Soft luggage security poll...

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by XPEDITIONREADY, Sep 4, 2012.


How secure is soft luggage?

  1. Its Not! Soft luggage is the devil and traveling gypsies will slice it open and take your goods

  2. So secure, been leaving stuff in soft luggage for years and never had a problem....knock on wood....

Multiple votes are allowed.
Results are only viewable after voting.


    May 20, 2011
    Raleigh, NC
    So I have been going back and forth on buying hard luggage over soft for security reasons because I see it mentioned all the time. I am curious of what percentage of the population has been using unlocked soft luggage and never had anything go missing. Maybe I am wrong and tons of people have been burned by society so I would live to see what yalls experiences are. I think a lot more riders would use soft luggage if we lived in a perfect honest world but knowing that we don't I am seeking answers....

    Once you answer, add what location you live and travel in so we can see those who commute daily or travel in big cities vs small towns....

    Also, if you have had stuff stolen from your soft luggage explain the circumstances a bit.

  2. Grinnin

    Grinnin Forever N00b

    Dec 10, 2005
    I have used soft luggage a lot and have never had anything stolen. I stay away from cities to the best of my abilities.

    Starting in the '70s touring on bicycles I rode on different trips to Boston, Charlotte, up around Ontario, and all over Ohio. I motorcycle in the same areas although I have shifted to Maine and include more of northern New England and maritime Canada.

    When I stop for lunch or a piss, I try to park where the bike can be seen from inside. I don't actually have to watch it myself, but anyone would see that they could be seen.

    I have used lockable hard luggage for about a year and it FEELS safer.
  3. FreckledAvenger

    FreckledAvenger Trainee Stunt Double

    Oct 26, 2008
    I use soft luggage and have not had anything stolen as yet. That said I made it "lockable" (although this is really stretching the definition of the word) as I was doing a four month trip through Australia and needed a little bit of confidence that I could walk away from the bike and have a reasonable chance of my gear still being there although my solution (see below) would be hard pressed to deter anyone but the very casual thief ...

    I travelled through a few cities (Perth, Darwin, Cairns) but mainly spent my time travelling through the smaller towns along the west, north and east coasts so many of the places I left the bike on its own for long periods were in national parks and tourist localities. I did go to a few places that were a little bit dodgy but all in all I did not feel like I had too much to worry about. I camped out much of the time so the luggage spent most of the time on the bike. Some nights I did stay at backpacker hostels and while this meant I would take some of the luggage inside, it normally would not fit in the lockers in the rooms anyway.

    On the way I met a few bike travellers, most of which were using either soft luggage or a combination of soft and hard luggage. One group I met refused to leave their bikes at all and I met a few people that had an "if someone steals something, let 'em take it" attitude. No one that I had met had experienced anything stolen off their bike although I did not meet that many people riding so I would not call this a complete survey.

    To give you an idea of how I have locked my soft luggage: My Wolfman tankbag has been modified so that the string tags on the zips have been replaced with small loops of plastic coated galvanised wire using swages. I then use another home-made cable made out of the same wire to loop through the front mount point of the tank. A travel lock is used to keep the tank bag closed as well as secured to the bike. If I am going to leave some valuables on the bike - this is where they go. You can still cut into the bag or cut the wire but at least you have made it a little hard for them. I commute using the bike in Brisbane a few times a week and this bag stays on the bike 100% of the time ...

    My Giant Loop Great Basin uses another home made cable that runs from the helmet lock to the tags on the zip. A luggage lock holds all these together so the bag can not be opened plus it is "secured" to the bike. It would not take much of an effort to break in by breaking the tags on the zips or just cutting into the bag.

    Lastly if I am camping I have stuff in a drybag. I use a Sea to summit Big River which has some plastic loops plus some more rugged tie down loops. The cable between the helmet lock and giant loop can be run through both of these so that it is a little more difficult to get into the dry bag or take it off the bike. Really this is pushing it as it is not too hard to break the little plastic loops and just get into it.

