categories

Mechanic Turned Craftsman

Casey Magner, chief mechanic for Holowesko|Citadel p/b Hincapie Sportswear, spends the off-season crafting custom-made messenger bags and volunteering his talents to the community.

 

“When I was a pilot for a charter company out of Atlanta, I took a month off to go hiking in California. Afterward, when I was heading back home and driving across the country, I saw a teepee. I didn’t have anywhere to live, and I thought it would be cool to live in a teepee. So I swung back through Colorado and bought one. I got back to Georgia, cut down eight poles, hung the canvas, built a wood deck, and lived in the teepee for a year while flying Larry the Cable Guy around in a private plane.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

This is the story of Casey Magner, chief mechanic for Holowesko|Citadel p/b Hincapie Sportswear. Understated, soft-spoken, yet quietly confident, Magner is one of those guys who knows his heart, follows his instincts, and takes advantage of what life offers him.

“I was never meant for a real job,” says Magner. “I worked at Allstate Insurance for six months after college. I learned really quickly that I shouldn’t be sitting at a desk all day.”

He came upon his current position as chief mechanic almost accidentally. His brother, Ty, was racing for Holowesko|Citadel, and Ty said they needed a mechanic for a race in New York. “So I went there, did that, and then I stayed on,” Magner says matter-of-factly.

Magner also rides, but he admits he was never as good as his brother. His familiarity with the sport, as well as his keen eye for form, made him a perfect candidate for a mechanic. Which led him to his next discovery: he could also sew.

“I was looking for a good toolbelt to hold my tools for the bikes,” explains Magner. “Nothing really worked. So I bought a sewing machine, watched some YouTube videos, and made my own toolbelt. Then one of the guys on the team, Joe Lewis, asked me to make a seat roll, so I did that. And then my girlfriend asked for a purse, so I made that. And then came the messenger bags.”

Like most things in Magner’s life, his complete openness to chance led to a new discovery, and this was a major one: he had a talent for crafting high-end, beautiful bags. One thing led to another, and Magner Co. was born. Magner prides himself on using high-quality, American-made materials, like leather from Wickett & Craig, a vegetable leather tannery in Pennsylvania, and waxed canvas from New Jersey. (According to Magner, waxed canvas is “what the military used before all of the synthetic materials existed.”) Magner has an eye for mixing different textures and aesthetics, like tanned leather with colored rope and carabiners. The result is a bag that feels classic, vintage, but with modern touches that make a nod to Magner’s love—the outdoors.

Magner pays special attention to the craftsmanship of every bag, spending about two full days to construct one bag. Currently, he’s struggling to keep up with the demand for the bags, and when asked their cost, he shrugs, “I never was much of a businessman.”

But an artist he is. And he aims to pass this combined passion for bikes and design to others. Like with his recent volunteer work with The Village Wrench in West Greenville, South Carolina. The Village Wrench is an organization of volunteers that encourages community leadership through offering free bicycle maintenance, bike learning opportunities, and community development.

“I saw on Instagram that they needed volunteer mechanics for their junior program, so I went to help them,” says Magner. “At first I thought I would give the kids some toolbelts that I made, but then I decided I would teach the kids how to sew them. So we spent all day building the belts.”

With both parents being teachers, Magner claims he has a natural inclination to teach.

“I know how empowering it is to create something,” he says. “It was rewarding to show these kids that if you take this fabric and this leather, you can make something really beautiful and functional out of it. I loved hearing the kids say, ‘I can’t believe I made this!’”

In a few weeks, though, Magner will have to trade some of his sewing time for traveling with the Holowesko|Citadel racing team. But he’s okay with that.

“I’m excited for the season to start,” he says. “These guys are all my friends. My brother is on the team. I grew up racing with Oscar. It’s an energetic, exciting environment to work in.”