1. Motorcycle tail bags come in a dizzying array of shapes and sizes, so we aimed to gather a selection of not-too-big, not-too-small pieces useful to riders for all kinds of trips, from across town to across the country. If you have a luggage rack or sissy bar, River Road’s Medium Sissy Bar Bag might be the perfect piece of luggage for your weekend trips. The largest bag here, it’s made of RoadTex 1680 denier nylon with a PVC coating to repel water, and it features large horizontal and vertical hook-and-loop straps to go around and over a sissy bar. It has four exterior pockets with a large top pocket, reflective piping to increase your visibility, and non-slip material on the bottom to keep the bag secure on your rack or seat. There’s also a convenient carry handle on the back. Soft gray interior lining protects your valuables and makes it easier to find items inside in the dark. Price: $169.95.
2. Maybe the perfect size for everyday use, the Wolfman Peak tail bag from Aerostich has a wedge shape and Tough-tek non-skid flat bottom to make it easy to mount on your bike with the included straps and hooks. It also expands by 4 inches when you need more room and has an integrated bungee cord top for holding more items. The inside features a pocket in the top, along with compression straps to keep whatever you’re carrying inside safely secured. The bag also has reflective side accents to help keep your bike visible at night. Price: $109.
3. Next up is the Laguna tail bag from Firstgear. Made of 1000 denier RoadTex with a PVC coating and UV protection, the Laguna features three external zippered pockets along with a small zipper at the front concealing an attached rain cover. There’s also a zippered pocket on the inside of the top flap that’s perfect for documents, maps and the like. Inside are three more zippered pockets and a large compartment lined in soft flannel, with a movable partition. The bag has two lower flaps to ensure secure mounting to your bike and comes with a shoulder strap for easy off-bike transportation. The main compartment expands vertically by 3 inches for extra capacity, and the bag also has reflective panels to increase your visibility at night. Price: $109.95.
4. The T485 tail bag from Givi is a medium-sized bag made of 1000 denier Cordura. Longer and taller than it is wide, it features reinforced panels to help the bag keep its shape when it’s empty, and the fastening system uses two long elastic bungee straps with rubber-coated metal hooks on the ends to secure the bag to your bike. It features a carrying handle, a shoulder strap for taking the bag with you when you’re off the bike, two zippered external pockets, a small stretch pocket on the inside of the door, and a large interior pocket that holds 17 liters of cargo. There’s elastic web netting on top for extra carrying capacity, and it comes with a rain cover and a waterproof Dry Pak bag inside to ensure your gear stays dry. Price: $138.99 (at Motorcycle-superstore.com).
5. The Joe Rocket Manta tail bag is the smallest bag here, but that also makes it a great bag for use on a day-to-day basis, when all you really need is something large enough to carry your lunch to work. Made of water-resistant RockTex 1000D, it’s coupled with a 100 percent waterproof rain cover that sits inside its own zipper at the front/bottom of the bag and is sewn to the bag. Just open the zipper, pull out the attached rain cover and you’re set. Slick. The bag features a large internal pocket, with a smaller pocket in the lid. Two hook-and-loop straps in an X-pattern on the bottom of the bag make it quick and easy to attach to your seat or luggage rack. Available in black, black/blue and black/red. Price: $42.99.
6. Roughly the same size as the Firstgear Laguna, the Tourmaster Select tail bag is just a bit more square in shape, where the Firstgear is a bit more triangular. Made of 600 denier Carbolex, the bag features two large exterior pockets, plus a third on the front that holds the rain cover. The zip-up top lid features two pockets, and the large interior compartment is lined in soft brushed fleece and holds 23 liters all together. There’s a shoulder strap and a nice rubber carrying handle for when you’re carrying it off the bike. Reflective piping helps keep you visible, plus there are built-in mounting straps. Price: $104.99.
7. Another small bag is the Cortech Dryver tail bag, which holds 3.4 liters of gear. It’s a good-looking piece with a semi-rigid shell that retains its shape whether empty or full. Unlike a lot of the larger bags here, we could see ourselves using this bag for our day-to-day needs, using it in place of a tank bag to carry our lunch and a few small things. Just strap it to the back seat or a luggage rack using the four included straps, then unbuckle it when you get to work or wherever you’re headed. The inside features several pockets and a key clip, and a rain cover is included. Price: $64.99.
The integrated approach: Ventura Bike Pack System
While there are plenty of luggage options out there for carrying your gear, luggage racks built specifically for vintage bikes are hard to find. That’s why we were happy to come across the Ventura Bike Pack System, available for Norton Commandos, Triumph T140 Bonnevilles and Honda CB750s, plus a variety of BMWs, Moto Guzzis, Vincents, and many more classic and modern bikes.
Made by Dold Industries in New Zealand, the kits include custom-designed and manufactured L-brackets for each bike application. The rack then slots into the L-bracket sockets and is held securely in place by two locking thumb screws.
The Pack-Rack is the standard touring rack, but options include a smaller Sport-Rack for general around-town use and the Grab-Handle if you don’t want a rack all the time. A variety of packs are available, and the packs have integrated sleeves so they slide over the rack back before securing to the rack bottom, making load-shift almost impossible.
We ordered a kit with the Pack-Rack and Aero-Spada VII bag, which has a cavernous 51-liter capacity, and attached it to a 1974 Norton Commando 850. Installation was a breeze, and once set up we tested fit for the Pack-Rack, the Sport-Rack and the Grab-Handle; they all fit effortlessly. Depending on your bike, you can put the bag on facing the seat, allowing you to strap other luggage onto the rack. On our Norton Roadster we could turn the entire rack around for a shorter profile with no loss of function. Cool stuff. Price: $449 (Aero-Spada VII Bike-Pack Kit); $75 (Sport-Rack); $29 (Grab-Handle).