A lot of start ups and brands come and go in this industry. In regards to crowdsourcing brands, the list waxes and wanes more than most. One thing is for sure, the brands that have thrived after Kickstarter (think Taylor Reels and Tenkara Rod Co.) have had two things in common; design and purpose.
The Olympian from Trxstle (pronounced trestle) might be the most innovative product you’ve never heard of. Part rod vault (for lack of a better term) and part rod case; this telescoping rod carrier is the brain-child of two young engineers hailing from The Evergreen State. The next generation of product designers are bringing some fresh ideas and innovations to the table, and, in Trxstle’s case, they aren’t afraid to be more than just a fly fishing company.
Enter Morgan and john, and a recent conversation we had regarding their new product:
First, can you tell us a little about your team and how the Trxstle brand came to be?
Trxstle is a two man team, Morgan Misek and John Smigaj, we’re both mechanical engineers, and we’re absolute outdoor junkies. We met while working together at two local Olympia, WA companies prior to starting our own product design and engineering firm at the end of 2014. In 2016 we had saved enough money designing products for other companies that we decided it was time to start developing our own brand and product line. We knew we wanted something in the outdoor industry, we examined our favorite hobbies (fly fishing/skiing/snowboarding/mountain biking/surfing) and some of our favorite companies that are already making great gear. In the process we started to see an emerging pattern that we think is going to keep building, and that is the growing trend of people combining multiple sports into single outings. People are riding their fat bikes to ski areas, using XC skis to go fly fish rivers in winter, back packing into remote beaches with surf boards and fly rods, what we’re calling multi-sport adventures. Because the overlapping landscapes where we do our favorite sports, there are a lot of opportunities for multi-sport adventuring.
At this point we had our theme, we had product ideas we were confident in, we just needed a name and catch phrase. We started looking for a company name that tied together everything and initially settled on the normal spelling of Trestle. We like the name because it incorporates our shared history. We worked at a locomotive design and manufacturing company together until it abruptly shut down at the end of 2014. Trestle’s themselves are a tool to get over difficult terrain, and often that same terrain is where we like to do our hobbies. When a back eddy forms behind a bridge support it can create great fishing conditions, mountain bikers and skiers have used old trestle bridges to get into the back country for years, and there’s a world famous surf spot called trestles (not to mention an awesome river wave in OR you can surf that is by a trestle.) We finally swapped out the E for an X because it represents the old school structure of steel train trestles and we didn’t want people to have a hard time finding us online. Google Trxstle and we’re all you’ll find.
Why make this particular product, and what do you think separates it from other rod carriers?
The Olympian was a design we had been working on for a while and it seemed like the most mature and best performing product we could initially go to market with. John’s always wanted a car top fly rod carrier but also travels to fish in places like AK. We thought it would be beneficial for people to be able to have a rugged travel case for their favorite fly rod that also allowed them to have a car top carrier at their destination. If you and three friends all fly or drive to one place to fish together you can quickly put all of your cases on top of the vehicle and carpool. Spend more time with your friends, and more time fishing. The other benefits of the design are that it is easy to take on and off your car and gets very compact for storage, which is important if you live in a small city apartment with no garage or secure place to park.
The collapsable body is a really cool idea. Will it house most rod/reel combos?
It will hold up to a 9’6″ rod and arbors as large as 4″ in diameter. With the clamps out of the hatch you can even fit in a small one to two inch fighting butt.
Every aspect of the Olympian’s design seems well-thought-out. How long have you guys been toying with this concept?
John had the idea three or four years ago. We started developing it in our spare time with Oak Ave Engineering almost two years ago now.
Why did you decided to go the Kickstarter route, and how can folks get involved?
Kickstarter is a really powerful platform for a lot of reasons. The most important component is the connection it builds with a global community. We constantly get feedback from people and we think they’re more willing to give that feedback if something is a project on Kickstarter simply because they have a greater chance of being heard and having their input incorporated into the end result. Kickstarter also serves as a wonderful tool to gauge product viability in the marketplace. It’s barely been a week since we launched and we’re learning a lot about the expectations people have of the fly fishing industry and what they really value in a product like The Olympian. This influences the current project and all our future projects as well.
How will the final Olympian differ from the prototype in the videos?
The prototype was constructed using stock aluminum tubing shapes and 3D printed plastic parts. The production version sees us move to molded plastic parts which are much stronger, last longer, and significantly reduce the per-part cost of production. On top of the molded plastics, we’re also having custom extruded aluminum shapes made that will have a hard anodized finish. The custom shapes let us implement rounded corners, a lighter overall weight, and a smaller overall size. In the future we’ll be able to have the tubes anodized different colors if people decide they want something a bit more bold than the aluminum grey color. The padded housing liner will be a thinner, tougher foam rubber lining similar to the door seals on your car. The last major change is to the clamping system. If you watch the product video on the Kickstarter page you’ll notice the clamp jaws are made of 3D printed metal. Initially we thought these would do a better job than plastic but after some testing the extra strength was way overkill and tended to mar the surface finish of the rack it was on. The production version will have a molded plastic jaw made from the same material as the rest of the device.
What’s next on the docket for Trxstle?
The next fly fishing related product on our hit list is also for the mountain biking enthusiast who wants to capitalize on the fishing opportunities in the back country. Ride your bike to go fly fishing, the core of our company philosophy really. Outside of fly fishing we’ve started a collaboration with local surfboard builder, Loser Cool Surfboards, to build some river capable surfboards. If the cfs is so high you can’t fish, go find a standing wave! And finally we have long term goals for bike packing gear, and a versatile backpacking system. We have a lot of concepts floating around the office, but these are the few we can mention now as they have made it through the initial vetting process already.
Since there is only a prototype, at this point, we can only speculate at the future of the Olympian. If and when this product does become a realization, we promise to be the first to give it an honest gear review. Until then, we can only hope that companies like Trxstle continue to innovate and shake up the industry status quo.
[by Seth L. Fields]