Whether you’re planning on doing a Ewan McGregor style tour of Europe or just need a bit of extra capacity travelling about town, picking the right luggage for your motorcycle can be tricky. Join Bikesure, the free-wheeling insurance broker, as it unpacks everything you need to know about motorcycle luggage, before packing it all up again and riding off into the sunset.
Now, it would be profoundly arrogant for us to say we’ve picked THE BEST motorcycle luggage. That is ultimately determined by you, and your specific purposes. What we’ll be doing is attempting to give a survey of some of the best luggage manufacturers and suggesting good set ups for the most common use cases.
There’s a few universal hints and tips about positioning and placement. There’s really obvious stuff like making sure it’s all attached securely which you’d think wouldn’t need to be mentioned but, well. Similarly, distributing the weight equally and putting the heaviest items in the panniers will help keep things balanced as well as pushing the centre of gravity lower.
Also obvious, hopefully, is the need to figure out exactly what the maximum weight your motorcycle can carry. There’s also less obvious things, like making sure any tank bags don’t project further than the width of your wing mirrors.
So assuming you’ve figured out these basics, let’s look at the kind of luggage that’s out there.
Panniers are the mainstay of most good motorcycle luggage setups, especially if you’re touring or require lots of luggage capacity.
Of course one of the biggest tips for anyone going on a long trip is to pack as light as possible, but even the bare essentials will take up a surprising amount of space. And of course you’ll want to keep a little extra for anything you pick up along the way!
Maintaining balance with panniers is a hugely important consideration, especially if your bike has an exhaust pipe on only one side. If that’s the case you’ll need a smaller case on the exhaust side. Some brands also offer additional mount points for luggage that allow for additional storage, for example this jerry can mount from Givi.
The main choice for panniers is, much like eggs, between hard or soft. If you’re taking longer tours, especially if they involve less well maintained roads or even offroad sections, you should probably pick hard shell. Hard panniers will protect any valuables you may have in case of a crash, but will also have an effect on weight and fuel consumption to a degree. Soft panniers obviously weigh less, and are capable of slightly higher capacities.
Soft panniers will probably need additional covers to guarantee their water proofing, but many come with at least some guarantee of water resistance.
If you’re looking for a large amount of storage some of the largest soft panniers available are from Ventura, whose Monza 2 maxes out at 58 litre capacity. In the hard pannier realm the maximum size is close to 50L, with products like the Givi Trekker which tops out at 48L, being representative of the top end of the scale.
Other things to consider when choosing your sides are whether you’re going to need access to anything in them in transit. If that’s the case you might want to get something which opens from the top rather than suitcase style from the side, allowing you to reach in easily without everything falling out. Products like those from Metal Mule or Hepco & Becker fall into this category but are also pretty pricey so are probably best suited for the round the world crew.
Tank bags are a great way of storing all the things you’ll want to access regularly. Some come with special pockets designed to hold phones or tablets. Brands like Oxford (for example) have a full range of tank bags from the small but perfectly formed 7L mini for £30 or a full range of larger bags leading all the way up to £134. Other brands like Held are almost identical.
Obviously, if you’re on a sports bike a tank bag will make it impossible to tuck yourself in, so you’ll be going even slower than you would be on a heavily laden sports bike anyway. Something smaller like the Kappa Map holder would potentially be a good solution in these situations, allowing you access to your more essential, flatter items. The Bagster Evosign is specifically designed for you sports tourers, so you’ve got options.
It is, of course, vital that any tank bag you pick doesn’t damage or scratch the tank or is too difficult to remove for refuelling, if it covers the petrol cap.
These go in the pillion position and, while fantastic for scooters or other less pannier friendly bikes, they’re a great storage method for tourers and urban bikers alike. Most hard boxes are designed to hold your helmet, but obviously you’d need to make sure whichever one you get is large enough. You have other decisions to make, for example do you want one with integrated LEDs to help make you more visible.
If you need a larger amount of storage space, or need more security, most brands will offer sturdier options like Kappa’s venture range.
Without wanting to overstate the importance of keeping everything balanced, an overladen top box or bag will do a heck of a lot to unbalance you if you’re not careful. So, you know, factor that in when you do your thing.
How to choose
As we said earlier, it would be madness to suggest the exact best luggage, given that each motorcycle and each motorcyclist’s requirements are as unique as the very snowflakes that flutter down from the sky. The best way to choose would be to find a local outlet and seeing what they’ve got, and whether it fits on your bike and suits your needs. Don’t forget that many manufacturers offer their own range of luggage and mounting units that may well be the perfect solution for you, so it’s always worth checking that out too.
Do you have any motorcycle luggage recommendations, tips or tricks you want to share? Why not sound off in the comments below.
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