Humans have been using animal hides to make shoes and other clothing, like, pretty much as soon as they figured out that being naked all the time is better left for questionable reality TV. The Egyptians—back in 5,000BC—discovered that leather sandals were reasonably comfortable and also a footwear fashion that would never go out of style.
Leather and fabric clothing styles got better and more functional and, at some point in the late 19th century, people were all dressed up and needed a quicker way to go. So, they invented the safety bicycle.
Whether you were going to work or on a date or to the local saloon, those slick leather shoe soles didn’t offer incredible grip on the pedals of the day, and so some intrepid inventor came up with the toe clip for pedals. Toe clips were good—but they were much better when combined with a small leather belt called a toe strap.
Somewhere about this time, some newspaper type determined that a bunch of dudes riding bicycles for potential money over a great distance would sell newspapers, and bicycle road racing became a sensation. The self-contained nature of these races required the riders to carry extra tires, which they did, wrapped around their neck and shoulders like odd rubber-and-cotton jewelry. This style continued until bike racing became mid-century stylish, and the events had support vehicles in lieu of tires wrapped around riders’ necks.
Tires still needed to be carried from time to time, particularly for training missions. Tires, now lighter and narrower than the pre-WWII varieties, were artfully rolled and folded and affixed to the bike’s saddle rails via—perhaps you guessed it—the ubiquitous leather toe strap. And this is a trend that continued almost unchanged until the last few years of the 20th century. [The introduction of clipless pedals in the early-mid 80s, and their quick adoption, rendered toe straps almost obsolete.]
Of course the mountain bike hit its stride over the last quarter of the 20th century, too, going from a crawl to a full on Olympic sprint in just a couple of decades. Modified newsboy bikes became modified road bikes became lightweight cross-country race machines with front suspension became carbon-fiber masterpieces that are quite literally capable of riding off cliffs.
Like road-bike riders in those early races and modern-day ones out on a training ride, mountain bikers had to carry spare stuff with them. At first, they used toe straps, attaching tubes to the saddle rails. Or they used their pockets, but that stole precious space normally used for food. And they also used small, sculpted seat packs.
But mountain bikes were quickly evolving into the modern engineering masterpieces they are today, complete with dropper posts and advanced suspension. Seat packs got in the way of dropper mechanisms and, let’s face it—they looked goofy going up and down. And suspension designs often didn’t allow for water bottles.
So, backpacks became a thing. Whether you were riding 10 minutes or 10 hours, you packed all of your stuff—a lot that you didn’t actually need—into a backpack especially designed for mountain biking. And while there’s plenty of ride opportunities that are better served with the stalwart backpack, a lot of them are much better without them. Like downhill racing. Or enduro racing. Or lunch rides. Or short after-work rides.
Now, we could do a ton of research to determine where and exactly how mountain bikers began attaching stuff like water bottles and spare tubes and stuff back on their bikes again. And we could attempt to ascertain whether enduro racing was a catalyst in the creation of new gear-stowage solutions or if it was bike-packing—which used to be called “touring.” But quelling the endless speculation of this matter is not our job.
Suffice to say that somebody started carrying spare stuff with a leather toe strap. And some dude named George de Mestral invented what would come to be known as Velcro. Somebody else developed shock cord [it was used to launch gliders back in WWI]. Some people in Montana put those materials and ideas together to create a smarter way to carry spare tubes and stuff on a mountain bike frame—or gravel bike, for that matter.
And we put it all together with our name on it to make perhaps the best invention since…pretty much since Egyptians started wearing sandals.
Note: This is the Mutherload 1.5" strap from Backcountry Research. Check the video below to see how it loads.