Soft or Hard Motorcycle Luggage?
Content copyright to Lyndon Poskitt of Races to Places
When it comes to motorcycle luggage there is much debate on the market around what type of luggage to get. Hard luggage, soft luggage, lockable to the bike, lockable enclosures / security, waterproofness, functionality offered, rider safety etc., etc. Having used all kinds of luggage systems over the past 15 years and 500,000 km of riding everything from road to extreme off-road, and crashing more times than I can remember, I thought my experience might be worth sharing. I want to start by saying this, there are so many good brands of luggage on the market today, it really does come down to personal preference as to what features and price are important to you. While I mention a few different brands in this writing, all served me well at the time and simply helped me to work out my personal ultimate setup.
As time went on, I began to ride more off-road and explore more out-of-reach places and in 2007 I found myself pre-running for the Baja 1000. Riding dry rivers, washes and the Baja 1000 race course I was pushing the bike hard with the hard cases. At one point I was catapulted from the bike after clipping a bush in a dry wash, reshaping one side case in the process. Then I almost snapped my leg after it was dragged under the box when I took a dab (placed my foot down) on some rough rocky terrain and finally I cartwheeled the bike on a fast open road after clipping a hidden washout and pretty much destroyed both side cases. At the time I knew no better; I straightened them out using rocks as hammers but they never fitted the same and for sure were no longer waterproof. The more I straightened them, the more they cracked and failed (aluminium). I never had the same confidence from this point, riding off-road with hard luggage both from a safety and reliability point of view.
2007-more damages to hard cases, straightening in order to refit
Three years into Races to Places and in search of a truly waterproof tank bag I came across Enduristan and I have to say it is the most durable, waterproof and well-built tank bag I ever had. While discussing my luggage wishes with Enduristan it became apparent that they didn’t have a luggage system available in their range of products that would be truly suitable for the long-distance hard-core adventure rider and they approached me to help develop something. This was the chance to put everything together I had experienced, learnt and wanted into a set of panniers and test them while on my travels. I got my thinking cap on and started with a list of requirements that looked something like this:
- Soft design side pannier system of material capable of withstanding heavy falls and also easy to repair
- Waterproof without additional internal bags
- Luggage rack attachment system that provides positive location and allows easy removal and a locking solution
- Locking the enclosure can be achieved by a wire rope lock or similar item
- No requirement for a heavy, additional back plate or attachment mechanism to attach the bag to a luggage rack
- The attachment system should have a redundant / backup solution in case of any failure to allow reattachment out in the field, crucial for remote adventure riding
- Protection on first impact / high impact points
- Modularity – ability to attach bottle holders, small and large fender bags or other luggage accessories or components to the front, back and top of the bag (similar to the most expensive hard cases)
- Lightweight – to be some of the lightest soft pannier solutions on the market without compromising strength and durability
- Small and large volume options to offer user choice
With the above in mind the Enduristan Monsoon EVO pannier system was developed and I went on to test it and use it through my adventures in Africa which was over a year and almost 60,000 km. Regardless of the manufacturer, the bottom line was that I had the opportunity to have a pannier system that I wanted, exactly. I rode thousands of kilometers, crashed and dropped the bike plenty and just used the product as it would be used by anyone out on their adventures.
2019 – Africa. Testing the luggage system I always wanted.
Enduristan Monsoon Evo pannier system
To summarize, a strong and durable soft-pannier solution can deal with the rigors of off-road riding far better than a hard-case solution. It is also much safer from a rider perspective because soft bags compress and move a little should your body come into contact with it, reducing the risk of injury or severity of injury; this has to be a top consideration for sure.
Soft bags can be completely waterproof, tough and remain waterproof even after falls and spills on the trails. They also don’t have to be difficult to install and remove and they can definitely be lightweight and have equally as much modularity as traditional hard cases.
Ultimately it is your call, but for me, hard cases have only two advantages over soft bags: firstly, they look more Rolls Royce for those wanting the Ewan and Charlie look, and secondly, they are ultimately more secure and lockable, but really, I am honest when I say I have never had anything stolen from a soft pannier in my five years travelling around the world, never had them cut open with a knife and never came back to find they had been accessed while I was not there. You can always add a wire-rope type lock around a soft bag to remove this worry, or like me, never leave valuables inside. I have found that most thefts are opportune, when something is left on show or easy to access.
While I am not travelling the world currently, I am still managing some smaller trips and for that I am using a small soft pannier called the Enduristan Blizzard which has a teardrop shape suitable for bikes without luggage racks but is similar in design and features to that of the Monsoon Evos.
It’s good to have so many different types of luggage and brands on the market to choose from these days, allowing us to choose for ourselves the ones that meet our requirements. Ultimately as long as you are happy with your selection then you can concentrate on enjoying your ride safely and with reliable luggage, something we all love to do.
All the best and happy adventures,