I go on and on about my love for a good backpack in my Velomacchi review. I’ve purchased countless backpacks over the years and forgone roller bags and traditional luggage for them, even in the face of trips lasting several weeks. I’d call myself a backpack aficionado, a man with exacting standards, especially those of the moto variety.
My garage is currently stocked with motorcycles, including the new Ducati Multistrada V4 S, the new Harley-Davidson Pan America, and the updated Indian FTR 1200. With such a lineup and with access to Utah’s many OHV trails, I’ve got the perfect test for a new motorcycle backpack from the Swedish company Uswe, the Core 25 (about $250, comparable to Velomacchi’s Speedway and Kriega Trail18 although a bit more expensive than Klim’s Krew).
Before the company reached out and sent me the two packs, I’ll admit I hadn’t heard of the brand. After some Googling and a pronunciation lesson — it’s pronounced yoo-swee — I found that the company sprung out of its founders’ desire for a backpack that wouldn’t feel like a “dancing monkey” while riding dirt bikes across the Swedish countryside. They wanted a backpack with “suspension” in order to keep everything stable on backcountry trails, even with a pack filled to the brim.
I know that feeling. I’ve had plenty of backpacks that made me feel a Shake Weight had been attached to my spine. It’s an uneasy experience, especially when you’re trying to pick the right line while off-roading or leaning into a tight apex atop Angeles Crest. Uswe says it’s built the solution. I say prove it, let’s go riding. And riding I went.
So, does the USWE Core 25 live up to the hype?
Both Core 25 packs came to me in Uswe-branded graffiti boxes. Thank you, Uswe. A quick swipe of my Benchmade Adamas on each box released the opening and out came the backpack.
The Core 25 is a beast and packs a sternum lock similar to that of Velomacchi’s Speedway series bags. Unlike the Velomacchi, the USWE’s is plastic.
All of the backpack’s straps are adjustable to the point that if you don’t get the perfect fit, you’re doing something wrong. The pack has torso length adjustment, sternum adjustment, waist adjustment, shoulder adjustment, and weight-relief adjustment at your shoulders.
These straps also form Uswe’s NDM 2.0 system aka the No Dancing Monkey suspension system. The straps make for a four-point harness with elastic bands integrated in the lower two points. According to the company, this allows the bag to soak up every bump, rut, and movement you encounter without translating it back to you.
Specs, however, don’t always belie the real nature of an item. What matters is how it does in reality.
Unfortunately, this isn’t another three-year test, as I had with the Velomacchi. I did, however, drag the Core 25 through the dirt and rocks (literally) and shove as much as I could into it.
The bag’s internal dimensions are impressive, offering a total 25-liter volumetric capacity, which is 10 liters less than the Giro. This volume includes the front pouch, main pouch, a smaller top-oriented pouch for easy-to-access items, and two strap-mounted packs on either side. Inside the main pouch, there are a few pockets, and a strap to secure a hydration bag, as well as an exit for the straw, and a magnetic mount to secure it to the chest straps.
My wife and I pulled out the Core 25 for a weekend trip to Los Angeles. We had three nights in the City of Angels, and we packed outfits and all the accompanying accouterment: three pairs of everything, our toiletries, my laptop and charger, etc. Looking at the pile of stuff before it went into the bag, I wasn’t sure it would all fit. It ate every single thing.
The expansion straps to either keep it tight or voluminous were handy, as was rolling our clothing into tight cylinders. Everything fit into the Core 25, and I didn’t have to sit on the bag to close the zippers. On my back and stuffed to the brim, it didn’t feel bulbous nor did it knife my ribs like an overly stuffed bag can.
The Core 25’s back padding is also excellent and is designed for better airflow across your back — a plus for my sweaty self. And that NDM system? Superb. After I adjusted it at home, I could barely feel the weight of the bag on my shoulders and it didn’t jostle around once. To me, however, this wasn’t the test. All backpacks should be able to do this. Uswe’s claim to fame is that it won’t jump ‘n’ move all over the place while you ride.
Once we returned to our mountain retreat in Northern Utah, I pulled the hydration pack out of the Raw 3 and dropped it into the Core 25 for a test. I filled it to the top with ice water and then dropped in my Fujifilm X-T20 camera, a tripod, and some snacks. I adorned my riding gear, hopped on the new Harley-Davidson Pan America, and pointed the bike toward the mountains and a particularly gnarly off-road trail.
