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RIDE Adventures Blog

Motorcycle Safety: Strap Your Luggage Tightly, Or Else...

Posted by Eric Lange on June 23, 2014
Eric Lange
Since riding his KTM 950 Adventure down to South America in 2008 and launching RIDE Adventures in 2010, Eric now resides in Oregon for most of each year. Riding is still a regular part of his work though, in that guiding tours is a passion he'll always have, and researching new routes and regions allows RIDE Adventures to continue growing and providing reliable travel services to adventure minded riders and travelers from around the world.

Folks it's about time to mention once again a very, VERY important topic with regards to motorcycle safety: Make sure your luggage is strapped or locked to your motorcycle in a way that it can't accidentally fall out of place!

Motorcycle Safety Issue LuggageAs I talked about in the embedded video, a young couple riding 2-up last Sunday was very fortunate to have avoided worse injury than what they sustained in a bad motorcycle crash. Coming around a beautiful mountainside sweeping turn in Oregon, a simple duffel bag they had strapped to their bike came out of position, slid down into the rear fender area, and jammed up into the back of the bike hard enough to completely "lock" the rear wheel.

Although I didn't actually witness the moment of the crash, I took the photo to the above showing how the bag looked jammed up in the rear of the bike and would estimate that nobody could have recovered from such a surprising jolt like that. It happened at about a 50mph on a right hand sweeping turn, and again, I don't think there's a motorcycle rider in the world that could have handled this without crashing. That point alone is reinforces why we all need to pay attention to this subject.

This "loose luggage" situation actually happened to me before once too, back in 2010 when I was out scouting what would become one of the motorcycle trip packages in Peru that we offer. You can see in the picture below how I actually had a cable lock combined with my tie-down straps when this took place. This combination of strapping and cables wasn't enough to keep my luggage in place though, and at about 65mph on a windy stretch of highway on the way to Cusco, my bags also slid down and got caught up in my KTM's rear wheel, locking it instantly.

Loose Luggage Motorcycle Safety

Fortunately for me, my incident happened on a straight section of road and there weren't any other vehicles within eyesight. I was able to keep the bike upright, and the only "losses" I sustained were my destroyed luggage and clothes, and the almost fist-sized hole in my rear tire as shown below.

My 2 errors in the above scenario were that:

1) My luggage straps clearly weren't tight enough. As it turned out, I had weakened my strap-tightening hand the day before in a situation where I had to lay my bike down and avoid a serious encounter with an unseen guard gate. My right forearm was badly bruised and swollen, so only after this happened did I realize that my weak hand clearly didn't pull the straps tight enough that morning. (Yes, stupid of me, I probably shouldn't have been riding either.)

2) I was merely using that cable lock you see as a "lock" and not routing the cable in such a way that it would tightly secure the bags to the bike. If you're using a cable lock as I still do most of the time, it should at least be routed in a way that it also tightens your luggage to the motorcycle!

I had the right equipment, I just didn't use it effectively. That being said, let's spell it out clearly:

Motorcycle Luggage "Do's"

  • DO feel free to use soft luggage if that's your preference. Systems like the Ortleib duffel bag shown above, or Giant Loop's Saddlebag Systems can be mounted securely if you take the time and effort
  • DO use strong, heavy-weight straps like you see in the video and photos
  • DO make sure that those straps are pulled very, very tightly!
  • DO position the release clamps and ends of the straps in locations where your body or other gear can't accidentally loosen them (not in locations where you or your passenger might accidentally bump them and release the luggage straps)
  • DO consider using a cable lock as a back-up for tightness, in addition to what it can mean for security of your belongings

Motorcycle Luggage "Don'ts"

  • DON'T use bungee-type cords to secure your luggage unless you are absolutely, 100% certain that they have the strength and ability to remain in tact and keep your luggage in a safe position on your bike
  • DON'T use a soft luggage system unless you are 100% certain that you have the strength required to tighten the luggage properly (i.e. it's not just about the straps, it's also about YOUR strength and ability to secure the luggage)
  • DON'T rely on "balance" of your luggage to keep it in place, as wind, terrain, and other factors will constantly be changing once you start riding
  • DON'T assume that your luggage would simply fall away from the motorcycle if it came loose, as it's extremely likely that such will not be the case
  • DON'T take this topic lightly, as you can see the horrible things that can happen if you do!

Back to the situation referred to in this video though, a small group of us had rolled up on the 2 riders and were there to help until the ambulance came. Despite being very badly beaten up from their crash, it appeared that they would be okay, although in quite a bit of pain for a while with broken ribs, and other possible problems. I never got their full names, but wish them the best in recovery from this incident.

I think we all wish this had never happened in the first place, and so this remains my primary message and wishes to you: Take your luggage situation seriously, think about how you're positioning and securing bags and attachments to your motorcycle, and please think about motorcycle safety before, during and after every single ride!

Hole Motorcycle Tire

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