    As for my gear my jacket and overpants can be locked by running the cable from the tank bag through them. My helmet can be hung off the cable going from the helmet lock to the giant loop (mainly because the giant loop covers the helmet lock itself when it is on the bike).

    I put a little bit of a write up on how I made the cables and "loops" (that run through the zips on the Wolfman) in this post
  4. K0m4

    K0m4 Long timer

    Nov 21, 2010
    South Caucasus
    Soft luggage with pacsafe mesh. And park as much as possible within view.
  5. birdie_xx

    birdie_xx Long timer

    Oct 30, 2004
    I definately feel "safer" ever since I started to use the hard,lockable bags. I try to trust people,but I had my bike stolen once, so it's not easy....Once on a trip through Niagara Falls, I wanted to take the Lady of the Mist ride, but didn't want to leave all our gear on the bike, in the parking lot. A guy next to us on a GL1500 just locked everything and left....That sold me on hard bags. Plus they are more resistant to the elements, IMO

  6. Canuman

    Canuman Crusty & Unobliging

    Jun 21, 2008
    The Palace of the People, VT
    I don't get into the city much, to tell the truth, but I've never had a problem with soft luggage. I've never had a problem with hard luggage regarding theft either, but I have had it detach itself from the bike in rough going, which is a pain. You'd be shocked how far out into the weeds a top box can roll, and how difficult it can be to locate!

    A determined thief can easily break in to hard bags, particularly plastic cases. If you don't care about screwing the locks up, a brisk yank with a screwdriver will pop them right open. I had to do this on a case for which the keys had suddenly disappeared, and contained my wallet, among other things.

    A bike that's bristling with two grand's worth of Touratech or similar would appear to be a juicier target to most than one sporting dusty soft bags. Given the value of the cases versus the contents, it could increase the temptation to steal the ENTIRE bike.

    I feel that security depends more on where and how you park your bike. The best cases in the world are no substitute for a secure parking area.
  7. Baroquenride

    Baroquenride Everyone dies, but not everyone truly lives.

    Apr 10, 2011
    Clark Co, Wa
    I use soft bags, but generally either park in the secured parking area at work or leave the bike where I can see it when getting a bite to eat. I've never had a problem with anyone messing with them.
  8. RangerShawn

    RangerShawn Philosopher

    Jan 31, 2012
    San Francisco Bay Area
    +1 Secure parking is extremely important. And... I always use hard luggage because it at least slows the potential thief down and eliminates casual pilfering. Anyone with a sharp knife can get into soft luggage (except pacsafe stuff) in literally one second with complete silence without even calling attention to himself. I haven't had my motorcycle luggage cut, because I use hard bags, but I learned my lesson when was travelling in the middle east and had my day pack slit open and items taken while I was wearing it! Granted, it was a lightweight and flimsy bag in a dense crowd where people are bumping into you all the time and people are moving in every direction, but that was the teachable moment for me. Just my $.02
  9. vfxdog

    vfxdog Been here awhile

    Jan 5, 2007
    Santa Monica or London, depending on work.
    I've used Eclipse soft bags for 25 years or so touring Europe and the US and don't worry too much about the contents. Anything valuable I always put in the tankbag and take that with me if I/we step away from the bike.

    At the start of a trip the bags usually contain clean clothes etc.- at the end, it would be a brave person who would be at all interested in what's in them.

    I also do a lot of lane filtering in Cali and Europe, and in that situation soft bags are your friend.

    I guess hard bags may be a theft deterrent of some sort but realistically, none of them are that secure.
  10. OaklandStrom

    OaklandStrom Long timer

    Sep 17, 2005
    East Bay
    I have a top case that I use when I commute to "the city", but use soft bags when I travel.

