The open road calls, and sometimes just a day’s ride isn’t long enough. But if you are going to be on the road for longer, you will want to bring things with. Once you start bringing things, you need to have places to carry those things – and all the sudden you can’t see your motorcycle under the pile of stuff you’ve crammed, stuffed, and strapped onto every surface, until there’s barely enough room left on your seat for you.
I could, and actually have, publish a list of the things I carry, but instead I am going to back up a step and talk about how you carry your stuff. The best way to limit the amount of gear you carry is to limit the space you have to carry things in – since if there isn’t room you just don’t get to bring it with.
I travel with five bags. These bags carry everything – there’s nothing strapped to the outside of anywhere, just the five bags. I try to use the smallest bags I can, rather than just buying the largest one “so I know I have enough room.” If you start with a large container, you will find things to fill it. That is just how it goes.
So, the Five Bags, and what each one is for –
Tank Bag – I know most people use their tank bag for sundry items like glasses and sunscreen. For me, this bag is dedicated to food. Since I travel in areas where wildlife is a problem, being able to remove it and store it safely is a huge plus, as well as keeping the food smells clear of clothes and camping gear. I can also carry the whole bag to a table for meal prep.
Backpack – The real reason I ride with a backpack is to have a hydration bag. It’s easy to get dehydrated while riding, and being able to drink without stopping is a huge plus. The backpack (a small day bag) also carries all my personal belongings. When I am off the motorcycle, my riding gear is locked to the bike and I just bring the backpack along with (conveniently also bringing my drinking water). When I fly, this is also my only piece of luggage, it’s small enough to be a carry on.
Tail Bag – This is actually a 30l dry bag, bought at Walmart of $10. It carries my camping gear, and while it’s a bit awkward, it can attach to the backpack for walk-in sites. I’ve been using a hammock tent for the last few years, and I store it inside the bag, but when I was using a traditional tent, I used a smaller (15l) bag and strapped the tent next to it. This is technically my largest bag, but I don’t travel with it full. I just don’t have that much camping gear, and nothing else is allowed to go in.
Left Side Bag – Or pannier, or saddlebag, depending on your preference. I am splitting the bags into left and right, since they are two separate bag and each should have it’s own function. I know there is a lot of talk about keeping the bags the same weight and unbalanced loads and things like that, but if a 500b motorcycle is going to have major issues because one side has alb more than the other, then there are large problems. The left bag has my clothes, toiletries, non-riding shoes, and anything else I might want when I have stopped riding for the day. Since it’s on the left, these are things I never want to need on the side of the road, since I would be standing in traffic.
Right Side Bag – Or pannier, or saddlebag, you get the idea. Since this is the “non-traffic” since of the motorcycle, these are the things I would want on the side of the road. Tools, cooking gear, and the liners for my riding pants and jacket. I might stuff a long sleeve shirt in there from my clothes bag, if the temperatures are varying that much.
Everything has a place, each bag has things that it’s assigned to carry. Now, the real trick is not to move things around. If there is tool, for example, that doesn’t fit in the right side bag, then the tool doesn’t get to move somewhere else it might fit. The same for camping ro cooking gear. By limiting the space you have for each section of gear, you limit the amount of gear you can carry long.
Keep it light, and go somewhere.