjällräven has long been creating sustainable products with timeless designs optimised for hiking and camping outdoors. Specialized has been able to bring its years of expertise regarding what is required from high-performance cycling apparel to ensure that products in the range are suitable for all-day biking adventures.
As the trend for gravel riding and off-road exploring grows exponentially, and there is a slight shift in focus away from the road racing scene, the Californian brand’s choice to embark on a project such as this is fitting. Specialized is clearly in tune with the changing demands of consumers. This sharing of ideas is signified in the logo which adorns all the products in the collection, which features Fjällräven’s iconic ‘arctic fox’ emblem combined with the equally famous Specialized ‘S’.
While the products are designed for adventure, the name of the collection, “The Great Nearby”, aims to show riders that nature and beautiful landscapes can be right on our doorsteps. Bikepacking trips that require months of planning and preparation can be daunting for some, but with the equipment on offer from Specialized and Fjällräven, the next adventure can be just around the corner.
The collection will be released in a series of 'drops' with the first, launching today, focussing on products that can be used closer to home. This includes apparel designed to be worn both casually and while riding. Consciously avoiding lycra and traditional race-focussed cycling clothing, one of the flagship products of the first drop is the modified Räven anorak. A staple in Fjällräven’s usual range, the jacket has been optimised for on-bike comfort as part of the new collection, with waterproof materials at the rear and a dropped hem – all while still being suitable to wear off the bike too. The collection takes a similar approach to the merino t-shirts, bucket hats, scarves and socks that form part of The Great Nearby drop one. All are garments that can be worn casually, avoiding the stares from passersby we’re all familiar with when popping into the supermarket in lycra…
As well as apparel, on-bike storage solutions form an integral part of the collection. In drop one, a key product is the Cool Cave – a hard shell, injection-moulded pannier made from recycled PET plastic, which comes with a tote bag tapered to fit inside the pannier. In the second drop of the range which lands on the 18th of May, we can expect to see more products focussed on long-haul adventures with equipment such as saddle packs and handlebar bags up for grabs.
So, from panniers to bar bags, The Great Nearby has options for commuters as well as bike-packing adventurers. The collection strikes a balance between being practical and high-performance. Still, it looks good at the same time, keeping the minimalist and instantly recognisable styling that has been present in Fjällräven’s products for over half a century.