Let’s face it. Compared to a motorcycle a car is like a living room with near limitless opportunities for storing unsecured luggage.
The options for carrying luggage on a motorcycle however are less generous:
Most riders prefer not to carry anything on their backs allowing greater control and freedom of movement especially on longer journeys.
Glove compartments and under seat areas are usually tiny.
Pannier systems offer the highest volume but require the fitting of racks and they’re not cheap either.
Tank bags are popular because they’re easy to access and you can see them.
However, a well secured roll bag also has many advantages and there are many different types to choose from.
Let’s have a look at our top five products
Givi EA115BK Roll Top Hold All – 40L
This roll-top hold all from Givi is fully waterproof and ready for epic tours. Because at 40 litres, this will mostly appeal to touring and adventure riders.
The coated, sealed fabric and roll-top closure make this thing waterproof. Seriously waterproof.
We’ve heard reports of these bags holding up in epic, biblical rain for hours on end.
Quality straps (including a carry strap), buckles, and bungee cords help secure this to the rear seat.
We were a little dubious at first. Two elastic cords seemed like very little. But to our surprise, they’re more than enough to secure the bag in place on the rear seat.
- Big, waterproof, and well-made
- Looks cool
- Mounting method may not suite everyone
Held Iconic Evo Medium Expandable 6 – 25L
Bags that don’t need a dedicated rack are great.
This example from Held will also work with most tail racks but the ability to quickly mount it to the pillion passenger seat sets it apart.
Volume can be adjusted from 6-25 litres using a zipper that runs around the bag.
And this is a spacious bag in its largest configuration – big enough to fit a helmet in size large.
Build quality is as good as we’ve come to expect from Held, using tough, water-resistant nylon for its semi-rigid outer shell.
There are some nice quality of life touches here too.
Mesh inner pockets and an internal organiser system helps keep your belongings neatly stored and easily accessible.
A rain cover is included for stormy conditions that might test the water-resistance of the outer.
This is a great little bag for anyone after something that will sit securely without a tail rack.
- Neat design
- No rack required
Givi EA107B Easy T Roll Bag – 35L
At 35 litres, this bag from Givi is one of the larger examples on our list. And it’s been well thought out too.
Your luggage is easy to access from either the large top opening or smaller ones on either side.
Heavy-duty, double D-rings attach to a shoulder strap, allowing you to wear this like a gym bag off the bike.
Like the Held Iconic bag, this one will fit comfortably on the passenger seat or on a tail rack.
Extra touches include an external, webbed pocket, reflective inserts, and a waterproof rain cover.
This is a quality bag from a trusted manufacturer – recommended.
- High build quality
- Spacious and well-designed
- Not adjustable
SW Motech Drybag 180 Tail Bag
This drybag from SW Motech uses a welded tarpaulin construction for maximum waterproofing. And at 18 litres, it falls into a convenient size for many commuters.
Its stable 4-point attachment system is fairly universal and will fit on the vast majority of bikes easily.
The main compartment of the bag is large and a smaller front pocket with dry zip for keeping items to hand.
We like the ergonomic shoulder strap and simple design here.
This is a great bag for those who want the highest level of waterproofing and a neat looking bag.
- Super waterproof
- Good size for commuters
- Sturdy attachment
Kappa Alpha Range
The Kappa Alpha Range Expandable Mini Tail Bag is deceivingly useful.
Don’t worry that it’s not immediately detachable… it’s harder for a thief to remove too.
The detachable shoulder strap may not be much use unless you only buy it to wear over your shoulder or are strong enough to carry the bag and the attached motorcycle over your shoulder too!
Otherwise you have some lengthy removal and replacement sessions ahead of you.
A well-secured and difficult to remove tail bag is best left where it is and the Kappa comes into its own as a small, low-profile but handy storage bag for a multitude of items.
The bag extends easily to increase its volume from 5 to 7 litres.
- 420D polyester and PVC with silver reflective material
- Convenient internal bag
- Rain cover included
- Smaller volume than other tail bags
- Not easily detachable
Kriega US-30 DryBag
The Kriega 30L waterproof tail bag has alloy fitting hooks and comes equipped with removable shoulder and waist straps.
An anti-slip mesh base also doubles as a pocket to store the shoulder and waist straps when the US-20 is attached to the bike.
The bag can be removed with four quick release buckles and it also allows ‘stacking’ – the secure placement of smaller models on top.
- Waterproof main body
- Shoulder and waist straps
- 10-year guarantee
- Few external pouches/pockets
What can it hold?
Depending on its size, we may wish to store anything from light personal possessions to clothes and equipment.
A small tail bag is ideal for items that won’t fit in our jackets, pants or glove compartments such as small tool bags.
Larger models sit half on the mounting panel and half on the rear seat. They more resemble small sports bags and have a greater storage volume.
Fitting, access and removal
Imagine finishing your journey and dismounting only to discover that you’re tail bag is… gone. And along with it whatever you had placed inside.
A bigger issue is the safety risk posed from a poorly secured bag which can slip into the chain and rear wheel area causing a high-speed lock-out.
Some tail bags are instantly detachable while others are more permanent fixtures requiring a few minutes to unthread the mounting straps.
Perhaps you only wish to add and remove the contents rather than the whole bag so decide on what’s best for you.
Detachable bags usually have a base permanently attached to a mounting plate. The main part of the bag can then be detached by unclipping crocodile clips or a surrounding zip.
This video shows how easy it is to fit the Oxford bag:
Handling and stability
Whatever method is used safety comes first and a well secured tail bag must also allow control and stability to be maintained at all times. This is a particular concern with large or heavy loads.
It is important to ensure that the straps used to mount the bag really do their job. Some require an elaborate weaving through slits and eye holes.
If threaded incorrectly they can easily work free and loosen to the point of danger. Dangling ends should be tied off or folded back where they won’t flap in the wind and undo.
Give the bag a good, firm shake and check regularly during fuel stops or breaks that all is well.
An insecure bag is a risk not just to you but to other road users.
Will it stay dry?
Modern materials offer incredible protection and there are several examples in our list that will keep your gear dry in any weather.
The cheaper options offer a pull-out cover which will work well for shorter periods before becoming waterlogged and less effective. Consider your how you will be riding and set a realistic budget to achieve your desired level of weather proofing.
Can somebody steal it?
Unless it’s locked into position then yes, your bag or its contents are unsafe when not attended to.
Fixed mountings are better as only the mount can be stolen unless screwed or bolted into position.
Avoid storing mobile phones, passports or other important items behind you and out of sight.
Tail bags can be used to compliment other forms of luggage storage. For example, some riders like to store items in lockable panniers and use a removable tail bag when leaving the bike unattended.
For the rider who prefers as little as possible attached to their beloved machine, the tail bag provides a low-profile and out of the way solution for carrying just the essentials.
And if they aren’t quite as perfect as bag-free motorcycling then, as their name suggests, there’s some consolation… you can’t see them anyway!
Safe and happy riding to all.