Before I get into durability testing, let’s talk about the NDM system. Hot damn, does it work great. Bouncing across the pimply OHV trail, I felt my fillings move more than I felt the Core 25. Everything inside stayed in place. When I pulled open the pack to take pictures, everything was still neatly where I put it. My shoulders weren’t tired, either. It felt as if I could go all day without worry of strain or future backaches.
Before I left home, I was concerned that the pack might not be durable. The material felt a lot like every other backpack’s, and if I fell, I doubted it could hold up to the abuse. While I routinely test to and past the edge to which things are engineered, I didn’t want to put the bag through an actual fall. The universe had another idea.
On a part of the trail that has become rougher over the last two months, I got off-line. The Harley and I went into head-sized boulders, the bike’s center stand clipped a rock, and the both of us fell to the ground. My gear and the Harley’s crash cage saved the two of us — apart from some minor bruises to our motley selves — but the Core 25 looked as if it had barely touched the ground. But it did.
My gear stayed safe, the bag stayed in one piece, and the hydration pack didn’t rupture. A solid outcome. I will qualify this test slightly by saying I was only doing about 4-8 mph at the time of my fall. Still, those rocks were sharp and solid. I’m glad my initial impression of its durability was incorrect.
I’m stoked about the Core 25’s resilience, as well as the NDM system. It survived a crash and my abuse, so kudos to Uswe's engineering. From that tough experience, along with the last few weeks putting it through the wringer, I feel like this is a bag that’ll last a long time.
I absolutely hate riding with a backpack that moves around on my back. It’s not just unnerving, it’s unsafe. Riding a motorcycle safely requires specific movements, and a backpack that sloshes left and right can be downright dangerous to your health. The NDM system solves that issue to such a degree that I think you’ll honestly forget you have a backpack on. I did.
And while the materials used seem cheap at first glance, they aren’t. The rider-centric forethought that went into the design of the backpack and hydration system is readily apparent, as almost nothing hampers your riding comfort.
Uswe also offers a two-year warranty for material and workmanship for every pack the company builds. It’s not the best warranty out there — some manufacturers (Velomacchi, Ogio, Klim) offer lifetime warranties — but it’s much better than those that only offer 90 days.
As much as I really like the Core 25, there are a few issues I need to share with the class. First off, the twin cell phone pouches on the lower strap can’t be removed. They’re hard-sewn onto it and, if you place anything bigger than a set of keys into them, or your driver’s license, it digs into your ribcage.
A gripe that’s more about the future, however, is the sternum clasp. The design is solid, with a circular plastic detent securing the clasps. What I can see is that clasp breaking after repeated use. I think a metal version would last a lot longer.
Most folks would also ding Uswe's Core 25 for its price, but let’s actually talk about it.
Uswe prices the Core 25 at $250. I don’t have an issue with the Core 25’s price; it’s comparable to Velomacchi’s 28L Speedway bag at $269. Other premium motorcycle backpacks are within $20-$40 of it as well. It’s a great backpack, has solid tear and abrasion resistance, and can bring everything you need for a multi-day vacation to some far-flung land such as sunny Los Angeles.
For a premium backpack that reduces back strain while increasing ride safety, it’s absolutely worth the price of admission.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
A. This one stumped me, too, when I first pulled out the bladder to fill it. It’s a little confusing since what looks like a seam isn’t and the actual seam is nearly at the top, but it’s designed this way so it won’t leak. Here’s the process:
A. The company likes to say it means kick ass in Swedish.
A. They’re designed in Sweden and manufactured in Vietnam.
A. Aside from the selection on its website, Uswe also designs packs for other brands, including Leatt, Fly Racing, and MSR.
In the interest of clarity, we want you, our dear readers, to know that the products we get in to test in The Drive's Gear section arrive from a variety of sources, including those we purchase ourselves and those we receive from manufacturers. No matter the source, we maintain our editorial independence and will always give you our honest assessment of any product we test.
We cannot be bought — unless you wave $1 billion in our faces. Maybe then we'll consider it.
We’re here to be expert guides in everything “how to” and product related. Use us, compliment us, yell at us. Comment below, and let’s talk, y’all. You can also shout at us on Twitter or Instagram. You can also reach us at [email protected].