When I think of hard luggage, I think of being stuck behind someone on an R1200GS with massive aluminium panniers as they try to make their way through London traffic.
But not all panniers are big and boxy and not everyone lives in London (but most GS riders seem to).
The factory-fit hard luggage on Sports Tourers and Tourers usually* follows the lines of the bike and barely sticks out past the bike’s bars or mirrors, meaning they just don’t get in the way.
We’ve picked some great options for you, to suit all budgets.
*the caveat to that is Kawasaki’s GTR1400 which I found was a tough old cookie to thread through traffic.
Hard panniers are great for lugging stuff around but in my view, you have to have a lot of kit to justify them. If you’re going on a weekend tour, you can probably get what you need in a large tail pack and if you’re commuting, a top box might be a better option.
But hard luggage is secure, it is waterproof and it’s easier to remove from the bike than most soft luggage. You can even buy liners which you can pack your gear into, enabling you to easily transport your stuff when you pull up at your digs.
Capacity: 46 litres per pannier
Helmets per pannier: 2
Suitable for motorcycles and scooters, this pannier is 46 litres which are enough space to fit 2 motorcycle helmets inside and has a max weight capacity of 10kg. Making use of GIVI’s patented Monokey locking system which only requires the use of one key for opening and removal. The locking system is robust and secure giving you peace of mind when you leave your bike unattended. If there is no Monokey plate on the bike, then it must be mounted in conjunction with the Givi specific Monokey fitting kit.
Capacity: 33 litres each
Helmets per pannier: 1
Pick up a pair of Kappa K33N Panniers for your bike for a robust and waterproof storage solution. Each pannier is 33L and can fit one open face helmet in each and other items up to a max weight of 10kg. The polypropylene construction is scratch-resistant for longer life while the streamlined design will reduce drag. A bike specific Kappa KLX or KLXR fitting kit is required and sold separately.
Capacity: 33 litres each
Helmets per pannier: 0
This pair of panniers have a stylish aluminium finish which means they’ll look good on any style of bike. With special selectors within the cases, you can choose to convert each case to open fully or only the uppermost smaller opening. This makes it easier to access smaller items or larger ones when you need to without losing any of your gear. Each case has a max load of 10kg. Using the Monokey system, these panniers use a bike-specific Givi fitting kit which must be purchased separately in order to complete the installation. They’re not quite wide enough to fit a full-face helmet but they are slim, which is great for filtering. The TRK33 can also be used as a top box.
You’re not going to find panniers with a capacity that’s much bigger than our 46-litre per pannier pick at the top of this article.
However, with capacity comes size or, girth to be precise. If you don’t want your panniers to stick out, you might look at hard luggage that has been made bespoke, with your bike in mind.
These systems often have a different capacity for each side of the bike, as the pannier itself wraps around the available shape, often factoring in the exhaust.
The image of the huge panniers above is an April Fools ‘ from top quality hard luggage manufacturer Jesse Luggage, an American firm. It goes without saying, you could take the kitchen sink but these wouldn’t be very practical.
If you check out the Jesse Luggage website you can see their range of bespoke black aluminium panniers and top boxes, made from quality 2mm thick metal. They look great but they’re not what we would call a bargain.
Some models of bike are designed with luggage in mind. Often it’s pretty pricey but it usually fits really well, doesn’t interfere with the lines of the bike and they can sometimes be keyed to match your bike too.
If you look on second-hand sites like eBay and Gumtree you might be able to pick up some OEM luggage for your bike, for the same price as a new aftermarket option.
Do all panniers work as top boxes?
No, some do but most don’t. You’ll have to check with your manufacturer.
Can you put hard panniers on a sportsbike?
Yes, if you can find a mounting rack that works for your model, although there are far fewer available for sportsbikes, so you might have to opt for soft panniers instead.
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