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     Whether you ride a motorcycle to commute or for sport, eventually you will need to transport something. When I first started riding, I tried to limit myself to carrying what I could zip up in my motorcycle jacket. Unfortunately, that made even simple errands virtually impossible to accomplish on a motorcycle. There are a number of motorcycle luggage solutions available, each with pros and cons.
     To start, there are a few basic rules to keep in mind when carrying a load on your motorcycle. Though it should go without saying, it is critical to make sure anything you are carrying on you motorcycle is secure and will not shift or come loose while on the road. The force of the wind on your gear at highway speeds should not be underestimated. Also, keep in mind that bike manufacturers spend a great deal of money optimizing a motorcycle's design for proper balance and performance. Anything you attach to the motorcycle can disrupt the motorcycle's center of gravity and make it less stable. Though most motorcycles come with some sort of rear rack, it is actually preferable to carry the load lower on the bike to keep the center of gravity down. Also, carrying too much weight toward the rear of the motorcycle takes weight off the front forks which means less traction for the wheel reponsible for steering the bike. Each style of cargo carrier has its limits and its own pros and cons. The three main factors to consider are amount of weight being carried, location and security.

Bungee Net - The bungee net is a cheap and popular option for securing gear on a motorcycle's rear rack. Because a regular bungee cord only holds along on axis, there would be potential for gear to slip out. The bungee net is made up of bungee cords running perpendicular to each other, giving it multidirectional strength. They can stretch to accommodate different sized loads and can be used with just about any motorcycle. Bungee nets are very compact and when not in use, they can be rolled up and tucked into a pocket. They are also very flexible and are able to bind even unusually shaped objects. One downside to the motorcycle bungee net is that unless the item is at least helmet sized, there may not be enough tension in the bungees to firmly hold the load tightly on the motorcycle's rear luggage rack. Without enough tension, the load can shift easily and the net's hooks may not hold to their anchor points. Another downside to the bungee net is that they cannot be locked and people passing by can easily see exactly what you're carrying so it is not advisable to leave anything of value unattended. Bungee nets are an inexpensive solution with a cost of under $10.

Glossy Motorcycle Trunks
Top Cases (Motorcycle Trunk) -
     Top cases mount on the motorcycle's rear rack and address many of the bungee net's shortcomings. Motorcycle top cases carry small objects just as effectively as they carry large ones. Most can accommodate a full-face helmet without a problem. Since they are often hard-shelled and lockable, items can be secured if you need to leave it with the motorcycle. (This can be useful if you want to lock up some of your bulky motorcycle riding gear once you reach your destination.) Most motorcycle top cases have mounting plates that attach to the rear rack that allows you to attach and remove the top case quickly and easily (usually with a push of a button once unlocked). There are motorcycle trunks that are built specifically for different motorcycle models or universal kits that work with a wide range of bikes. Certain motorcycles (usually cruisers) come equipped with matching cases from the manufacturer. Because they mount high on the motorcycle, they are not ideal for balancing heavy loads. On top of that, these cases are bulkier and cannot be stowed out of the way when not in use. Large top cases on smaller bikes can also make it less comfortable to your motorcycle with a passenger. Costs can vary with low-end generic motorcycle trunks being available for a little over $50 while quality cases can cost over $200.

Tank Bags - This relatively simple piece of motorcycle luggage is exactly what the name implies; it is a bag that mounts on the motorcycle's gas tank. The location of the tank bag allows quick and easy access though its small size limits what can be stored in this piece of motorcycle luggage. The location is keeps all weight over the heavy core of the motorcycle and is pretty good for maintaining stable balance. Some tank bags include a clear waterproof pouch on top so that maps or directions can be stored and consulted at a glance (not that you should be trying to read a map while in motion on a motorcycle!). Tank bags usually have pockets that are good for storing automatic toll devices such as Illinois' I-Pass or for storing change for tolls. There are a couple of drawbacks to this style of motorcycle luggage is that a tank bag can be a hassle when it comes time to refuel. Also, since it straps directly onto the gas tank there is a chance the paint's finished to be scratched or otherwise damaged by the direct contact.

Panniers (Saddle Bags) - Motorcycle panniers mount low on the sides of the motorcycle and come in leather, textile or hard shell varieties. They help maintain a low center of gravity, which helps ensure a stable ride. Hard shell panniers with locks are obviously more secure than the soft, though fabric or leather allow for more flexibility in the size and shape of the items carried. Because motorcycle panniers are positioned near the bike's exhaust, it is important to keep textile panniers from resting on the exhaust pipe. Usually a heat shield or metal frame will be mounted over the exhaust to keep them from being damaged by the pipe's extreme heat. Panniers are usually the most expensive type of motorcycle luggage.

Custom "Glove Box" - Another option that some ambitious motorcycle riders pursue is creating a small carrier of their own. Many motorcycle models have some open room between the instrument panel and the front fairing. Some riders have used this space to engineer a small storage compartment. Though cheap, this type of carrier can only accept very small items. It is also critically important to make sure any custom add-ons like this do not get in the way of any moving parts or affect steering in any way.


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