Gear: Aerostich Courier bag and iPad sleeve

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If you are a daily motorcyclist without a car then the question you have to answer most (after folks look as you sideways when they find out) is how you buy groceries and carry stuff around. For a long time, I kept it simple with some sort of backpack but the Aerostich Courier Bag is my new go-to. It works equally well for carrying my iPad, keyboard and camera or a heaping basket’s worth of groceries. And when I’m walking around with it off the bike, I feel less like a high-school refugee.

The Courier bag is rugged and minimalist. For $97, you get a sturdy and simple bag made of urethane-coated 1000 Denier Cordura and lined with the yellow waterproof material dry bags are usually made of. It’s not advertised as waterproof and the seams aren’t taped, but you can expect your stuff to stay dry in a light drizzle. There are no dividers or compartments inside, and instead just a large versatile open space and two flat pockets. Aerostich offers an organizer pocket if you’d prefer things to be a little less minimalist. Load the bag with your stuff, put it on and adjust the shoulder strap with the simple camlock adjuster. Buy the $9 stabilizer strap too, it works. Aerostich makes these bags in four different sizes, Letter (9″x11″x3.75″), Dispatch (12″x14″x3.75), Courier (12″x21″x7″) and Parcel (14″x22″x9″). With a light load, the Courier bag wraps around your back and you can barely tell it’s there. When it’s crammed full of stuff, let the strap out so the bag sits on the seat behind you. Even if you over-fill it to the point that it wont velcro shut (I fit $80 worth of Trader Joe’s the other day), the two buckles keep it closed.

Hauling around a 17″ laptop sucks, so I use an iPad with a bluetooth keyboard instead. The Aerostich iPad sleeve is simple yet effective armor to keep your iPad safe while it’s bouncing around with hard pointy things in a large open bag. It weighs nearly nothing, has no moving parts, and at $28, it’s one the cheapest protective sleeves around. Made by Aerostich in Duluth, MN out of a proprietary three-layer laminate with nylon on the outside, impact material in the middle and brushed fleece on the inside. If you prefer a laptop over an iPad, these sleeves are available in a multitude of sizes.

  • joshua

    Looks a LOT like my BailyWorks courier bag that I have used almost daily for the last 10 years. Now its grubby(the yellow on the inside eventually turns grey with enough use) and dirty but still going as my gym bag. I have crashed more than once in it and generally beat the crap out of it and Never had a problem.

    • kidchampion

      The Aerostich appears considerably less expensive than the Chrome and Mission options.

      • Sean Smith

        With the stabilizer strap and organizer pocket, it’s still 8 bucks cheaper than the Chrome and made in USA.

        • Tony T.

          The Chrome bag has a beefy shoulder piece that won’t cut into you when you have the bag loaded down with 40lbs of crap. Not to mention the velcro piece that you can use to shape the shoulder so it conforms better when the bag is empty. There is a premium, but my Chrome Metropolis bag is going on 8 years old and doesn’t even have loose stitching anywhere and I’ve wrecked on my bicycle with it more times than I can remember (maybe because of the concussions and broken bones). I’d happily lend it to you guys if you want to do a comparison.

          • Lacubrious

            Chrome bags are made in the USA. Chico, CA to be exact. Unless you want them to sew a custom colorway for you in the shops at SF, CHI, or NYC. My Berlin messenger bag has survived one crash (so far) with barely a mark and kept my iPad safe. It also has a second full size shoulder strap for those heavier loads.

    • joshua

      I miss spelled baileyworks. And the N.H. economy can use all the help it can get. So here is a link.

      (I dont work for these guys, I just like their bags a lot)

  • dan
    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      I went through three Chrome Metropolis courier bags (including one that was custom-made for me) in the dozen or so years that I used them as my daily bicycling/motorcycling/traveling bag. And I’ve purchased and gifted away many more too. They’re awesome bags!

