Tour Master Luggage

How this soft luggage survived life on the road. From the June 2000 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser magazine.

While leather bags offer more of a cruiser look, nylon soft luggage delivers greater utility for riders on a long tour. Last year, just in time for the Honda Hoot and the summer touring season, I ordered a set of Tour Master's soft luggage. Because I'm prone to overpacking, I opted for a tank bag and saddlebags in the largest sizes available. On a lark, I decided to add a tail bag. After numerous road trips in both dry and wet conditions, the Tour Master luggage has held up well -- with a few minor exceptions.

All four pieces are constructed with a heavy-duty nylon fabric outer shell backed with a weather-resistant urethane coating. The 24-liter tank bag and the 34-liter saddlebags (17 liters each bag) also benefit from internal support panels. The tank bag's storage capabilities come not only from its large size, but also from its multitude of pockets -- the important pockets are zippered for security. Atop the tank bag, a large window allows for easy map viewing and all the bags are protected from inclement weather by rain covers. Contact points on the bike are coddled by Neoprene foam padding. The tank bag mounts via a three-strap system and includes a backpack strap. The saddlebags utilize adjustable straps with quick-release buckles to secure them to a variety of bikes. The 17-liter tail bag (or trunk) is made of the same fabric with no internal supports and attaches via four built-in bungee cords.

Mounting the saddlebags takes only minutes on most bikes, but careful attention must be paid to adjusting the straps so that the bags ride level. Once set up, removing the bags is as easy as unhooking four clips and lifting the pair by its center straps. The dual-zippered top flaps make loading a snap, although the handles that make the bags so easy to carry individually get in the way occasionally. I traveled with a number of books and magazines in the spacious, zippered outer pocket.

The tank bag mounts as easily as the saddlebags do. While the Neoprene pads on both the tank and saddlebags help to hold the luggage in place and protect the bike's paint, the tank bag's Neoprene was not backed with fabric as the other pads were. The pad tore the first time I slipped the straps through the mounting holes. After several tours, the tank bag's Neoprene padding was ripped completely, while the fabric-backed Neoprene on the saddlebags exhibited no signs of wear.

In wet weather, the rain covers kept the bags and their contents dry. However, the tank bag's map window was completely obscured by the black cover. Also, the saddlebags' rain covers tended to balloon at highway speeds, and looked like they would blow off because the bags' mounting straps kept the covers from wrapping completely around the bags' corners. Although the covers stayed on in the wind, some sort of fastener that would positively attach to the bags or the straps would make long rides in the rain less worrisome.

The tail bag was so incredibly convenient that I used it for everyday duties as well as on tours. Mounting the tail bag with the saddlebags on the bike was a no-brainer. However, extra care needed to be taken when the bag was used solo. Twice, the bag shifted sideways off the saddle -- once almost becoming entangled in the rear wheel. Additional bungee cords or a bungee net are recommended. When off the bike, the bungees slip out of sight behind two of the external pockets.

These Tour Master bags performed well under a variety of conditions. The tank bag and saddlebags retail for $100 and $140, respectively. The tail bag sells for $60. See your local motorcycle dealer for more information.

Tour Master
26855 Malibu Hills Rd.
Calabasas Hills, CA 91301
(800) 455-2552
www.tourmaster.com

Evans Brasfield
Former staff editor Brasfield is currently freelancing, producing books and children. His website is www.EvansBrasfield.com.