How to Choose the Right Motorcycle Pack 

For a motorcyclist, choosing the perfect bag or pack is not a small matter. The right pack can make life much simpler, while the wrong one just complicates things. Because we’re exposed to the elements and our gear is unprotected, we must protect against both weather and theft.  

If you use a bike for short stints around the city, there will be times where storage becomes problematic. A trip to the store for a few groceries? No problem, but where do you put everything? A small tote may solve this issue temporarily, but what about longer rides? 

Motorcycles and road trips were made for each other. Sure, you can do one without the other, but something is always missing. It’s like cream and coffee, or cookies and milk. But a touring pack should have space enough for the essentials (toiletries, change of clothes, shaving gear, etc.) 

Determining Factors 

So choosing the right pack for the job is a matter of focusing on its intended use. The following are a few of the main considerations that will dictate whether or not your pack can accomplish what you intend to ask of it.  

Riding Style 

If a pack does not suit your bike and how you ride it, it won’t be of much use. Straps that aid in tying down a pack may flap in the wind if the pack is worn. That excess strap material soon frays, and the pack may become unusable.  

Large, unwieldy packs can become air brakes at speed, which is why sportbike riders often seek out aerodynamic packs. That same pack can look foolish on a café racer, even though speed is still a factor. So take into account the style of bike you ride and the way you ride it.  

Bugging Out 

Whether it be for use in emergencies or simply for activities such as camping, a pack should be able to take its position quickly and simply. The more fuss involved in securing the pack to your machine or your person, the more likely you are to leave it in the closet.  

Pay close attention to what steps are required to make use of the pack you are considering purchasing. Are there numerous straps to cinch? Will you be forced to disassemble parts of your bike? Remember, this is an investment you are making in your future, and nothing is more valuable than your time.  

Frequency of Use 

How often you use your pack will determine several factors that limit your options. A daily commuter pack will take constant abuse from wind, rain and sun, for instance. Packs for regular use should be constructed from the best possible materials. Look for extras like double stitching and waterproof membranes.  

On the other hand, a one-time road trip may allow for the use of less stout materials. Riders in this category may get away with a simple book sack and bungee cords, which would not likely survive getting constant abuse from the elements.  

Bike or Back? 

Riders do have a few options when it comes to our packs, which can be grouped into two categories. There are the packs that we carry (usually on our backs) and the packs that we affix to our bikes. The latter may be tank bags, tail packs or saddle bags.  

Tank bags and tail packs are typically small, and they have a correspondingly short list of suitable uses. Saddlebags offer more storage space, but they aren’t great in every situation. When space is at a premium – and especially when items must be carried with us – only a backpack will do.  

Theft Prevention 

It does little good to store your items securely from the wind and the elements, only to find that nothing is there when you return from a restroom break or from grabbing a quick bite. Any pack intended for motorcycling should be suitably difficult to steal. 

Straps can be cut and thieves can discreetly make off with your stuff, so don’t count on them to keep your pack safe. Look for innovative solutions (they’re out there) to the problem of theft – especially on packs that tie down to your machine. And this isn’t just an urban issue. Losing all your gear on a road trip is no fun! 


Seek out a pack that suits you as a rider as well as the machine you ride. No matter your style (steampunk café racer, anyone?), there is a pack that will work for you. Just make sure it is easy to secure – either to you or the bike – but difficult to steal. Any pack designed for riding should be stout enough to not fray in the wind, but others may come undone at high speeds.  

If the pack you are considering purchasing seems stout enough for your riding style, the only other factor to consider is capacity. Generally speaking, the more space the better, but extra space also means excess material to flap around in the wind. For that reason, it’s best to invest in a couple packs of different sizes and to use the one that can hold your cargo with as little extra space as possible.  

This guest article was written by Wes of

*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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