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Motorcycle Touring Accessories -- Luggage, Cameras, GPS Systems, and Power Outlets (Oh My)!

Updated: Aug 29, 2020

In This Article


We continue with our goal of attaining the next group of accessories that will further enhance the motorcycle touring experience by providing additional utility, comfort, and convenience. We will discuss the most important evaluative attributes of the following products:

  1. Luggage

  2. Mounted Video / Still Cameras

  3. GPS Systems

  4. Power Outlets

When you complete this article, hopefully you will have a better understanding of how to make the correct purchases to optimize the touring experience.


Let's Begin


By now, you've probably developed a familiarity with your two-wheeled companion, and purchased all of the basic accessories (safety and whatnot) that every touring rider should "not leave home without". If, however, you are still in the process of completing this task, and are looking to attain assistance in making the right preliminary touring-optimized purchases, please first read the following articles:

  1. “Touring Motorcycle Helmets – How to Properly Evaluate”

  2. "Motorcycle Touring Gear: Making the Right Purchases"

Also, please check out the "product review" page to attain all of Touring Booster's top picks for each purchase category.


You have probably started to notice that your journeys are becoming longer and longer -- stretching from multi-hour trips to overnight or multi-day trips (I have a friend who has actually gone cross country 2 times in the last year -- I hoping to one day have this type of nerve). As such, you've probably discovered that you need additional cargo space for a change of clothes (perhaps for multiple days), hygiene products, emergency repair accessories, electronic components, etc. Also, since riding is all about producing an enjoyable experience, you'll definitely want to document your journeys (perhaps for a blog of your very own). And -- let's not forget how inconvenient (not to mention unsettling and downright dangerous) it would be to be stuck at the corner of "nowhere" and "where the hell am I", with a malfunctioning smartphone, and no paper map (which has become as obsolete as a pay phone). With that in mind, the next items you'll definitely want to add to your touring repertoire are: luggage, a mounted still/video camera, an independent GPS system, and external power outlets.


Luggage


Of the various options of motorcycle luggage available, the touring rider will want to pay closest attention to the following attributes:

  • Durability - The luggage accessory should be comprised of an outer material that will keep it protected from the weather elements and potential harm caused by crashes. High density plastic or aluminium would be the preferable material for a hard-shell luggage accessory; as a high-density textile option would be favorable over a leather option for a soft-shell luggage accessory (due to its waterproofing functionality).

  • Security - The luggage accessory(ies) should be outfitted with functionality that keeps contents relatively secure from shifting around (i.e. securely mounted to the bike and shock absorbent), as well as being secure from potential theft (achievable via locking mechanisms and/or ability to remove and store in a secure location).

  • Size/Capacity - the luggage accessory(ies) should have the capacity to store a sufficient amount of items necessary to satisfy the needs of a journey (i.e. change of clothes, additional safety/emergency accessories, etc). A good rule of thumb is to ensure your luggage accessories have a combined minimum storage volume capacity of 45 liters.

  • Agility Preserving - It is imperative that the luggage accessory(ies) does not significantly impair the motorcycle's agility. A good rule of thumb is to ensure the luggage accessory(ies) does not impair the rider's peripheral vision, does not create a wider profile than that of the combined rider and stock motorcycle, and allows the motorcycle to maintain it's aerodynamic profile.

In terms of mounted luggage, there are 4 basic options that the touring rider has available:


Top Cases / Tail Bags


The top case is a rear-mounted touring motorcycle luggage accessory -- located at the tail of the motorcycle, on or above the rear seat or seat cover cowl. Basically, it is a de facto trunk for a motorcycle. Top cases are an excellent luggage accessory, but be mindful that it has the potential to affect motorcycle handling (it functions as a lever arm with a load, that can re-distribute motorcycle weight from the front end to the back). Top cases generally exist in one of three forms:

  • Pre-installed organic inclusions of touring motorcycles:













  • After-market purchases that generally require mounting kits (sold separately):










  • After-market soft tail bags -- more easily attached via tie-down straps













Saddle Bags / Side Cases


Side Cases / Saddle Bags are luggage accessories that are mounted on the side of the touring motorcycle, by the rear seat or cowl cover, above the swing arm. As with top cases, saddle bags/side case also exists in two forms:

  • Pre-installed organic inclusions of touring motorcycles:













  • After-market purchases that generally require mounting kits (sold separately):











  • After-market soft tail bags -- more easily attached via tie-down straps










Recommended characteristics for saddle bags / side cases are as follows:

  • Size / Capacity: 25 Liters each, minimum

  • Material: Hard Case - High density plastic or aluminum (better for adventure touring); Soft Case - High density textile

  • Top-load functionality (i.e. contents don't spill out upon opening)

  • Waterproof



Tank Bags


Tanks bags are luggage accessories that are mounted to the motorcycle's gas tank via a fuel ring mount (recommended / most secure mounting option), but also available in strap-mounted, or mounting via 4-6 strong magnets. As tank bags sit in the front of the motorcycle pilot, it is essential that they not be too large as to obstruct your view or your ability to access the motorcycle's controls. Therefore the recommended capacity size is 20 liters maximum (for storage of easy-to-access smaller items).












