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We've fit everything into our panniers (too much of course) and are set to take off in a couple weeks, but there's one thing we keep pondering and some outside opinions would be appreciated.
Our thought is that a big empty topcase would be useful for two things:
1) food. We plan on camping as much as possible, so there will be a fair number of breakfasts and dinners we'll be cooking ourselves. Being able to throw the food into the topcase instead of trying to figure out how to keep a bag secured across the seat seems really useful.
2) jackets at border crossings, restaurants, etc. As we're heading across the Americas we figure there are going to be a lot of rather warm border crossings where it'd be nice to be able to throw your jacket into a lockable box for however many hours it takes to finish the process. Similarly, when stopping for lunch it'd be nice to be able to throw them in a case. (Yes, we've measured with a cardboard box, they'd fit.)
The last one is the the kicker though, I've got the BMW Rallye Pro 2 jacket, which has a 19" tall piece of back armor. In order to get a topcase that'd hold two jackets (with one of them being that tall) we have to shell out roughly $500 US for it and the mounting stuff. Plus the thing would have to be freaking huge ( 14" deep x 22" wide x 12" high The box from Happy-Trails ) We could probably save a bit and get a smaller one if I was willing to chop my armor, but i'm not into compromising when it comes to safety equipment.
So, while we can technically afford it $500 is a lot of money for one metal box. Do you think it's worth it for that use? Or do you think that the jacket idea isn't really that useful. We've got one of those collapsable insulated bags that we could throw a meal's worth of food in and somehow attach to the seat... We've been trying to avoid getting a topbox (seems excessive, and expensive) but the food idea really seems useful. Add in the jacket idea and I'm really close to pulling the trigger.
p.s. With the exception of one quart of oil we haven't figured a place for, we've promised ourselves this would remain empty for throwing things in.
Location: Aussie expat in Switzerland half way RTW
Before answering your question I think you should consider your needs more closely.
Firstly a topbox is the place on the bike the most prone to vibration, the bumps are exaggerated about 2-5times what the rider is feeling. So for food storage, a top box is not really the best. Also consider that a tob box either black or made of metal in hot conditions will cook the contents and any food stuffs that are not preserved (ie in a can or dried) will not last long.
Secondly regarding storage of your jackets. It is much better practice to park your bike within eyeshot. Keep an eye on your bike while eating at a restaurant. To do this you need to choose a place that has parking right in front of the restaurant. Have your partner look after the bike while you're getting visa/bike paper work processed at the border if possible.
Usually when we stop and take off our jackets, one goes over our topbox and the other over the front windsheild of the bike. One person stays to look after the bike. Otherwise if we need to leave the bike for extended period and leave the jackets as well then I lock the jackets to the bike with a cable bicycle lock through the sleeves and through a hard part of the bike.
Actually a cable lock (or two) is your best friend, put it through the visor of a helmet and sleeve of your jacket and attach it to your bike frame. No one will bother with your stuff then.
+1 on the cable lock, quick,easy & small to transport.
I have a topbox (happy trails too)but its smaller than the one your considering,used as a secure charging point & storage for light but bulky kit eg thermarest,sleeping bag.
Sounds to me like you do not really need one so keep the cash for the trip.
Great for chucking in the extra layers you don't want to wear, plus campsite eating essentials (stove, cutlery, plates etc, and food.) So easy to unhook the whole thing and take it into the tent 'porch' when the weather is crappy!
Through a combination of being female (more packing space is always useful) and not knowing the first thing about bikes, I set off on my first trip with a very large top-box and 13 years later I've still got it!!
It can hold two helmets easily, but to be honest I usually use the cable lock system for helmets, jackets and, on occasion trousers as well.
The box has been really useful especially as there's generally been two of us on my R80GS and so we need every bit of luggage space.
It's made of fibre glass and so it's really light in weight, and yet seems to have held up to the multiple falls and accidents I've had over the years. It was originally only held on with coat-hanger wire, but has a slightly more sophisticated fastening system now. Other travellers have named it the pizza boxbut it suits me.
I know there will be plenty of people who disagree, but then that's the nature of this website, we all do things our own way.
Good luck whatever you choose and have a great trip.
Top boxes are good if you just use them for light stuff or for stashing your jackets and helmets as described .
If you want a very large one ,have a look for an Alpos box [or similar ] they are made of very thin aluminium and are ideal for the job .[not so good for panniers however as they ding very easily ].
Alternatively ,Rubbermaid and other companies make large plastic tote boxes that can be used as top boxes ,cheap too!
Sadly the type of box used by Tiffany is not made anymore ,I used to have one ,I wish I could get another !
We packed everything on the bike, added a cardboard box of approximately the same front to back dimensions and discovered a fairly large problem with the plan... my sleeping bag. It's a pretty decent one that'll keep me alive down below freezing, but even in a compression sack it's too big to fit into a side pannier. When I added the box it became clear that there was nowhere for the sleeping bag to go that wouldn't interfere with my ability to sit, unless i was going to stick it on top of the topcase, an idea I'm really not a fan of. That meant that any container across the back would have to hold the sleeping bag too. If it were a metal top-box there'd be no real space for food, or jackets, or anything else that wasn't tiny.
So, we grabbed an old bag of mine and tested some more. Turns out, the right solution for us is a large duffel across the back. We can't fit the jackets in it, but we can put the compressed sleeping bag on one end, and sleeping mat folded flat across the bottom. That leaves roughly half a duffel for food or whatever else. The bag I have has a rain cover, but we figured it better to just go with something that's fully waterproof. So we ordered the large Wolfman Dry Duffel. The Ortlieb's are great, but the Wolfman has D-rings that we can use to secure it.
Thank you all for your opinions. We definitely took them into account while pondering this.
I'd suggest the big Givi case. Yes, it's not "real" over landing kit, but it's a lot cheaper and by the sounds of things the failure of this one component would only be an inconvenience to you rather that a trip-stopper. Mine fits two helmets, or one helmet and some food, water, and maps. I've not tried getting my Rallye II jacket inside but don't think it'd be a problem.
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