June 21, 2013
Excess Baggage: Motorcycle Luggage Buyer's Guide
Traveling via motorcycle can be an exhilarating experience. It doesn’t matter if you’re just making a short jaunt to the grocery store for some snacks, or out on a two week cross country road trip. The simple fact that the wind is in your face and you’re motoring on two wheels is enough to put a smile on your face.
There may only be one major complaint people have when it comes to traveling on two wheels versus say four or more, and that’s storage capacity. Now, when comparing the cargo hold of some of the latest gas sipping automobiles against that of something like a touring motorcycle it's almost a dead heat. I mean have you seen the trunks on some of those little electric/hybrids?
But what if you don’t have a touring motorcycle with copious amounts of storage? What if you’re a sport bike, dual sport, or stripped down cruiser rider? What are you gonna do to get your groceries from the supermarket to your crib? If you’re of the latter and you do ride a cruiser it’s pretty easy to bolt up a sissybar and strap on a sissy bar bag, but when it comes to the sport bike guys that’s a big no-no. That would be tantamount to installing a ski rack on a convertible, you just don’t do it. Luckily however, there are plenty of options to help you pack along some clothes for a two wheeled adventure or just to make those trips to the local hardware store a little more convenient.
Obviously, the easiest thing to do no matter what you’re riding is throw on a backpack. Backpacks come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. If your destination is unknown but will consist of traversing sparse deserts, rocky mountains, or wooded terrain, Fly Racing’s Back Country Backpack (right) is as versatile as they come. With features like a 70-ounce hydration system, tool compartment with 14 separate pockets, a ITW Nexus Emergency Survival Whistle Buckle, and expansion panels to carry a portable shovel, this backpack will help you get out of just about any situation and keep you well hydrated as well. Now if you’re a rider at the other end of the spectrum and you’re more into going faster rather than adventure, then maybe something like Ogio’s No Drag Mach One
is more your speed. Specifically designed for aerodynamic air flow, with the Mach One strapped on your back you’ll be blasting down the street like a land speed racer. Besides it’s stealthy good looks, this backpack has a weather resistant molded shell so it will always maintain its shape. Inside is a protective compartment large enough to carry a 15-inch laptop and it has a good size main compartment with interior organization pockets and panels. To help you get low and into a more aerodynamic position without worrying about scratching your bike’s tank, the pack has a removable hip belt with an off centered attachment so it won’t scratch your tank.
If you need to carry more than just a couple Tees and a change of pants, then maybe a backpack isn’t the best option for you. Saddlebags can be a smart choice because not only can they provide more storage but depending on the setup you choose or what fits your bike, they can be easily installed/removed, and can even give your bike a different look. The Cruiseliner Hard Saddlebags
from National Cycle are great because they hug the sides of your bike for a nice clean fit. And once the mounting hardware is bolted to your bike, you can quickly and easily remove the saddlebags when you don’t need them. With a carrying capacity of 5.8 gallons (22 liters) there’s plenty of room for several changes of clothes, a dopp kit, tool roll, and even rain gear or a medium weight jacket. Many people like nylon saddlebags because they are light weight and usually don’t require any mounting hardware. Nelson Rigg
offers a wide array of nylon saddlebags like the Spirit Series SPRT-50. These bags are a throw over style, which means they’ll fit over the passenger pad/rear fender of just about any sport bike and easily attach to the bike's frame. One thing you’ll want to take note of when looking for saddlebags like these for your sport bike is how your exhaust exits the rear of the bike. These saddlebags feature a tapered design with heat resistant under panels to protect the bottom of the bags from upswept exhausts.
A lot of cruiser riders like leather or synthetic leather saddlebags because they can give the bike a classic look. Many of these saddlebags are offered in an assortment of shapes and some even feature chrome Conchos which add to the nostalgic look some bike owners prefer. Large chrome buckles, fold over flaps, and convenient carrying handles, the Quest Series (right) saddlebags from River Road have a lot of great features such as zippers that allow you to simply unzip the bags from the bike, a two digit combination lock for security, as well as rigid side walls and a reinforced base to provide strength and help the bags keep their shape.
Tail bags come in handy because they can fit a variety of bikes and offer a good amount of storage. If you’re going off road, Moose Racing has you covered with the Adventure Series Pillion and Rear Rack Bag
. This bag can be attached to dual sport, dirt bike, or just about anything else with its quick release/lockable buckles and straps. As an expandable bag, you can cram a great amount of gear in it and when you get to your destination it doubles as a backpack so you know your belongings will be safe with you.
For the hardcore tail bag fan there’s the ever popular Givi
line of top cases. Top of the line quality, good looks, and an assortment of styles and features to suit your needs, Givi is one of the go to brands for those that like a hard mounted, solid luggage system that offers plenty of storage. These trunks are typically favored by long haul enthusiast or those that regularly commute via two wheels.
Lastly, we’d be amiss if we didn’t mention a sissybar bag. With it’s durable wheels and pull out handle, the SDP2600 Roller Sissy Bar Bag (right) from Saddlemen is basically the same thing you’d take with you when traveling via airplane. The only difference is that it has a mounting system built into it that allows you to safely and securely mount it to pretty much any size sissybar and backrest pad. Measuring in at 18"W x 21"H x 11 1/2"D, this bag has plenty of storage capacity for a couple days trip with your significant other. This bag is packed with plenty of exterior pockets to keep your smaller items well organized, as well as top cargo straps to add an additional roll bag (sold separately) for even more storage . And if the bright skies get marred by thunderous clouds and you find yourself caught on the open road in the middle of a deluge, the built in rain cover will ensure that you’ll have dry clothes waiting for you when you get out of the wet stuff.
We all tend to have excess baggage every now and then, but as long as you’ve got the storage capacity to handle that excess baggage when it arises, then it’s not always a bad thing.