Understanding Motorcycle Luggage

by Damien Heenan
Motorcycle Luggage buy now at Eagle Leather

What You Need To Know About Motorcycle Luggage, Bags, and Accessories

Imagine a nice sunny day, not too hot and perfect for a ride. You grab your gear, put it on and hustle out to the bike. As you are riding along just enjoying the beautiful weather, you stop by your favorite bike shop Eagle Leather.  While you are there something catches your eye that you just cannot live without.  I don’t know if it is a helmet, jacket, vest, or chaps but whatever it is it must come home with you right now.  When you realize your bike doesn’t have the storage capacity to get it back home. 

What do you do?

Luckily it happened at Eagle Leather where our experts can help you find the right luggage and bags to maximize your storage. 

But what if you were out on a trip?

Well, it certainly is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it, wouldn’t you agree?

That is why we are going to give you the low-down on Motorcycle Luggage and Bags, so you will have it when you need it. 

Storage for the Rider

What is storage for the rider? 

Well storage for the rider are typically bags you can wear.  Think Backpacks, Messenger Bags, Waist Packs, and Leg Bags for this kind of storage. 

  • Backpacks are the simplest storage solution. Most people already have a backpack, and whatever you pack into it you can take with you.  With a backpack, you don’t have to worry about things getting stolen from your bike. However, most riders do not have a backpack designed for motorcycle riding. Many of these have waist straps and expandable pockets on the bottom to store your helmet when off the bike.
  • Messenger Bags are great if you commute or ride your motorcycle to the office. They are very good if you need to carry a laptop and offer you riding ergonomics and a professional look.  However, if you do use one of these when riding make sure to get one that is waterproof.
  • Waist Packs were popular in the 80’s but are great when you need a little extra storage. Think about things like cell phones, eyewear, and other things that may not be as convenient to carry when you get to your destination.
  • Leg Bags are like waist packs in that they connect at the waist, but also strap around the leg. They are preferred by many women, who don’t like the added bulk around their mid-section.
  • Gear Bags are great at keeping your gear organized. Ever find yourself looking for something and not remembering where you left it?  With a gear bag you can keep everything together, and they are big enough to make them hard to miss.

I know, riding with a gear bag is impractical, but we included it here, because the rest of the motorcycle luggage and bags we will be discussing will be mounted to the bike in some manner. 

Motorcycle Luggage, & Bags For Your Bike

Depending on the model you ride, or the customizations you do to make it unique to you can limit the types of motorcycle luggage or bags for your bike. Ride a bike with a carbon fiber tank and you will limit the types of tank bags that will work.  Ride a bike without a sissy bar and / or luggage rack and you’ll likely not be able to use a sissy bar bag or tail bag.  Ride a bike without a windshield and it is likely you won’t be able to use a windshield bag. 

So, what do you need to know about different motorcycle luggage and bags?

  • Windshield Bags are designed to mount to the windshield and are usually between six inches and twelve inches in length. They are great for keeping important documents, glasses, tools, or other smaller items easily accessible.
  • Tool Bags are like windshield bags, but usually have straps to mount them to different areas of the bike. Some common areas bikers mount these on the forks or between the handlebars.
  • Tank Bags are larger than windshield and tool bags because they mount on the tank either magnetically or with straps. Tank bags are great for keeping small to medium sized things, GPS units, or your phone if you don’t have a phone mount. The magnetic ones are more popular, but either way make sure you get one with a shoulder strap so you can carry it with ease and free your hands off the bike.
  • Sissy-bar Bags are bags that are like suitcases and mount to the sissy bar. Usually, you will need a luggage rack, but they can be mounted so they rest on the passenger seat if you are riding alone.  Most of these expand to offer more space, and often come with a roll bag or top bag for additional storage.
  • Tail Bags are bags that mount to the bike behind the rider along the same plane as the seat, luggage rack, or rear fender. Like tank bags, tail bags can often offer more storage and expansion due to being behind the rider and not where a rider would lean forward. These are most popular for sport-bikes where bag options are limited by the bike design, and adventure-bikes which need to maximize carrying capacity due to many times riding in remote locations with little services if any.
  • Trunk Bags are bags that are designed to mount to the top of the trunk for motorcycle with trunks like the Honda Goldwing or the Harley-Davidson Road Glide Limited. They are like tail bags but are usually wider and offer a lot more carrying space.
  • Saddle Bags were one of the first types of bags to ever be used commonly on motorcycles, and it is fitting since motorcycles are often called Iron Horses. They can be square for bikes that have turn signals mounted higher and closer to the front of the fender, slanted for passenger comfort, or rectangular for bikes that have more space available for mounting. They are easily identifiable by where they mount, on the outside of the rear fender under the passenger seat area. They are typically made of leather, PVC, or fiberglass. If they are the “Throw-Over” type, you will likely need a bracket to prevent them from flapping or rubbing when you ride. They are great because they keep the added weight below the rider’s center of gravity.  This keeps the bikes' center of gravity close to the natural center of gravity.  That means handling is minimally impacted.
  • Swing Arm Bags These are like saddle bags, except you only get one and it is usually hard mounted. Most commonly found on older bikes, choppers, and customs

There are many types of bags available, and sometimes people call them different things depending on your region.  Like asking for a soda pop, sometimes people ask for a soda, sometimes for a pop, and where I grew up everything was coke… what kind of coke… Sprite, Fanta, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi.

Now that you understand the types of motorcycle luggage, let’s discuss luggage accessories. 

Luggage Accessories

Luggage accessories aren’t very popular, but if you need them, they can mean the difference between getting everything home, and having to stop by the post office to mail something home. Let’s begin with Luggage Racks. 

  • Luggage Racks are hard mounted racks behind the passenger seat, on the fender, or on top of the trunk. They are designed to support the weight of the bag without damaging the paint.
  • Saddle-bag Brackets are brackets designed to prevent movement of the saddlebags by giving them a rigid supportive place to mount the bags. They can either be bike mount or bag mounted and are either universal or bike specific.  Universal saddle-bag brackets allow adjustment of the angles to fit almost every bike.
  • Hard Cases are typically designed to offer rigid protection for what is kept inside. Usually with a drain hole they are best used in combination with a luggage organizer or dry bag. Most commonly found on Touring or Adventure bikes where protection and security are more important.
  • Dry Bags are bags that are designed to keep water out. They usually have sealed, and welded seams and an opening designed to be rolled over and fastened. These are a must if you do a lot of traveling on your motorcycle and can be found with options for most mounted motorcycle bags.
  • Cargo Nets & Straps are usually made of a stretch material that maximizes space due to their compactness. They can easily be kept under the seat on a sports bike, or in any of the other bags you might have mounted. Straps are similar but usually have a ratcheting system to secure the item instead of hooks and tension.
  • Organizers & Liners are designed to keep your bag organized with liners being able to be removed with everything inside. That allows you to not have to worry when you travel, because you can just bring everything inside with you.

Now that we have discussed the basics of motorcycle luggage, bags, and accessories, it’s up to you to determine what are your best options.  Besides, there is still time to get in a few last trips before the weather gets colder and more unpredictable.

If you would like to check out our motorcycle luggage, click here

As always, we would love to hear your feedback, comment below.

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