How to Pack a Motorcycle Like a Pro
Ready to head out on a road trip but have no idea how to pack your motorcycle? Hey, we’ve all been there. In this guide, I’ll share a few tips with you on how to pack your motorcycle so that your gear is easily organized, and safely secured.
Over a decade ago, I started traveling solo on my motorcycle. I had NO clue what I was doing in more ways than one. Did I know anything about good riding gear for touring riding? Nope. Did I know anything about traveling solo? Nope. Knowing how to pack a motorcycle properly is something I had to learn on my own over the years through trial and error.
Luckily, I’ve gotten the hang of it and have learned plenty of helpful tips that I’m ready to pass on to anyone who comes across this blog! Whether you’re headed out on a 4-day ride or a month-long adventure, these tips will come in handy to help make packing your motorcycle a little bit easier.
Use a packing guide or personal checklist.
The best way to stay organized and keep your gear efficiently packed throughout a trip is to start out doing exactly that. Lay out all of the gear you’ll need for your trip, using a checklist to make sure you didn’t forget anything important. I typically break my gear into different categories, and then organize it one section at a time:
- Riding Gear
- Camping Gear
- Tech / Electronics
- Tools & Accessories
>>> Read Next: The Ultimate Motorcycle Trip Packing List
Learn to Do More with Less!
Becoming a minimalist motorcycle traveler doesn’t happen overnight for most people. It took me years and multiple road trips to become efficient at packing for a motorcycle trip. The reality is that it may take you a while to figure out your own definition of minimalism.
The benefits of packing light far outweigh the cons, though. Minimizing your pack will lighten your load, allowing your bike to handle much more smoothly. Thus being safer in most cases. Additionally, you’ll have less stuff to sort through and keep track of, which will allow you to stay more organized.
Most people tend to overpack clothing. Here’s a tip: whether you’re packing for an extended weekend or cross-country adventure, your gear and clothing of choice should be nearly identical in pack size. You don’t need five outfits for a five-day trip. You need to learn to do more with less!
Stay Organized with Bag Liners and Packing Cubes
On a budget, a Ziploc bag will work to keep your clothing and other items organized. If you want to take it up a notch, investing in packing cubes will really make storing your items easier on your bike. I didn’t believe the hype until I invested in packing cubes. Now, I laugh at how long I utilized Ziploc Bags.
I own a few different styles of packing cubes now, but all of them have been purchased at REI. The REI-brand packing cubes have been my favorites thus far, and I own a few different styles of them to work with different packing setups.
If your motorcycle luggage does not detach from your bike easily, bag liners are a popular option for easy unloading. Whether you’re staying at a hotel or crashing on a friend’s couch, it’s easiest to just grab a whole bag of items rather than unload tiny pieces of gear one at a time.
Use quality, motorcycle-specific luggage and cargo straps
If your motorcycle requires you to invest in new luggage to store your items, do it right the first time and purchase exactly what you want, rather than a budget item if possible. Cheap luggage tends to show its true quality very quickly. The last thing you want or need is for your gear to fail in the middle of nowhere, or in an unsafe situation (like at high speed on the interstate).
Motorcycle luggage has come a long way in the past decade, being engineered to work with more than just “touring motorcycles.” Using gear that was specifically designed to be used on a motorcycle tends to be the easiest to keep strapped to your bike. I’ve used backpacks, duffel bags, and every other budget-friendly item you probably have in your closet. In reality, the motorcycle luggage I’ve invested in over the years has always been worth buying in the end. It tends to be waterproof and has numerous attachment points so that your gear is safely secured to your bike.
The Kuryakyn Momentum Vagabond Bag is my favorite piece of motorcycle luggage that I’ve purchased for motorcycle travel. I always kick myself for not buying it sooner, because it alleviated so many of my luggage problems so easily.
There are multiple storage compartments which allows me to stay organized while traveling, and it’s great quality.
You can read my full review of this bag, here.
Rok Straps have quickly become my favorite type of cargo strap to use on all of my motorcycles. I’ve gotten rid of all the bungee cords and cargo nets in my gear closet because these have just done such a great job holding all of my gear in place.
