One of the great things about motorcycling is the freedom it offers – just jump on and go. But what if you’re planning on staying away overnight, or thinking about bringing some stuff home with you that you’ve picked up on your ride?
There are plenty of motorcycle luggage options available, but hard luggage is expensive and what if you don’t want to leave cumbersome racks on your bike? Of course, you could get some soft luggage, but do you really want the struggle of carrying a pair of floppy panniers around? So what’s the answer? Well, why not try a rucksack.
Now I’m not talking about the jumbo-sized items that European tourist backpackers are so fond of; the kind of things that try to carry everything, but the kitchen sink. No, I’m talking about packs that are designed to meet the needs and demands of motorcycle riders.
Those needs are multiple and complex. The most important one though is that the bag sits securely in place. The last thing you want while riding with a backpack on is for it to start moving around of its own accord; any sudden shift in weight could have a serious effect on your bike’s handling. Other points to consider include long straps so that you can get the pack on while wearing a jacket fitted with armour. Waterproofing is a given, but still something that needs to be checked out and while you’re looking at that, take a look at how secure the fasteners are. You really don’t want any of the pockets or compartments coming open when you’re riding.
Some motorcycle backpacks are designed to offer protection to the wearer in the worst case scenario by incorporating an internal pocket to fit a CE-approved back protector. It can also be a useful option to consider if you’re ever going to be carrying irregular loads or anything with sharp edges, as the protector will prevent the contents of the bag digging into your bike while you’re riding.
One brand that takes the motorcyclist needs into account is bike luggage specialist Kriega. Along with an extensive line of tank bags, tail packs and panniers, Kriega produce backpacks ranging in capacity from 15 to 35 litres. One useful feature found on their five bag range is the innovative Quadloc and Quadloc LITE, four-point, X-style harness, which has been designed to avoid underarm restriction and be easier to get the pack on over leathers compared with traditional strap designs. It is described by Kriega as a ‘mega chest strap’. Indeed, the original option is so big that it features a concealed pocket on the front of the harness big enough to take a smartphone.
Keeping everything you might be carrying safe, the Kriega bags all have YKK water resistant zips and external compression straps to hold everything securely in place and stop the contents of the bag moving around while you’re on the bike.
Another option to consider for bags from a company with a background in motorcycling is the range from Dainese, which is better known for its bike clothing line. Because Dainese makes motorcycle clothing it understands better than most how bag straps interact with bike jackets and the armour inside them.
Highlights in the Dainese bag range include the D-Elements backpack, which with its more than 26-litre capacity, is more than capable of carrying enough kit for a weekend away on the bike. However, there’s much more to it than simply a large capacity. It’s been designed with riders in mind and has some great features such as a removable hip belt that’s set off-centre in order to prevent the catch scratching the bike’s petrol tank when you’re leant over trying to tuck yourself down out of the wind. Also useful for when you’re riding at speed is the strap containment system ensures all straps are secured and not flapping around in the wind.
A lot of thought has gone into the comfort of the D-Elements too, which is a good thing because you could be potentially carrying a lot of weight given its capacity. Laptops can get heavy and there’s a sleeve for one of those. While dual density shoulder straps and a two-way adjustable sternum strap will help spread the weight of the fully laden bag.
When the weather warms up, having a heavy bag on your back can soon get uncomfortable as you start to get sweaty with the bag pressing against you but again this is something Dainese has considered and the D-Elements features an ‘Airflow’ back panel to help keep you cool.
Assuming that you’re thinking about a backpack rather than soft luggage because you want to be able to carry it around easily off the bike then the D-Mach from Dainese is a worthwhile option to consider. Again designed with riding in mind, it also has a host of features that make it extremely usable off the bike too.
The bag’s exterior is moulded to make it streamlined and that theme continues with the shoulder straps conforming to your body for increased aerodynamics – even the concealed carrying handle is aerodynamic.
Dainese experience of working with motorcyclists can be seen in details like the soft neck shoulder straps designed to not scratch the helmet’s exterior. Those straps also have a quick release exit buckle to make it easy to get the bag off and the same off-centre help belt as the D-Elements is also used.
If you use the D-Mach for the daily commute you’ll appreciate the dedicated shoe storage compartment, interior padded laptop sleeve with elastic closure to fit a 15in laptop, and even a padded iPad/tablet/e-reader sleeve. While when you’re off the bike there’s an integrated removable helmet carry strap so you’ve got somewhere to safely carry your lid.
Dainese’s bags may well allow you to carry all you’ll ever need and more besides, but they do so at a premium price. If you’re on a budget, you might want to take a look at some of the bags in the Oxfords Products range. The Aqua B-25 backpack is a no-frills bag that’s been designed with motorcyclists in mind. The bag is uses welded seams and a roll-top enclosure to keep whatever you choose to put in there dry while external compression straps will keep it all from moving around.
You get all of those features in the Aqua V 20 too and in addition, this particular Oxford Products bag also has a lot of reflective detailing to help keep visible when riding in the evenings and early mornings. Not forgetting the fact that the 20-litre capacity will come in very useful whether commuting or stocking up provisions from the supermarket.
What do you do though if you don’t want a big backpack, but still need to carry stuff around on the bike? Cyclists have been clued-up to this for years and courier-style bags have never been as popular. However, SW-Motech has taken the idea of a cycle courier bag and made it motorcyclist-specific.
The company’s Legend Gear Messenger Bag is a combination of Napalon synthetic leather and waxed canvas, for a vintage look, and has been made so that it can double up as a tail pack.
Use it as a messenger style bag and the shoulder strap, worn over either the left or right shoulder, can be adjusted for length with one hand. This is a neat feature that makes the bag easy to get on when it’s full or if you’ve got a bulky jacket on. Leave the strap long, put the bag over your shoulder, adjust the strap – sorted. There’s even an additional waist strap to keep the bag stable when you’re riding.
The Legend Gear Messenger has a padded laptop sleeve that will take anything up to a 15in screen, although much of the bag’s 12-litre capacity is dependent on the laptop’s overall size. However, the splash-proof lining and water-resistant internal roll-top closure should keep it safe from the weather. If you do need more space SW-Motech’s LA1 and LA2 accessory bags can be easily attached using the webbing loops and alloy hooks on the outside of the Legend. Then when you want to use it as a tailpack, remove the shoulder strap and secure the bag to the bike with the optional mounting straps.
SPOILT FOR CHOICE
We’ve only mentioned a few options here, but whether you want a simple pack for a short commute or a fully featured rucksack, there’s plenty of choices that won’t interfere with helmets or protective jackets and won’t move around or flap in the wind when riding. At the end of the day it comes down to just how much you want to carry and how much you’re willing to pay but there should be an option to match every combination.