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Beginner's Guide To Motorcycle Luggage

by Daniel Noble 26 Mar 2024 0 Comments

SHAD motorcycle luggage set

Navigating the world of motorcycle luggage can be a tricky task at the best of times, but that task becomes even more daunting when approaching it from the perspective of a beginner.

From top boxes, panniers to tank bags and everything in between, there is certainly no shortage of options and you may not even know where to begin if you have no prior knowledge.

It is unlikely anyone will part with their hard-earned cash for a new method of motorcycle storage only to use it and decide it’s not for them and instantly fork out for a different product. Whatever you choose, it’s likely going to be with you for a while and for that reason, it would be advisable to make an informed decision the first time around.

So, for anyone taking that under consideration, here is a guide to help narrow down the options and make that decision that little bit less difficult.

How To Understand Motorcycle Luggage Terminology

The first thing to address is, regardless of the name given to a particular product, various people will have various terms for that same product. So, it is important to gather an idea of not just what the item is used for, but also the different names it could be referred to as.

SHAD motorcycle luggage terminology

Motorcycle jargon could be a task in itself for beginners.

Top Boxes:

Motorcycle top boxes, which could otherwise be described as a cargo box, rear box, back box, top case or rear case, mount to the back of the motorbike and are situated behind the pillion seat and above the rear brake light.


Motorcycle panniers are mounted to the sides at the rear of a motorbike and without intending to confuse beginners, they are often referred to by many names including side cases, saddlebags, pannier bags and pannier boxes in what seems to be an ever-growing list.

Tank Bags:

Common terms used when describing motorcycle tank bags include fuel tank bags and tank storage and while the list is not quite as extensive as that of some of the other motorcycle luggage options, there is still enough to wrap your head around.

How To Pick The Best Motorcycle Luggage

If it wasn’t difficult enough to choose the best categories of motorcycle luggage, that is just a drop in the ocean when it comes to landing on a specific choice and there are some key features to look out for if you are just starting out.

SHAD motorcycle luggage set

Features are the key to unlocking the ideal luggage.

Top Boxes:

With a wide range of variations and capacities, top boxes are often used on their own for shorter trips when a backpack, tail bag or tank bag simply do not offer the required level of storage space and can be used to hold anything from a jacket, shopping or even up to two full-face helmets.

When searching for your first top box there certainly will not be a shortage of options and for that reason there are a number of features that should be top of the list of priorities. Firstly, you want to be prepared for whatever the weather throws at you and waterproof protection should be considered vital if you want to ensure your belongings remain dry. Sticking with the theme of protection, security is just as important and it would be advisable to pick a lockable top box to reduce the risk of theft, for peace of mind more than anything. Convenience should not be forgotten about either and the addition of a carry handle is really going to make life easier when transporting luggage off the motorcycle.


Panniers come in all shapes and sizes and offer a real scope as to what they can be used for. Often, they are used as additional storage for longer trips and tours and many riders even team them up with a top box to really maximise their luggage capacity.

With that said, how can the pannier options be narrowed down? Well, if you want to ensure your items remain safe and dry, the first two features to look out for are waterproof protection and whether the cases are lockable. After that, another feature to take note of is whether or not the side bags have a carry handle, especially if you want to transport them around without breaking a sweat. The last thing to be aware of is, often panniers are sold in pairs but be mindful that there are some instances when they are sold individually.

Tank Bags:

Tank bags also differ in the purpose with significantly less storage space than the aforementioned luggage options. Motorbike tank bags serve their purpose as convenient storage for riders’ essential items, positioned within hand’s reach to provide quick access without having to stop and get off the motorcycle.

The difference in the types of motorcycle tank bags really boils down to the mounting system they use, of which there are two main categories. One way in which tank bags can be fitted is manual mounting, using either straps or magnets. Both of these methods are rather time-consuming to say the least. In comparison, ring mounts offer an effortless mount and dismount, simply slotting in and out of place and it would be fair to say they are the obvious choice for beginners. So, unlike other luggage options which should focus on waterproof and locking capabilities, tank bags main consideration should be given to convenience, but that does not mean the other features should be neglected either.

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