Use Waterproof Luggage
There is nothing worse than getting caught in a rainstorm and having all of your luggage get soaked. Especially your camping gear. Most motorcycle-specific luggage comes equipped with waterproofing capabilities since manufacturers know that this is a high concern for riders. But not all.
I’ve been using Sea to Summit’s Big River Dry Bags for years to carry camping gear on my bike. They’ve never failed me and work well as a waterproof luggage option.
Distribute weight evenly and purposefully to maintain stability and handling
Think of your bike’s luggage like the wings of a plane: the heavier and wider your luggage is, the harder it will be to handle your motorcycle at highway speeds. This is especially true for smaller motorcycles, where you tend to notice any added weight much easier than you would on a heavyweight motorcycle. Keep your saddlebags or panniers as even in weight as possible.
Keep in mind your motorcycle’s luggage weight limits when loading the bags. If you find that your saddlebags or panniers won’t hold everything you need, or feel that they’re overweight, it’s time to consider loading your gear onto other sections of your bike.
You should pack your heaviest items low and close to the rider. This is also a great method if you’re planning to store luggage on your passenger seat or a rear rack area. In most cases, this will help you maintain a low center of gravity for your motorcycle.
On my Low Rider ST, my heaviest items are my camera equipment, which I store in a luggage bag directly behind me on my passenger seat. This keeps the weight distribution pretty centralized on my bike and causes no handling issues.
>>> Read Next: Major Mistakes I Made as a New Adventure Rider
Store camera gear and tech equipment in a safe area.
Items like laptops, cameras, and other tech devices are sensitive to high-frequency vibrations and direct impact. If you plan to carry electronics such as these, store them in an area on your bike that is securely mounted to your motorcycle with the least vibration, in padded, sturdy protective cases. Most people utilize their tank bag, a sissy bar or seat bag, or a hard case such as a tour pack or top case for storing items like this.
In the event you have to walk away from your motorcycle with tech equipment stored on it, keep your luggage locked, or carry your camera equipment in easily removable camera cubes or bags so that you can take it with you.
Keep heat-sensitive items away from your exhaust
This tip should be a no-brainer. However, it’s worth mentioning to anyone who hasn’t thought about it. Heat-sensitive items such as aerosols, fuel canisters, batteries, or makeup should be stored away from the “exhaust side” of your motorcycle.
On long, hot Summer days, your exhaust can get really hot. Sometimes while sitting in traffic, your bike may radiate extra heat. You just never know what can happen, so be mindful of where you pack certain items.
Keep important and often used items in easily accessible areas.
Items like a first aid kit, water bottle, legal documents, rain gear, or action camera accessories should be stored in easy-to-access luggage. Here are a few options to consider:
- Handlebar Bag: On cruisers, this is a popular area to store small items like insurance cards and sunglasses.
- Tank Bag: Tank bags are great for items like cameras, water bottles, action cameras, maps, and legal documents.
- Accessory Pockets or Luggage Organizers: This is a great area to put items like sunscreen, snacks, sunglasses, or extra camera batteries.
Pre-Check Your Pack Job (And then check it Again)
New to packing your bike for a motorcycle trip? Don’t wait until the night before to pack your bike for the first time. If time allows, do a pack test to see how your bike feels with the setup you choose, and adjust as needed.
If you’re using your tried and true luggage, make sure it’s still in good condition for your next trip. Cargo straps (like bungee cords and nets) wear out and need replacing to ensure they’ll safely hold your items on your motorcycle.
Before taking off on a trip, go over everything to ensure you’ve secured all of your luggage safely to your motorcycle. I check over my entire bike at every gas station to ensure nothing has come loose. It’s a good habit to have.
Always pack extra cargo straps and fasteners
Need to quickly strap something else to your bike or find yourself in a pinch with a gear failure? You’ll be happy knowing that you have a quick fix on hand. Zip Ties and an extra set of Rok Straps are always in my saddlebags.
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