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Thread: Random thoughts on luggage

  1. #1
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    Random thoughts on luggage

    A recent question on KB has caused me to reflect on the various forms of luggage I’ve used with bikes. If you’ve got any experience or thoughts on the topic feel free to add to this.

    On my Brit bikes I just used a crude back pack. It did most of what I needed. Just as well I didn’t need much. One exception was when I bought a box of six of those big beer bottles that you don’t see so much these days. I hadn’t gone very far and both arms and both hands went numb because the weight had cut off the circulation. I still had ten or so miles to do, in traffic, with no feeling in my hands. Not recommended from a safety point of view.

    I tried my big pack once thinking it would be OK because the weight would rest on the seat. It did but the top of the pack interfered with my helmet. I prefer to be able to turn my head. There are back packs designed for motorcyclists, hopefully they work better.

    Next came the BMW K100RS with BMW luggage. That worked well for everything I asked of it. You just needed to remember to only buy one big item at the supermarket at a time. If I bought toilet paper and dog food there’d be no room for anything much else. Did trips all over both islands with that luggage. A hard plastic tube and duct tape fastening it to the pillion footrest even permitted carriage of a 9’ trout rod.

    The Hornet followed with a Ventura rack with an RJays pack. That pack was big. It could carry a full 9Kg gas bottle or a load of laundry. With a tank bag, I went all over the North Island and toured the South. I’m pretty sure I recall that the instructions for the rack said, if not carrying a pillion, the bag should sit on the pillion seat to keep the weight inboard. Most bikes have a weight limit and if it’s a small bike the rider will take up most of the permitted weight. Any other weight needs to be carefully placed.

    A gravel chip got under the tank bag and damaged the paint. It polished out, but I swore off tank bags at that point.

    The only downside to the RJays pack was if staying somewhere nice, like the Chateau Tongariro, it attracted odd looks from other guests as I awkwardly humped the thing in. This as much as anything influenced my choice of V35 boxes with internal bags for the VFR. No weird looks at the Chateau - or anywhere else. The V35s looked good. You left the boxes on the bike and just carried the soft luggage in.

    I don’t wish to create the wrong impression of the Chateau, when I asked the guy behind the desk at check in if there was somewhere I could park the VFR out of the weather, he pointed and said to park it there, under the verandah, right by the front door. Damn decent of him, I thought.

    The disadvantage of the V35s on the VFR was the width. Huge. One rainy morning I was making my way from a motel in Porirua to the ferry terminal. I had allowed what I thought was plenty of time but I was unaware that on rainy mornings motorway traffic in Wellington does 25kph. There was no way I could filter on that fat arsed beast, I just had to stay in the flow. When I finally got to the ferry I was greeted by name. Not a good sign.

    There was no solid luggage option for the S4R, so I went with Givi soft panniers. You still need to buy a frame to keep the bags out of the spokes. The bags are expandable, Unexpanded they look OK but expanded they look fucking ridiculous.

    When I bought the Speed Triple I kept the bags and just bought a new frame. Now those bags too have toured the south Island but they would not be my first preference in the event I was to go again.

    I don’t like top boxes, I can see they have advantages but they are seriously ugly and can unbalance the bike.

    If I was to buy another bike what would I get? The V35s would be OK if I could truthfully answer no to that awful question, “Does my bum look big in this?”

    Those aluminium boxes look good and suit some bikes but they do tend to cost and arm and a leg.

    Otherwise, a Ventura rack. They’re ugly but they work.

    A small Kriega tail pack to hold sunglasses, a hat, and maybe a sandwich would be nice. Perhaps I should talk to Father Christmas?.
    There is a grey blur, and a green blur. I try to stay on the grey one. - Joey Dunlop

  2. #2
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    4th October 2008 - 16:35
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    i had a k 100 rs too.Mostly i just used quite a big tank bad,and a duffell bag strapped to the seat /carrier.Some times i would borrow the bmw luggage froma mate who had the bmw bags.

  3. #3
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    ...when my wife rode with me sometime back, the GL1000 with all the Vetter gear on it had more room than we could fill...I used to be able to throw shit in that might come in handy, even...


    ...very shortly it's going to be MY ride again...anyone wanting kitchen sinks moved, give me a call...

  4. #4
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    Good topic.

    I've used a few types over the years - tank bags have worked out very well for me in terms of carrying bike stuff so it's right there if needed. Tinted / clear visor, different gloves, water etc. I like them and wouldn't be without one now.

    Hard bags came with the ST2 and I reckon they're great for touring and leaving riding gear like jackets etc locked up while parked. I've done the groceries a couple of times with them too. They do widen the bike up significantly, bye bye lane splitting... and also hello taking way more care parking up. Very easy to mark the bags with bike boots getting on and off, at least until I got used to them. Would have been a bit tragic on a brand new bike. The hard bags are also noticeable at motorway speeds when open roading, there is some power taken up with the wind resistance.

