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-   -   Riding with a Lot of Gear (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/equipping-bike-whats-best-gear/riding-with-a-lot-gear-42368)

RTWmaniac 23 Apr 2009 20:41

Riding with a Lot of Gear
I'm a total newbie to lengthy travel via motorcycle, so excuse me if I sound laughably ignorant. A friend and I are planning a 2 week motorcycle trip in Iceland this summer. We both have 65 liter backpacks that we use to travel with. Is it possible to secure these on our bikes while we ride? I have a lot of experience riding in Africa and Asia, but it's always been day trips or weekend trips so I never had to ride with a big pack like this. I'm assuming the bags won't fit in the metal boxes on the bike. Do we just bungee-cord them down onto the bikes? Should we completely forget about bringing these large bags? And we plan on bringing tents and maybe a stove. Any suggestions in regards to securing so much gear on our bikes? Thanks in advance!

steved1969 23 Apr 2009 21:11

Depending on the bikes you may be able to strap the rucksacks on or across the pillion seat. Use straps rather than Bungee's though, much more secure. Halfords do a range of various straps at pretty cheap prices.

tommysmithfromleeds 23 Apr 2009 22:33

Yeah definitely use straps rather then bungee cord. Watch out for the remainder of the strap once secured; it may come loose if tucked in and catch around your wheel. It happened to me last year, so I decided to cut the straps down to the size I needed; removing the potential for disaster.

Also remember that arranging your luggage so as not to affect the center of gravity is massively important. The weight needs to sit behind the rider, in line with the bike.

My theory; imagine you have a top box on the back of your bike, and your looking down on it. Along its length, divide into thirds. The weight wants to sit in the second ‘third’ (the middle), close to the rider.

Keep your tires up to pressure, tighten your chain (if needed) and check the rear shock and all will be fine!

Luggage often put me off doing a long trip, but as soon as you start organizing your weight distribution everything starts falling into place.

Best o’luck :thumbup1:

JMo (& piglet) 23 Apr 2009 23:13

Are you planning on using these bags off the bikes (ie for hiking) too? or is it just because you have them already?

Personally if they aren't going to be used away from the bike, I would look at something slightly more bike specific in a similar capacity - either Ortlieb duffle bags or Wolfman particularly do a nice expedition bag that sits over the rear seat and extends slightly down each side, and will strap on more securely? Both are proper waterproof, and likely to be more robust in the event of a spill?

Wolfman Motorcycle Luggage

Otherwise as others have said, positioning the backpacks well and securing with decent 1" webbing straps ought to be sufficient...


J1mbo 24 Apr 2009 05:06


I'm planning a 6 month trip from Sydney to London at the end of the year and am going to be using aluminium panniers. But, recently did a 2 week trip of around 4000km in Australia. It was at fairly short notice, so didnt have time to buy much.

I had a 35 litre back pack that I strapped to the pillion seat. The base of the backpack against my back (acted like a back rest too) and the top at the back of the bike. I used a pacsafe to padlock it to the pillion grab rail, so it was secure. Just strap it up and use diagonal straps on each side going forwards and back to stop it sliding. You won't even notice its there and can leave it on the bike when you stop.

That being said - you mentioned using panniers - if you already have them, just buy some removeable pannier bags and it will be way easier than having to strap it on each morning. It only took about ten mins, but would be a lot easier using panniers.

Hope this helps.


markharf 24 Apr 2009 05:35

Like Jmo I'm not sure why you're planning to bring the backpacks. If you've got panniers, that's where your baggage belongs--for security, for waterproofness, for balance and handling. If you don't have panniers, maybe you should. If you don't have any other way to carry your stuff to and from Iceland, maybe you should invest in a duffel or two.

On the other hand (there is always an "other hand"), maybe you need to use the backpacks during your trip. I've put about 40,000 miles on my bike with a backpack bungied (yes bungied: the heavy duty black ones, never less than two) behind me on the seat. This works fine as long as you don't ever want to ride two up. I set out from home without a backpack, figuring I was on a motorcycle journey and had no use for one. While waiting almost two months for warranty repairs on my bike (a story for another day), I found I suddenly needed a backpack in order to keep traveling. I bought it in New Jersey(!).

Some considerations: Mine was about 35 or 40 liters: bigger just weighs more and gets in the way. Usually I carried it empty, wrapped in its raincover and strapped tightly together; since it looked easily stolen, I wanted to make sure it looked ugly. Towards the end of my trip I put it into a Packsafe mesh bag and cabled it to the bike, but most of the time I just trusted my dumb luck. Successfully, in this case.

On another occasion, I traveled around West Africa on rented bikes for a couple of weeks. These had no panniers, so I carried the same backpack, wrapped in the same ugly raincover, strapped to the seat behind me. This was less than ideal in a lot of ways--lack of security, bad balance, shifting load, etc., but I didn't have any other obvious way to work it. If you need to, you'll make it serve your purposes and carry on with your trip.

There is no question that a backpack is perfectly designed for carrying on your back, and that it makes a poor substitute for any of the many forms of luggage designed for bikes. This being the case, if you don't need a backpack, bring a light duffel instead, or a waterproof duffel, or a giant roll-top bag, or almost anything without a frame and a lot of useless straps and belts and other extraneous stuff.

Hope that helps.


38thfoot 24 Apr 2009 09:17

Not a bonus for non uk residence but many surplus stores are selling the current british army deplyment bag for about £10-20. this is about medium ortlieb sized, has compression straps and rucksack straps that can be tucked out of view and is pretty rugged.

The Outdoors - UK Army Surplus Shop - Rucksacks

May be worth considering?


RTWmaniac 24 Apr 2009 16:10

Wow, thanks for all the responses. Really, we were just going to bring the large backpacks merely because we have them. Also, we are renting bikes over there, so I'm not sure if they will have the panniers. It appears that some do and some don't. Maybe I will make it a requirement and just bring a couple small school-sized backpacks that will fit in the panniers. We will be doing some hiking, but we won't be away from the bikes for more than a day. While security is always something to consider, it is Iceland, so I'm not that concerned.

Bill n Sue 21 Jun 2009 15:44

Sounds like a lot of good advice to me. I travelled down through the Americas with my backpack on the pillion seat. I´d like to add three things.
1) if you do this make sure you have a rain cover - water will get in otherwise, these packs are not designed to be laid down in the rain! water will form pools and get inside via the zips.
2) if the pack is heavy, make sure you use at least some straps and NOT just bungies, because otherwise when you have to manouvre in an emergency, the pack will destabilise your bike and the subsequent wobble will magnify very quickly causing you to lose control or get thrown off!!
3) don´t leave any strap ends flapping about on either sides. Whilst weaving through traffic in Rio, Brazil one such loose strap got caught up on the hooks of a passing truck! I had to keep up the truck whilst at the same time trying to unhook myself - fortunately we were not going fast, but never the less, very scary!!

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