Motorcycle Luggage - Can you go without it?

It is inevitable to take some motorcycle luggage when going on a tour. You will always need some essential stuff to keep with you all the time and its amount depends on the length of your tour and how you plan it. There are many options on luggage available on the market, generally divided into soft and hard luggage.

Considering the nature of motorcycle sport touring you may think of something more rigid and well attached to your bike. Also for other reasons such us waterproofness and security you may probably skip those of the soft luggage. The exception here would be the tank bags which I think are essential. Read more on motorcycle tank bag here. 

Is the soft luggage any good?

In my opinion the soft luggage specially the soft panniers are honestly not worth the hassle. I had soft panniers on my first tour and just couldn't stop thinking whether I still got my stuff back there whilst riding. I returned them as soon as I was back home as they split in some places, possibly because they were bouncing on the bike 'a little bit'.

Also your necessities in a soft luggage are never as secure as in the hard luggage in every way possible. Bear in mind that when going touring you will occasionally leave your bike with your luggage on, which will be most secured from thefts in the hard luggage. In rain, the soft luggage will never be as waterproof as the hard luggage. And yet, with soft panniers they are not attached to a luggage rack, so they can create significant pressure on the plastic. Most likely is that they will scratch the plastic and may even crack the tail fairing. You may find some preventive ways depending on your bike and configuration but generally I wouldn't go that way.

Motorcycle luggage that you need

Motorcycle hard luggage can be expensive kit to buy, but look for a second hand options. Before you go shopping you need to consider what would be sufficient for you, volume wise. You may go away with a tank bag only but you’ll not go far. Personally, I recommend buying a good set of second hand hard luggage with a high volume. It’s better to have some more volume than too little. Look for bundles with the motorcycle luggage rack included. Get approximately 130 litres within the three cases set at the back plus a tank bag, and you can even go camping with a pillion, seriously. I was touring in Europe for three weeks with my fiancé with all camping gear, including three person tent. Why three, because you need some space in the tent for your stuff like helmets, leathers etc.

As you suspect the type of gear is also important and I will come to that in motorcycle camping gear section when you will find not only the camping checklist but how do you pack all the necessities. In the motorcycle hard luggage section I will give you an example of the hard luggage set that I've had for years and I’m still really pleased with it. Importantly before buying is to check whether you can get hold of the fitting kit for your bike as they're not for every bike. However I don't know of any sport tourer that you cannot attach hard luggage. With some bikes the luggage comes as an accessory from the manufacturer but they’re generally not large in capacity. Besides you'll likely find them on typical touring bikes like Goldwing or BMW’s.

As with everything you're always better off buying something decent that last for years. The high price of the motorcycle luggage tells you something already. It will last many years, so you don't lose much getting a second hand one, do you? Once you've got them you will immediately appreciate them. And you will wonder how did you ever manage going without them. That's right; they will be an integral part of your bike from then on.

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