      But now that I’m older, the single-shoulder courier bag lifestyle was killing my upper back and especially my weight-bearing shoulder. In fact, doctors would always ask me if I played baseball, because my body was asymmetric from wearing a courier bag for almost 25 years!

      I’m now using a backpack made by Mission Workshop, the company that the founders of Chrome started after their non-compete with Chrome’s new owners expired.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      Oh, a big reason why the Chrome messenger bags are better than bags that utilize the plastic-clamp-style strap adjuster:

      You can tighten or loosen the strap on a Chrome bag one-handed while you are wearing it — without fear of loosening the strap so quickly that the bag falls off your shoulders and your six-pack breaks open, submersing your iPad/Phone/Poo in your favorite brew.

  • fasterfaster

    After years of moto commuting (90mi a day) with a messenger bag (Chrome), I highly recommend a backpack instead. With daily use, shoulder bags twist your neck, shoulder, and back muscles in some awful ways. I used to get wicked neck cramps – switched to a backpack and it all disappeared.

    Would love to see a backpack with a Chrome-style quick release on one strap so you can easily swing the pack off while still mounted and wearing a helmet. Anyone make one?

    • Ben NYC

      Absolutely correct.

      Messenger bags are a bad idea, even on a bike. They were never intended for long-distance travel. They were for bike messengers who were paid by the parcel and had to get to the bag quickly.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      Marc, have you checked out the Tamrac Evolution series of backpacks?

      If not, watch this video. As the video shows (about halfway through), you can change the length of each strap while still wearing the pack to get an arm out quickly, or you can even disconnect a strap via a quick-release clip. Morever, you can hide away one strap and use the remaining strap as a cross-strap across your chest.

      Unfortunately, the Tamrac Evolution bags don’t expand/contract (and go low profile) like the (much simpler in design) Mission Workshop backpacks. Another advantage of the MW backpacks is that the extra pockets take up zero volume when they’re empty, so you can easily cram the main compartment full of groceries (or a two-pair Zappos cardboard box).

      BTW, the straps on my MW packs (I own the Rambler and the Vandal) are very easy to tighten/loosen — in fact, I find them too easy. So I’ve modified my straps with extra hardware (that I got from REI), and I fashioned a bicycle-lock harness on the outside of the bag (so I don’t have to put a dog-pee-dosed lock inside the bag with other stuff).

      On the front of the shoulder strap, I have a Kriega Kube Pocket (which I learned about here on HFL).

      BTW, Mission Workshop is a 15 min walk away from BRD. Lunch visit?

      • fasterfaster

        Haven’t ever seen Tamrac. Not bad – not aesthetic, but pretty damn functional.

        Would love to check out Mission Workshop. Are you in on Fridays?

        • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

          Oh, sorry for the misunderstanding, Marc. I was suggesting that you could visit Mission Workshop on your own during a lunch break.

          I was in SF earlier this week, and I thought about dropping by BRD (having preordered a RedShift on Nov 1), but I figured y’all don’t need a geek like me distracting you while you’re hard at work getting the RedShift ready for production.

    • Sean Smith

      Alpinestars used to make such a bag. The old Tech Aero backpack had a quick release strap and was by all account an awesome bag until I finally wore out the zipper on mine.

  • Ken

    This looks like a great option for a messenger style bag at an affordable price. I prefer backpacks over the messenger bags, though. Recently I’ve been using the Chrome Yalta. Overall it’s quite good, but there’s room for improvement.

    I didn’t know about Mission Workshop until I saw Miles’ post. Their backpacks look amazing, although more expensive.

  • kidchampion

    I bought a used Kriega backpack and couldn’t be happier with it for bicycle and mc use.

    • th3w3s

      Ditto. The kriega r15 has been on my back through daily riding, cycling and offroading…

  • Roman

    I’ve been using the ‘Stitch Dispatch bag for about a year now, on and off the bike. I’m generally a fan, the only downside is that the plastic adjuster pokes me in the side when I’m not wearing a jacket. It gets pretty annoying in the summer if I’m bicycling to work, or just walking around. Wish the adjustment mechanism wasn’t as clunky. Other than that, great bag.

