James Morrow is a bike bag maker and race director in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Today we chat about bags, races, fatherhood, and how hobbies turn into more than hobbies.
Morrow Packs on Instagram
Photos: Studio 13, Ryan Stephens Photo, and Rob Meendering
You're in the U.P.? Whereabouts and what's it like up there?
I started Morrow Packs in Iron Mountain, MI (my wife’s home town) but have since moved to Negaunee, just up the hill from Marquette.
Iron Mountain is beautiful country (I mean, it’s the U.P. right?) it has that small mining town feel, laid back. Not a big cycling community presence, but it’s on its way with many new single track trails right in town.
Tony and I and a handful of other mountain bikers grouped up and actually built a couple of trails up on Millie Hill with permission from the local trail network: Berm Cruise, Berm City, and Section 30 (the jumpline). As much fun as it was helping create trails and building, it is very nice to have Marquette and Ishpeming trail networks just outside my back door now. Now to just ride and volunteer.
How did you get into making bags and what made you take the leap from hobby to business?
A couple summers ago my brother in law (Tony) and I started riding together a bunch and started dabbling in bike-packing.
Buying a bag here and there, but once they were all on the bike, they did not compliment the bike at all (bikes are supposed to look cool). After asking around to a few different bag builders what the process and cost would be for some custom bags, it just made sense to take a crack at it.
We had just had a baby girl and I was at home a lot so why not fire up a new hobby with all my free time. (That one was a joke). The leap to a legit business all comes down to the demand and not wanting to hide anything from “the man”.
What's the Lone Wolf and what made you bring the race to Iron Mountain?
The Lone Wolf Gravel Race was a route that Tony and I would ride often.
We could leave right from town and hit gravel within 10 miles and get way out of town for a few hrs. It’s mostly truck trail and is pretty remote for 30 miles.
Spring of ‘19 Tony and I were riding the route when we ran up on a very large “mangy” grey wolf trotting in the same direction as us. It took a glance over its shoulder at us (he was not spooked) and hopped off the road as we cranked it up to get passed him.
Yes, very unnerving hoping he didn’t want to pass us.
So yeah, it is a beautiful route that I thought had to be showcased. And now you know where the name comes from. We had a great turnout of amazing people, about 78 signed up and 64 showed up and all finished. We ran it through the non profit cycling team I had started a year prior, Iron Hills Cycling Team, and used the proceeds from the race to purchase helmets for kids in the area.
We were able to get about 20 Helmets on kids with the help of the local bike shop U.P. Sport and Spoke. We plan on doing it all over again this fall too. Lone Wolf is scheduled for October 8th 2022.
Lone Wolf Race Video
Video by: Trent Lutzke
You're a full time Dad; how do you juggle business, events, creativity, and fatherhood?
Without the support, love and patience from my amazing wife Jen, I cannot do any of these things. She is awesome and believes in me. Love you darling!
I just keep moving forward and having fun with it all. The moment it starts feeling like work I’ll back off. But for now I’m enjoying making bags for so many cool people and their bikes, planning a race that people come to and enjoy, riding my bike, and of course being a husband and father.