    Top box: had a bike with one once, good for volume and brilliant for leaving the helmet in once downtown but almost everything else about it was bad. Surprisingly low weight capacity for its size, even that low weight up high and rear affected the bike's feel when riding, also a massive wind sail for sudden gusts sideways.

    I had a pair of soft Oxford throw-over panniers, these worked pretty well but really need some sort of subframe or side rack to keep them out of shocks, swingarms, melting onto mufflers etc. They went super wide once expanded, too. They were very good for carrying oddly shaped items in a way that hard bags just aren't. They can move a bit under bumps or wind gusts. These were better for groceries than the hard bags since they were much more forgiving of lumpy packing.

    Banana bag - basically a throw-over rear seat tailbag / pannier combo. Perfect for giving your svelte bike a fat bum, also had a nasty tendency to scratch up the side panels on the tail section... but it did work pretty well while on tour in terms of carrying stuff. The middle section made for a nice backrest. A lot of carrying capacity for clothing and small items. Would go onto and off the bike in about ten minutes tops.

    Backpacks can work pretty well for ride somewhere and then walk a distance but I wouldn't want to come off while wearing one... might not be too much fun to land on, depending on what's in it.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by OddDuck View Post
    Good topic.
    ... might not be too much fun to land on, depending on what's in it.
    ...never transport an expensive bottle of whiskey in a backpack, unless it has been decanted into something like a titanium hip flask or five...bottles of beer are a no no, but sometimes you may be able to retrieve up to four still sealed cans out of a dozen but usually only after you have used your hands to take the full impact...the downside of that, is that you usually need more than a dozen cans and all the whiskey to make things right again...

  6. #6
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    Pritch, you comment that the rack + rjays bag works well aside from looking a little goofy, but you (and others) also comment that top boxes are poor for balance etc. Id have thought both would be pretty similar in terms of weight distribution and balance, assuming both were sitting over a rear rack/pillion seat?

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by absolutegator View Post
    Pritch, you comment that the rack + rjays bag works well aside from looking a little goofy, but you (and others) also comment that top boxes are poor for balance etc. Id have thought both would be pretty similar in terms of weight distribution and balance, assuming both were sitting over a rear rack/pillion seat?
    i cant remember which bike i had that had a ventura rack but i always used the pack in the pillion seat postion rather than behind.I dont mind a top box but it would be a low one

  8. #8
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    So my YZF750SP had a single seat with 90s racebike type hump at the back. But I worked out that if I threw a towel over it I could extend the strap on back of soft panniers and they fitted quite nicely making my homologation special quite a practical tourer.

    So I arrived at the Derwent st rally and greeted at the gate, Oh hey Dave. Not staying the night then?
    Yeah I've got my tent in the. . . ,and turned back to see. . . Shit!! Gotta go.

    I knew exactly where I'd find them . A very long straight with a kinda bridge which gives a bit of a bump as you hit it at, exactly 100kph officer.

    I get to the straight, and squinting I could see something black on the road. I hurried, not that there was much chance anyone would actually be driving down this road in wairarapa and hit it.

    I got there and it was sitting in a small forming pool. Uncharacteristically some rtds had caught my eye in the bottle store and they had shredded one of the panniers. Several cans were harshly hissing. I got there and quickly drank the opened ones. The severe gravel rash on the cans looked pretty tough I have to say.

    Always tied panniers down after that.
    And never bought rtds again. What was I thinking?
    I've been told. Dreaming`s free.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by absolutegator View Post
    Pritch, you comment that the rack + rjays bag works well aside from looking a little goofy, but you (and others) also comment that top boxes are poor for balance etc. I’d have thought both would be pretty similar in terms of weight distribution and balance, assuming both were sitting over a rear rack/pillion seat?
    The bag is (or should be) inboard. A top box is outboard. If you see what I mean.

    Can't find a pic of a bike with a pack on the pillion seat quickly, but in this pic you can see where the top box is. It's clearly way behind the back axle. You can also see the pillion seat where the pack should be, directly above the back axle in this instance. Much betterer. Capisce?
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    There is a grey blur, and a green blur. I try to stay on the grey one. - Joey Dunlop

  10. #10
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    I started with tank bag and Oxford soft panniers. Didn't use any sort of frame, so they always looked untidy tucking into the bike. I was led to the Givi way of life in 08 probably, and I'm still there.