Backpacks


This type of luggage probably requires no definition (we've all been in school before), but there are certain features the motorcycle touring rider will want to be present:

  • Material: High density textile material, inclusive of a hard outer shell for impact protection

  • Capacity: 25 Liters max (too much weight on a rider's back increases riding fatigue)

  • Adjustable Straps

  • Protective comfort padding (near back)

  • Aerodynamic design to reduce drag force


Mounted Still / Video Cameras













The ability to document your two-wheeled journeys is an important attribute in the life of the contemporary touring rider -- but how does one choose from the plethora of options available on the market? The best cameras offer enough features to satisfy every need of the touring rider, regardless of the type of touring you choose to partake. Those features are as follow;

  • High Definition Quality still and video: It is essential to choose a camera with a high enough resolution necessary to visualize every aspect of your trip; recommended resolution: 1080p or higher (4K ultra high definition is now available)

  • Battery Life: You'll want to ensure your camera battery will last long enough so you don't have to make any unscheduled stops: 3 hours, minimum (motorcycle battery can be used to power and charge the device via an power outlet accessory).

  • Internal/Memory Card Capacity: High definition video takes up a lot of space, so you'll probably want to ensure you have at least 64 GB of storage available

  • Mounting: We recommend to find a camera that includes mounting accessories that adhere to your style of bike (e.g. fork stem mount, handle bar mount, etc.) -- but note that this may need to be purchased separately.

  • Weather Proof: Touring riders will potentially face a number of different weather climates; it's best that your camera is waterproof and dust proof.

  • Extras: (1) Wifi capabable upload, (2) wind noise cancelling microphone, (3) Image stabilization (4) digital display; these features aren't mandatory, but they are nice to have and they expand the camera's utility.


GPS Systems












Nowadays, most of us have Smartphones with access to Google Maps, Apple Maps, etc, so you might think that there is no need for a stand alone GPS device. I would advise you to think again.


Have you ever been in an area without cell service? Of course you have, all of the best touring routes are in remote areas. And yes, it does not require internet access via 4G or 5G networks to access global positioning satellite (GPS) networks. It DOES, however, require internet access for Google Maps (et al) to process the raw GPS data to show your location on a map (unless you've have a free couple of GBs of space on your Smart phone to download all of their maps in advance of your trip -- YEAH RIGHT).


GPS devices come pre-loaded with maps of the US, and can independently access GPS networks. If for no other reason, it's good have an extra device as a backup, just in case your phone falls victim to one of many road hazards. Therefore a stand alone GPS device is good purchase to make, and you'll want to ensure your choice has the following functionality:

  • Screen Size / Resolution: 4" minimum with back lit HD resolution

  • Bluetooth Functionality: Compatible with in-helmet communication devices

  • Battery Life: 3 hours minimum (motorcycle battery can be used to power and charge the device via an power outlet accessory)

  • Turn-by-Turn voice navigation instructions

  • Pre-downloaded maps of your riding country (e.g. US), including low-traffic roads and areas

  • Mounting Hardware (e.g. cradles and fork stem or handle bar mounts) -- may be sold separately


Power Outlets

















This last item is a such an intuitive inclusion, one could probably make a case for including it on a less optional list of touring rider accessories. There's not one single electronic motorcycle accessory that doesn't need to be charged. The ability to recharge mid-trip or use the bike's battery as a source of electricity is vital to maintaining comfort and peace-of-mind while touring in parts unknown. Therefore the contemporary touring rider will DEFINITELY want to add a external power outlet adapter to her/his repertoire, with the following functionality:

  • Power Supply: 12 volt cigarette outlet and 2-5 volt/2.1 Amp USB ports

  • Built in fuse for over-current protection

  • On-Off switch to prevent motorcycle battery drain

  • Waterproof cover

  • Compatibility with the charging functionality of most phones, GPS devices, etc


Wrapping It Up


The search for comfort and convenience enhancing motorcycle accessories for the contemporary touring rider can seem never-ending -- especially in today's advance technological society. It's imperative to always keep an eye out for the next greatest thing -- and Touring Booster will do its best to provide assistance. In the mean time, please consider adding the items mentioned in this article to your touring accessory repertoire (see summary table below):





Please see the “Product Review” section for a list of recommended items to help guide your purchasing decisions.



Also, feel free to leave a question or comment in the section below.



Good luck on your travels – stay safe – have fun – rubber-side down!!



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