  • oldblue

    For a bit of bike use here and there, my “Horseman” by Crumpler does the job well.

    For serious miles and a solution that won’t result in sermons from my physiotherapist, it has to be Kriega.

  • Gene

    Hm. I use an old Sun Dog pack that holds about 1.3 old-style paper grocery bags, or 2 18-packs of toilet paper plus a loaf of bread on top. That and 3 Givi E45 boxes on my old SV-650 would carry an entire grocery-cart-full.

    Basically it’s a large plain black rectangular sack with a double zipper, 2 shoulder straps and a belt strap.

    I haven’t found anything else that’s as large, as simple, and completely black, with straps that swing over the shoulder and clip to the belt, so I can set it on the passenger seat and fasten it on, like a 5-pt harness.

    Even though it’s American made, it’s still held up for 10 years.

    • BigRooster

      “Even though it’s American made, it’s still held up for 10 years.”

      What? When has American domestic production been equated with low quality? Sure there is plenty of crap made in the USA, but I would argue that domestic products are generally on the higher end of the quality scale – at least in recent trends.

  • vic06

    I don’t consider anything else than Boblbee to carry my stuff when I ride. If you go down, the items inside can, not only break, but also increase the damage of the fall by increasing the pressure on your body. Boblbee bags have an ABS hard shell to protect your stuff and a sleeve to make sure that the force is not transferred to your body. Their backpacks are CE-1 and 2 certified back protectors.

    • Sean Smith

      Or spend less money on an Alpinestars Protection pack with CE level 2 back protector, hip protection and 3/8″ of foam protection for your stuff. It folds up flat when empty, has a laptop/hydration sleeve and a helmet carrier.

    • Archer

      +1 on the Boblbee Meg Aero. I have three, and with the various external hard points and carry system accessories, you can carry just about anything.

      Only downside is the constant barrage of questions.

      “is that a jet pack? Is that a parachute?”

  • Kevin

    Top case, bitches. I rest my case.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      You still need a bag to get your stuff to/from your motorcycle.

      The Chrome Metropolis fits very well into a Givi E46 topcase, even when it’s stuffed. The MW Rambler just barely fits, but only in its non-expanded state, taking up about half the case because of its rigid backplate.

      • aristurtle

        I’ve got a Fieldsheer Roll Bag; it’s a cloth tail bag that clips onto my saddle bag with four 1″ clip buckles. Unclip it and it’s basically a black duffel bag.

        Fieldsheer doesn’t make it anymore, unfortunately, but you can probably do something similar with any ballistic nylon duffel bag and some 1″ clip buckles and a decent sewing machine.

  • 10/10ths

    I own two of the Aerostich Messenger bags, in different sizes, a Kriega R30, and a Road Sack from Australia.

    The Aerostich Messenger bags are fantastic tools. I don’t know why anybody would have bad things to say about them.

    They work.

    And you can get ‘em in Hi-Viz.

  • TuffGong

    I find the idea of strapping something to my body instead of my bike laughably ludicrous. Tankbags and or tailbags are much more stable and therefore safer,more comfortable,have generally higher capacity and do not require you to carry the load. And there a great many easily attachable/detachable and convertible to back packs/shoulder style for in and out of the office,store and travel….

    • aristurtle

      Yeah, I was about to say this. Backpacks screw up my weight distribution enough; an asymmetrical messenger bag setup would be even worse. Besides, that’s not exactly a lot of room for stuff. I right now have a set of Fieldsheer saddle bags and a tail bag that straps onto the top of them for larger loads. They’re easy to get on and off the bike when necessary and they’re not constantly weighing me down. Unfortunately it looks like Fieldsheer stopped making them last year, which is a real shame.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      For those of us who aren’t motojournalists switching between multiple press motorcycles, cases and strap-downs make lots of sense.

      For that reason, I store a bungee cargo net under the seat of both of my motorcycles (which thankfully have rails on the back). The net easily holds my backpack down.

