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My belongings fill a house, but occasionally my life needs to fit on a motorcycle. Whether I’m on a multi-month road trip or stockpiling for the apocalypse at Sheng Shiong, moto-luggage systems are non-negotiable. The eternal question is – what’s the best type?
Last year I made the switch to a lighter, more dirt-worthy travel bike – hullo, Husqvarna 701E – and renounced metal panniers. Those are heavy, and they break legs. I was ready to throw money at new saddlebags which could hold all my stuff, stand up to being knocked around, and were not butt ugly. My old sling-over duffels were letting the rain in, and I couldn’t wander away from my loaded motorcycle without worrying about thieves. I ended up purchasing from a relatively unknown brand (in Singapore, at least) that call themselves the best motorcycle luggage in the world. 10,000km and 4 countries later, here’s what I think of the Lone Rider MotoBags – semi-rigid, weatherproof, lockable panniers that fold out of the way when you don’t need them.
What’s in the box?
Goodies galore. Besides a pair of outershells and red inner rollie bags, you’ll get a couple of drawstring mesh bags, reflective velcro strips, two head buffs, a lanyard, two keyring tags, spare parts and a little assembly wrench. The damage: 897 euros, shipping included.
The MotoBags are a universal fit to most rack systems. Prepare to get fiddly with all those tiny screws, nuts and mounts – it’s not a 15min installation job.
The quality and finishing of the materials is absolutely premium; I can hardly find any exposed seams on the outer shell. One annoyance: the long ends of the straps tend to flap around in the wind.
Tropical thunderstorms in Thailand. Dust clouds in Laos. Mud pools and river crossings in Malaysia. Catastrophic bird poop and power-jet spray in Toa Payoh. Bone dry and dirt-free luggage contents.
Built-in drainage holes take care of any liquid that does get into the Motobags (don’t say I didn’t warn you about exploding beer cans).
Each bag comes with its own proper lock, not the kind that a teenager might use on her diary. I can’t appreciate this enough while travelling alone. The downside: 2 extra keys to carry.
My friend Richard is fond of putting his motorcycle through hell.
I witnessed his Lone Rider MotoBags get bludgeoned and dragged through mud, sharp branches and rocks on a regular basis, then went and ordered my own set to torture. Between the two of us, we can cheerfully attest to the fact that these things are tough mudders.
A word of warning: they don’t stand up well to direct, intense heat. Mount them 5cm away from unshielded exhaust blast, and you’ll melt yourself an expensive hole.
5) Convenience & Functionality
The roll-and-clip system is watertight, but makes me miss the ease of a conventional lid that simply snaps open and shut.
Otherwise, at overnight stops and train stations, it’s a simple matter of pulling out the inner dry bags, which come with sling-easy shoulder straps. This leaves my hands free for other important things, like taking selfies.
With the hard boards in place, the bags hold their shape well enough for you to easily compartmentalise your gear, yet allow you to cram in just that little bit more.
Go everywhere and do everything!
City commute: The 31L holds my raincoat and work bag. The 38L side is kept folded flat for rush-hour manoeuvrability.
Travel: With both sides fully expanded, the carrying capacity is perfect for a month’s worth of luggage and tools.
Offroad/monkey business: I remove the inner boards and pancake both sides for maximum ninja-ness. The compressed bags can still hold the odd waterbottle or spade. They cannot be locked in their folded state, though.
Bonus: the external molle strap system lets you attach extra bottles or pouches for quick access.
There’s no getting around it – luggage alters the shape and weight distribution of your motorcycle.
The MotoBags come in variants of 31, 38 and 45 litres, averaging 6kg each, including the metal mounting plates. That’s not much lighter than an aluminium or hard plastic box, so if your priority is weight-saving, you’ll be better off with fully soft bags.
After experimenting with luggage combinations, here’s the setup I prefer for optimal handling at full load: ditch the rear topbox and keep the weight low and centralised in the Motobags. Works at both highway and slow speeds!
– Quality and customer service is top notch, with plenty of accessories
– Safer than metal boxes
– Packs better than completely soft bags
– Absolutely weatherproof
– Easy, secure lock system
– Universal fit to most racks, so they can be ported to another bike
– Heavier than fully soft bags
– Widens the motorcycle profile greatly when fully extended, unlike rackless soft bags
– No quick release function to remove bags entirely
– Not as convenient to open and close as traditional boxes with lids
Offering the best of both hard and soft cases, the Lone Rider MotoBags are a premium luggage option that will pay for themselves with sheer versatility and toughness. They are available at the Lone Rider webstore.
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Cherie went to school with overachievers. She grew up to fully embrace her wicked, underachieving ways and made art, rode motorcycles, wore dinosaur costumes to inappropriate places, and was generally awesome. She has recently discovered that the optimal number of underpants to pack for world domination on your motorcycle is 2.5.