So you’ve got a trip planned but need to bring some stuff along with you on the bike. A motorcycle travel bag (or bags) designed specifically for your motorcycle will be a necessity at this point, and there are lots to choose from. You’ll need to decide the type of bags you require, the method of securing the bag to the bike, and the proper capacity to carry all your belongings.
You’ll have to do this within the parameters of what your bike can handle too. A sportbike will require a much different approach than a sport-touring rig, for example, and your bag options will vary depending on the type of bike you ride. We’re going to outline some of the major types of motorcycle travel bags below, and offer some pros and cons for each to help make the choice a little simpler.
Types of Motorcycle Travel Bags
There are some categories to know when it comes to motorcycle travel bags. Top cases sit on the rear rack (if your bike has one) or sometimes can be mounted to the passenger seat. Saddlebags are situated on either side of the motorcycle at the rear, and tank bags secure down to the tank of your bike. These are the primary areas where bags can fit on most bikes, and the designs most bag manufacturers target with their motorcycle luggage.
Bags can be hard shell or soft, waterproof or not, lockable or not, permanently mounted or removable. What you need depends largely on where you plan to ride, the type of bike you ride, and whether you need to take your bags on the go when parked, or are fine leaving them on the motorcycle when you’re off the bike.
Hard Motorcycle Bags
Hard bags are available in all the major type designs listed above, and will often be hard plastic or, in cases when more durability is needed, metal such as aluminum. Hard bags are also more likely to be weather-proofed and lockable. However, many will be bolted down to the bike so will be difficult to remove for easy transport. In those cases, additional mounting hardware may be necessary unless your motorcycle comes equipped with racks for luggage already installed. Hard motorcycle travel bags also tend to be a bit more bike specific to ensure proper clearances and fitment, though universal options are available.
Take the Givi TRK52N Monokey Trekker Top Case, for example. It’s made from both composite polymer material and brushed aluminum, provides a degree of weather resistance, and it’s lockable. The Monokey system allows you to coordinate one key for all your Givi cases, in the event you get matching saddlebags as well. You will need a Monokey mount installed for the top case to sit properly on your bike. In this case, there’s a quick-release mechanism that allows you to easily remove the case if you want.
Soft Motorcycle Bags
Soft bags come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. There are options made from heavy-duty, abrasion-resistant ballistic nylon, waterproof vinyl, leather, and other composite materials. You can find tank bags, saddlebags, top cases, and more (like sissy bar bags) in these materials.
The nice thing about soft motorcycle bags is that in many cases, no additional hardware is necessary to secure the bag to your bike. Tie-downs or straps provided with the bags will keep them securely in place, and in some instances, magnets will be employed to hold the bag steady. Many products in this category will also have rigid inserts to help the bag keep its shape, and make it easier for you to look around at what’s inside.
Take the Nelson Rigg CTB-250 RiggPak Roll Bag, for instance. This would qualify as a tail bag or top case, and it’s made from a Tri-Matrix ballistic nylon. It’s expandable, a feature many hard bags don’t offer, and can be mounted to the passenger seat or rear rack, allowing it to be used on just about any motorcycle.
Or the Wolfman Luggage Day Tripper saddlebags. These are a smaller-capacity saddlebag made from 1,680-denier ballistic vinyl and fit over the passenger seat of most motorcycles. Wolfman Luggage also makes a wide variety of roll-top, waterproof bags also that can be lashed to the rear rack or passenger seat. The Expedition Duffel is a great example of this.
Of course these aren’t the only options you have, particularly when you consider the expansive range of motorcycle-specific backpacks on the market. As with the bags listed above, motorcycle backpacks are made from materials designed to withstand abrasion or impact, to provide waterproofing in some cases and sit comfortably on your body when in the ride position.
Velomacchi is a prime example of backpacks designed with the rider in mind. The 40L Roll Top backpack the brand offers is waterproof, has straps created to move comfortably with your body on the road, and even comes equipped with tie-down anchors if you want to secure it to the bike instead. Sizes, designs, and mounting options vary between brand and type for all the motorcycle travel bags we’ve covered, so be sure that whatever you get, you have a plan to keep your luggage secure on the motorcycle.