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Classic Velocity Blog

Matching Motorcycle Luggage

Classic Velocity


At first glance, the very title of this article, and the content seem like a very "First World" kind of problem. And it is, but bear with us and read on as it is not quite what it seems. First, the reality check. Having more than one motorcycle is certainly a first world problem. In fact, having a motorcycle at all which is used for pleasure and leisure is also a first world privilege. However, most readers of this are likely to have more than one machine, and many have both modern and vintage iron. As such, they may relate to this quest. It is the desire to have a single set of luggage that can be used on multiple machines. In this case, more modern machines, since the Krausers from the BMW /5 are never going to work on the Norton Dominator, and neither will be the choice for a 2-up cross country trip (although the /5 would probably do fine). Ever since Trog first rode his R bike or his Hurling Davidstone to the steakosaurus hunting grounds, man has been seeking to safely carry spiked clubs, spears, and cashmere smoking jackets along with him on a motorcycle. When Brog invented motorcycle luggage, he became very wealthy, and could hire others to hunt his steakosaurus, while he stayed in the cave by the fire with the women - smart man, that Brog. But I digress....

Over the years, the more modern machines in the garage have changed. And with those changes, has come an odd assortment of racks and luggage. Sometime inexpensive commuter solutions, and sometimes costly machine-specific items. For example, the stock luggage for the R1150GSA, or a set of soft "Moto Totes"given to us for free with a CB750. Facing the need for yet another luggage solution, we decided to clean house and buy one quality set of luggage that could work on both a BMW 650, and a KTM 1190. Just sell all of the odd bits and pieces, and buy the ultimate luggage set that could match both machines. To quote Top Gear, "How hard could it be?"

In a word, very. So first some parameters. We wanted a complete setup including tankbag, panniers, and topcase. They had to be interchangeable on either bike. With the exception of the tank bag, the entire luggage system had to be weatherproof without stopping to put on any kind of covers.  It needed to be able to accommodate a passenger. It had to cost less than a running vintage motorcycle in reasonable condition -- we have found this to be a reasonable unit of currency, as any funds would get diverted to a running vintage motorcycle over accessories for a more modern one. In fact, the children's college fund might lose such a challenge depending on the bike, but I digress... It needed enough carrying capacity for a multi week trip. It should be removable or remountable in less than one minute. It should survive a healthy amount of off-road usage. A specific, but not unreasonable set of parameters.

We found that there are many fine solutions out there, but they quickly fall away as you apply all of the parameters. Cost was a big one. We could have just picked stuff from the Touratech catalog, but costs quickly approached 2 running vintage motorcycles. Same was true for having a shop build a custom setup. It quickly became apparent that a single solution from one manufacturer was not going to work. With that established, we began to tackle the components separately. First, the tank bag. Magnetic bags were not an option, so strapped options like Wolfman were the leading candidates. I did like the whole detachable base concept from Giant Loop. Ultimately though, I decided to go with the SW Motech tank ring solution. No straps, no magnets, quick refueling, and adapters for both machines. OK,  we now had a single tank bag that could be used either machine. On to the second area of challenge. The panniers. Racks are expensive, panniers are expensive, and then there is the whole soft vs hard luggage debate. It was very difficult to find a single set of metal panniers that could work on both bikes. We failed to find racks with the same size hoops so that the pannier pucks could be positioned in the same location! The total here was going to be the cost of 2 sets of panniers plus racks for 2 machines. The dollars climbed like a scalded rump monkey.

 Rackless soft luggage solutions tended to use the passenger seat or violate the one minute rule to get on and off. However the quest lead us back to Mosko Moto. A unique soft luggage solution that fit a variety of racks including those I already had on the 650. A set of Tusk racks for the 1190 were very reasonable, so we now had a single set of panniers with 50 liters of capacity. Not cheap, but weatherproof, and well below the hard luggage alternatives. That brings us to the top box. The obvious choice here it is to get something like a Givi or a Shad case, and mounting brackets for two bikes. However, at a rally I ran into a guy who had a unique and useful system for mounting a Pelican top case so that it was easily detachable. I had a pelican top case from the prior project, so this was even more intriguing in that I could eliminate the cost of the top case itself. This mounting system is by a company called back road equipment, and they are a small shop making some really cool items for a specific segment of the market. The system is brilliant. It uses a plate for your rear rack along with a puck system for mounting the pelican case to the plate. It releases by way of a simple mechanism which can also be locked. While they had an adapter for the 1190, they were still developing the adapter for the 650. We decided that it was worth the wait, and after about a month, we had solutions for both machines.

So finally, after a lot of shopping online, talking to potential solution providers, and becoming a beta tester, we have accomplished the goal. One top case, one set of Panniers, and one tank bag. The good news, is that this was all achieved using funds which came from bits and pieces of luggage and racks that have been laying around for years and which went to new appreciative homes. The not so good news, is that all of this ended up costing about the price of a running CB360 in good condition. It's a good thing it was spent in smaller chunks so that we avoided diversion of funds. Was it worth it? So far, yes. It is great to know that the rain gear or the compressor, is not in the "other luggage". It is great to know that the USB adapter is in the (only) tankbag. And we really like having our favorite top case on both machines. We're sure that at some point in the future, a modular system will emerge which allows you to accomplish this goal easily using a single vendor of your choice. Today, however, getting matching luggage is harder than you think.