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How to choose motorcycle luggage

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A glance at any of the catalogues issued by Canadian suppliers will deliver hundreds of pages of various kinds of luggage. A few seconds on the Internet will provide you with thousands of alternatives from around the world. Here are some ideas for narrowing down your choices.

What do you want to carry?

Jill Grummett, co-owner of Parker Brothers Motorcycles in Toronto, has some advice. "The very first thing," she says, "is to define what you want to carry. Sounds so simple, but you'd be surprised how many people haven't really thought about it." Defining what you want to carry depends on a variety of factors, like where you plan to travel, the length of your trip, and whether or not you'll be riding with a passenger.

For example, for short trips you might merely want to carry a map. A flexible map pocket that can be magnetically attached to your fuel tank would do the trick. For day trips, a larger bag on the tank would hold enough for the day or perhaps an overnight trip.

Do you want to carry enough gear to travel through the Americas to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America? You'll want some huge permanently-mounted aluminum cases.

If you need space for you and your partner to carry clothing and supplies for, say, a three-week holiday to either coast, saddlebags and perhaps a tail pack, and certainly a tank bag, are what you should be looking at.

Depending on what you want, then, you've still got choices. Suppose you want a bit of volume and decide you need saddlebags, for example. Here's a quick walk-through of what's out there.

Hard saddlebag selections

Hard saddlebags that lock require permanent mounts on the bike.

Ms. Grummett at Parker Brothers says, "We mostly carry GIVI and Oxford [see soft bag choices, below] products because our customers tend to want the higher-end quality stuff."

GIVI is best known for its superb hard cases, and in fact, several manufacturers use GIVI to produce their own "factory" luggage. However, they also supply for retail a wide range of gear from tank bags to scooter top boxes to imitation leather saddlebags.

Soft bag choices

Oxford specializes in soft gear: tank tags, back packs, tail-packs, and the like. There's a variety of colours and sizes available from Oxford — and from GIVI as well for that matter — so if the fashion side of things is important, you can easily match colours to your bike and riding gear. Of course, basic black is the most common (especially in the leather and synthetic leather types) and will go with pretty much any bike.

Soft Cordura nylon bags have the disadvantage of a bit less volume against the advantage of convenience.

If you have a cruiser-style machine, you might prefer something in leather — or more likely, a synthetic that resembles it. These can be obtained in either throw-over or permanent-mount types.

Convertible choices

Another kind of luggage that's not as common, but very practical, is one offered by the Ventura line. It involves a semi-permanent mount to the bike at the rear, with a tall V-shaped piece of metal tubing looping up. Over that, you can drop a backpack.

The nice thing about the Ventura system is that if you have no passenger, you can put the pack forward, centralizing the weight more. With a passenger, you can carry the same luggage, but by swapping it around you make room for the second rider.

Once you've figured out where you want to go, how long you're going to be travelling and who you want to take, as Ms. Grummett suggests, first determine what you want to carry, then you can start shopping!

Republished from In The Saddle. To subscribe to this free newsletter, simply request a motorcycle insurance quote!

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