      But with that said, it takes time to open the seat, pull out the net, tie down the backpack — being extra careful so that the load is secure. So for quick errands (e.g., grabbing some groceries because surprise guests just showed up for dinner), you might just want to ride with the backpack on your back.

      I have top and side cases for my Multistrada, but I don’t always ride with them, as you can see in this photo of my MTS sporting an HFL sticker.

      • Wes Siler

        Backpacks and whatnot are convenient for anyone who’s running errands and hopping on and off the bike. I rode to the cafe this morning with my laptop and whatnot in my Kriega. No messing about with top boxes, just grabbed my backpack off the floor in my bedroom, threw on a helmet, rode here, walked in, set up shop.

        • Mark D

          I use my kriega 20L as a courier bag/man purse, but I usually leave the straps laying under my seat. Throw stuff in the bag, throw bag on pillion seat, clip it in, and go. When I get where I need to be, I just unclip it and throw the bag over my shoulder.

          Also possible with a passenger if you use it as a tank bag. I haven’t worn my 6-year old Timbuk2 bag on the bike since getting the Kriega.

        • karinajean

          I don’t mess around with a top case – it’s the simplest option for my needs. I keep the top case on the bike, walk outside with my (it’s so uncool that it’s cool again, maybe?) radiolab tote bag full of stuff, and chuck it in the top case. when I get to my destination I pull off my helmet, grab my bag, and put the helmet and gloves in the top case.

          it’s far easier to walk in to the office/coffee shop/etc without having to do the astronaut strut or struggle to lock the helmet to the bike.

      • Wes Siler

        Oh, and excellent sticker placement.

  • Will

    All of these look sexy, and they do look superbly put together in person, but I can’t get away from the cost-benefit of military surplus bags and storage period.

  • Jordy

    Hauling around a 17″ laptop sucks, so I use an iPad with a bluetooth keyboard instead.
    I highly recommend a case from these guys. I’ve got the most basic case, and it does a great job of keeping the keyboard both from being poked and poking other things.

    • sidecar_freak

      +1 I have one of their laptop sleeves for my MacBook Air. Really quality stuff, fits it like a glove and gives good protection.

  • Campisi

    I almost bought a Chrome bag back when I was a bicycle courier, but the backpack I’d been using since high school (and still use to this day) is just commodious, water-resistant, and resilient enough to dissuade the purchase of an alternative. The CBR 250 doesn’t have the luggage rack that the old CB 125 S did, though, so a larger pack may finally be in order.

    • Sean Smith

      Someone needs to make a rack and topcase mounts for the CBR250…

      • Campisi

        Seriously. The tail section holds almost nothing and doesn’t even keep water or road dirt out. I’ve heard of people getting Givi top cases to work on the CBR 250, but they make the bike extremely top heavy when even moderately loaded.

  • Kerry

    I’ve had the large Aerostich courier bag for a few years now and I notice the one pictured here has some outside pockets . . . is that a new design because mine doesn’t.

    I also have a large Chrome bag that I’d love to love, but frankly I don’t. Put anything flat in it and it slips down and sits on the bottom of the bag which just makes it a pain to constantly shuffle shit like books, computer, etc upright.

    That’s why I love my Aerostich. There are so many fancier, multic-ompartmented bags but this simple design just works, really well. The seat belt buckle on the Chrome bag is just some crappy gimmick, I think. And, when I bought my ‘stich bag it was billed as 100% waterproof.

  • contender

    Well-written, honest, and fashion/design-conscious motorcycle site positively reviews unfashionable and uncomfortable piece of equipment? This almost smells (or slurps?). I ride 1.5 miles to work and take a leather briefcase. I would never ride farther with a messenger-type bag and cannot understand how you can recommend it over a backpack.

    Is the Aerostitch army the group most likely to pony up for a subscription?

    Sorry to troll.

    • Wes Siler

      Yeah, you’re trolling. Fuck off.

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