    I love hard lockable panniers. Had Givi ones over the years, and currently have about 3 Givi top boxes, with all 3 current bikes taking top boxes. The CB919 actually feels really odd when it doesn't have a top box, it's setup very nicely. The BMW almost always has the top box, and suspension in 1up factors in the top box. The KTM has a top box, but I haven't ridden with it much, favouring a tail pack to keep the bike as light as reasonably possible for adv riding. All have panniers (Givi E21s for the Hornet, Givi Trekker for KTM, BMW for BMW). On that note, I definitely find top loading panniers most practical.

    CB919 used to do a lot of commuting, top box was very handy. Panniers on the bikes mean not far off 1m wide, so no splitting! As mentioned, backpacks can be pretty unsafe with loss of circulation etc.

    I tried out Ventura kit on the Tuono from last year to this, but I didn't like it much at all. Constantly wondering if the million zips and pockets were done up, what I'd put where, it wasn't secure or waterproof etc. Awkward to pack efficiently. Sold all that luggage recently with a TM $1 reserve no fees deal. Recently saw an adv bike with the Ventura sheared off just above the L bracket, so they are vulnerable.

    If you think hard luggage is expensive, wait until you look at the prices of Mosko Moto, Giant Loop etc, for adv'ing.

    I still hate tank bags, but have Givi tank lock on BMW and KTM. Only use when I have to, it has it's purposes. Generally directing and concentrating the sunlight into my eyes with the shiny top see through section...
    Quote Originally Posted by Jane Omorogbe from UK MSN on the KTM990SM
    It's barking mad and if it doesn't turn you into a complete loon within half an hour of cocking a leg over the lofty 875mm seat height, I'll eat my Arai.

  11. #11
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    Similar route to you Ron. K100 RS with BMW panniers, then different bikes with Ventura luggage which was fine. My GSX-S1000 had Oxford throwovers which were adequate for what I needed at the time. With the Duke 790, I hadn't planned on touring much so I have a Chinese-made 10 litre expandable rear seat pack which cost about $60 delivered and the quality is excellent. It hasn't stuffed up the shape of the bike either. In February, I did a 6 day tour with some mates and just added a 10 litre yachting dry bag, held on with Rok straps and it worked just fine.
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  12. #12
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    Reading this thread it seems for most people the best option is the cheaper or even hacked together options. Racks and that put weight central and closer to the center of the bike and dont make it wider, ie ventura racks or bags strapped down with rok straps etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by pritch View Post
    The bag is (or should be) inboard. A top box is outboard. If you see what I mean.

    Can't find a pic of a bike with a pack on the pillion seat quickly, but in this pic you can see where the top box is. It's clearly way behind the back axle. You can also see the pillion seat where the pack should be, directly above the back axle in this instance. Much betterer. Capisce?
    Gotcha. Yeah I meant in the case of top boxes that inboard, replacing or on top the pillion seat. Or maybe theyre just called hard seat boxes??

  13. #13
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    My Tiger came with a Givi toolbox. I made sure I only put light things in it.

    Everytime I rode on tour I hated the way it made the front feel vague. It ruined the ride despite thousands of dollars of suspension work. Commuting it would be fine. I sold it just so I wasn't tempted to use it. It was so damn useful but so fucking useless.
    I've been told. Dreaming`s free.
    Think I'll go, back to sleep.
    Everybody listen, voices in my head
    Everybody listen, do yours say, what mine says?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ellipsis View Post
    ...never transport an expensive bottle of whiskey in a backpack,
    In a long ago, almost forgotten magazine article, the advice was that if you are going to carry a bottle in your luggage it should be something that tastes so good you don't mind sucking it out of your clothes.
    There is a grey blur, and a green blur. I try to stay on the grey one. - Joey Dunlop

  15. #15
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    Good topic. Carrying luggage is difficult on bikes. Mostly I have used the medium sized rear seat bags for day use (RJay), they can expand quite well but not enough for several days touring. The Z1000SX had the full monty hard side bags which were great to clip on and off. 100% water tight. But as said, the hard shell internally does restrict what can fit in sometimes and the weight was noticeable when jam packed.

    Never got in to top boxes, ugly and clearly a weight distribution problem. My go to for touring the last 15 years or so have been semi-soft throw over saddlebags. Currently using Givi. Easy to secure, forgiving with odd shaped stuff jammed into them. But yeah they swing about, hit ya muffler and melt and do wear out and tear from rubbing on shocks or usually the rear pegs that rip into them on bumps. Not that waterproof either.

    Tried long weekends with just a back pack but man that gets tiring quick and having to put it on, take it off, put it on...

    I'm struggling with what I'm going to do with the Husqvarna 701 with that race number side cover there's nowhere to wrap a bungy or anything like that and it can't take a rear set bag. I'm thinking about those hard leather Harley Cruiser type saddlebags might stay in place.
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