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10 Reasons Why I Ride With Soft Luggage

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Still on the fence about what kind of luggage to use? Hard and soft luggage both have their advantages and disadvantages, but here are 10 good reasons to embrace the soft side of the debate:

1. Big or Small, Same Bags

Advantages of Soft Luggage

There’s a limit to how much you can stuff into any bag, of course. But soft bags expand and contract with the load. Just carrying a few things for a day trip? Roll the top down a couple extra times and they compress. Out for a couple weeks? Do the opposite and you’ve got more space. This also comes in handy when you find something on the road you just have to bring home with you, though as we note below, exercise self-restraint. Weight is not your friend.

2. The Soft Side

Advantages of Soft Luggage


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When the going gets tough and the tough starts falling over, the last thing you want is a leg pinned under a hard case. Also, think of all the times you’ve caught a foot on something in slow going, or left one planted just a little too long while paddling in deep sand, and had your leg jerked backwards into your luggage. That’s painful with soft luggage, but potentially a broken bone or twisted ankle with hard cases.

3. Exterior Pockets

Advantages of Soft Luggage

Many soft luggage systems have pockets to carry items conveniently outside the bag itself, things like wet clothing, sandals, a quart of oil, etc. That’s also great for carrying stuff you need to access quickly, like rain gear or water bottles.

4. Travel Light

Advantages of Soft Luggage

As an adventure-riding philosophy, it’s a good idea to embrace minimalism. You can ride a heavily-loaded bike off the pavement, people do it all the time, but it just isn’t as much fun as riding a lighter bike. Soft bags are lighter than hard bags to begin with and some don’t require racks, saving more weight.

5. Sweet Dreams

Advantages of Soft Luggage

If you take traveling light to the extreme and decide to jettison your pillow, a soft bag makes a nice substitute. Just fill it with some soft stuff (your clothes, for example), scrunch it up and off to dream land you go.

6. Handy Camp Mat

Advantages of Soft Luggage

Use one as a doormat to keep your tent from getting dirty. Turn your bike’s front wheel all the way to the stop, throw your soft bag down in front of it and you’ve got a reclining seat that will keep your pants dry and clean, and you can leave the camp chair at home.

7. On Foot

Advantages of Soft Luggage

Soft luggage can double as a backpack when you’re spending time off the bike. Some brands even come with arm straps for this purpose, which makes them great as carry-on airplane bags, a convenient way to move stuff from your bike to a hotel room or tent, or as way to carry your lunch and a camera on a hike. If worse comes to worse and you have to walk out of the bush with only what you can carry, would you rather have a soft bag or an aluminum case strapped to your back?

8. Lane Splitting

Advantages of Soft Luggage

If you are lucky enough to ride in a place where lane splitting and filtering are legal, or at least tolerated, the lower profile of most soft bags is your friend. Some, but not all, hard cases are wider than an adventure bike’s handlebars, a situation that would make riding between slower cars interesting to say the least. You’re also less likely to damage someone’s car if you brush it with your soft bag versus your aluminum cases.

9. Easy Storage

Advantages of Soft Luggage

When not on the bike, soft luggage takes up less space in the garage or closet. Just fold it up and tuck them on a shelf or in a corner. Hard cases are the same size on and off the bike: big.

10. Cost

Advantages of Soft Luggage

Last but certainly not least, soft bags are generally less expensive than a hard case system, meaning more money in your pocket to extend that trip, buy that extra farkle, upgrade your riding gear or just save for a rainy (non-riding) day.

How else have you reaped the benefits of soft bags or gotten creative in finding different uses? Share your own tips in the comments below!

Photos by Stephen Gregory and Spencer Hill

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Author: Bob Whitby

Bob has been riding motorcycles since age 19 and working as a journalist since he was 24, which was a long time ago, let’s put it that way. He quit for the better part of a decade to raise a family, then rediscovered adventure, dual sport and enduro riding in the early 2000s. He lives in Arkansas, America’s best-kept secret when it comes to riding destinations, and travels far and wide in search of dirt roads and trails.

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