Detroit is a knock-around town. The roads are rough, the people resilient, the weather… well, let's not talk about the weather this time of year. Detroit is a tough town and that's why it's a perfect place to test out a classic motorcycle/scooter bag made by the people of Aerostitch, in Duluth, Minnesota. Up there, they realize what the term "useful durability" means to riders of all two wheeled vehicles. Since 1983, Aerostitch has been providing high-quality motorcycling gear, being especially famous for their iron-tough Roadcrafter riding suits, amongst others. To look through one of their catalogs is a thing of joy, especially if you are a gear hound like me. They make professional gear for serious riders. Sure, it largely isn't cheap, but when something works well and lasts for years, what is the real cost? They offer repair services, as well, so consider that if the worst happens.
Over my years of traveling, commuting and fun riding on my scoots, I've tried messenger bags, shoulder packs and back packs. All of them were just OK, and compromises abounded. Some were too small or too big, some too uncomfortable to wear, some just slipped off your shoulder. Solar batteries got weak, stitches came loose and some of them got dirty just sitting there. They were all OK, but none of them were ideal.
Santa was kind this year and somehow got me just what I wanted - a day-glow, high visibility Aerostitch "Dispatch" bag. The Dispatch is the smaller of the medium-sized bags that they make, surrounded by the (smaller) "Letter" Bag, the larger "Courier" and the truly gigantic "Parcel" Bag. All feature similar construction, with heavy duty Cordura Nylon reinforced with heavy vinyl, all made in the USA. They are simple bags, with a strap, a flap and some buckles. Look closer through, and you see real hand stitching (by machine), some of which is double and triple stitched. Too simple you say? It's the way that these simple features combine with the quality materials that makes Aerostitch bags so good.
I specified my Aerostitch Dispatch to come fully equipped. I added a optional grip strip internal organizer pocket for small items and a small zippered pocket to go on the strap. I opened my perfect gift and was eager to get the fun started. Sadly, Christmas day saw more snow on top of the base layer that we already had. Two weeks later, the sun came out and the scoot did too. I loaded up the Aerostitch and headed out.
Let me tell you a little bit about my job - I work for a company that some remote branch that processes credit cards. I don't work for that branch, but the security required for that results in a fully locked down laptop - a heavy, bulky laptop. The client company where I was working then had a similar locked down, bulky laptop, both of which I had to carry several times a week. I also carry a Macbook Air and generally a lunch and a canteen of water. Was there enough room for all this stuff? I was about to find out.
I carefully loaded up the roomy Dispatch with all of this stuff. Two PCs (one with power supply and mouse), a Mac, my lunch and the various bits and bobs required for modern office life. It all just barely fit, and I had to adjust the keeper straps and the massive slab of grip strip up to accommodate the challenging load. I looped the wide strap over my head, adjusted the thick shoulder pad (itself a luxury item) over my shoulder, adjusted the big side release buckle to carry the bag slightly high, and headed out on the Reflex. Once the Dispatch settled in on the back of the seat, it disappeared. I felt the load sitting against my back, but the bag never moved. Since it has a flat bottom, it just sat on the seat, and with the strap crossways across my chest and the fuzzy, grippy shoulder pad sitting comfortably on my right shoulder, it felt secure. I got to work and slung the bag off. Everything was intact, and it was easy to unpack as well.
After a few more weeks riding experience with the Dispatch I can conclude that although it's not flashy, nor really cutting edge, the simple, reliable, dare-I-say-it, indestructible Aerostitch Dispatch bag (and its brothers) are very highly recommended. It's just enough, with the simple but rugged construction, thoughtful touches like a large 3M reflective stripe and the aforementioned giant slab of grip strip closing surface. The accessories that I ordered are as useful, with the add-in pocket having six pockets (one clear and zippered) and a good grip on the matching interior grip strip surface of the bag, and the small clear-fronted zippered pocket holding my two parking and building access passes.
The only drawbacks are that indeed, the bright hi-vis color did get a little dusty, but a damp cloth removed that and the occasional scuff that one gets swinging a bag around a dirty scooter in mid-winter riding conditions in Detroit. The side-release strap clip gets a bit fussy at the end of its travel as well. So much for the negatives. The standard key hook and single pocket in the bag work wonderfully, leaving all that big, beautiful room inside for my stuff. The bag just works and even with the occasional rain shower and light snow, not one drop of liquid got into the bag. In a heavy downpour, I'd suggest a waterproof bag around sensitive contents, as the side edges of the bag are not actually sealed. That said, the Aerostitch Dispatch bag was good enough to safely get my employer's computers back and forth through the middle of January in Detroit. I'd recommend the Dispatch bag as a starter, but even now I'm looking at the massive Parcel bag just in case I have to do a weeks worth of shopping on the scoot. They've also added waxed cotton versions of the Dispatch, Courier and Letter bags, just to make sure that you have a good time looking at their catalog or website. Everyone should have at least one Aerostitch bag.