    On a recent trip through the SouthWest, there were three of us. We left helmets, gloves, tank bags, everything but keys sitting on the bikes everywhere. In one small, really sketchy town we took helmets, gloves & jackets into the grocery store, and in one other, we one guy stay outside with the bikes while the other guys were shopping. Really poor, scummy looking towns.

    We left all of our stuff on the bikes while eating, shopping, hiking, touristing, etc. and never had a problem.
  11. a2ronm

    a2ronm Ti-6Al-4V

    Mar 25, 2009
    Somewhere North of Charleston, SC
    I have hard cases and soft duffle and tank bag (and helmet and jacket). I lock up whatever I cannot afford (time, capability, cost factors) to lose when I'm away from the bike.

    I used a pac-safe on the duffle for awhile until I got tired of fussing with it each day (and it is not the most comfortable thing to have at your back and is rough on the rest of the gear/bike). Now I run a cable loop through the handles/eyelets and lock it to my rack to prevent the easy walk off. I only keep stuff that would NOT strand me if lost in the duffle. All the trip critical items are in the locked hard cases.

    I have a 8' x 3/8" inch cable gear lock ( Lasso Master LOCK┬ĽALL ) that I run through my helmet chin bar, tank bag handle, riding jacket sleeves (if too warm to wear) and through the motorcycle frame....or I carry the gear with me (maybe leave the tank bag or not).

    I also have a light weight (Bike Bandit freebie) cover to cover the whole bike for out-of-sight-out-of-mind security bonus if I'm worried.

    For the bike I use a 5/8" cable looped thru the wheels to an alarmed disc lock for overnight parking.

    60,000 miles of US travel last 3 1/2 years, haven't lost anything yet.

    Of course none of this may have made a difference either way; I had some bicycle thieves target my locked up mountain bike in the back of my pickup who used an aircraft cable cutter to cut the cable to take the bike. Motorcycles are stolen all the time.

    And of course maybe no one is interested in my stuff and the world is filled with honest folks.

    I adjust as circumstances would appear to direct, again balancing what I can't afford to lose while I'm out and about.
  12. Kommando

    Kommando Long timer

    Nov 28, 2006
    By the Great Lakes
    I have a Givi E45 hard case, but I use soft saddlebags, tank panniers, and tankbag. PacSafe mesh is your friend for locking up soft luggage. I also have a PacSafe 80L bag for locking up my gear. It packs down to about the size of a small newspaper.

    I also lock the bike to something solid, with a 15' cable through wheels and frame, secured with an alarmed lock. The bike also has it's own alarm, and I have a $20 cover from Target. Carry full coverage too. Take valuables with you whenever possible.
  13. heirhead

    heirhead worlds worst mechanic

    Jan 2, 2009
    On the water in SoCal

    Have used both like most, nothing stolen. I think a lot of it is if you are going to be staring at your soft bags. Ride with
    some to bars with hundreds of bikes and all jackets and lids are on most bikes. Couple of peeps would not leave helmet on bike EVER, let alone any kind of luggage. Depends on where you are at also. In America just use common sense and enjoy your ride and stops. Peace of mind about your gear is very important to your ride, enjoy.

  14. BMW-K

    BMW-K F800GS FTW!

    Nov 11, 2004
    Anaheim, CA
    A set of heavy wirecutters or a long screwdriver will go through a set of Touratechs without much of a problem at all.

    The security of hard luggage is time. It takes a bit more time to go through hard luggage than it does to go into soft luggage.

    Just don't leave valuables in soft luggage. That's the simple answer...
  15. burmbuster

    burmbuster Long timer

    Oct 16, 2007
    South East USA
    I have always had hard panniers with a tank bag and soft tail bag. The tail bag has a shoulder strap that I would use if we went sight seeing etc. and would put the tank bag in the tail bag.

    Fast forward to what I ride now. A Tiger 800 and I wanted to save weight so I ordered Wolfman panniers and a duffle. I also am ordering a Camelbak Transformer. You can add the bags to or from the Camel. My thought, or plan, is this. Have a pacsafe mesh in the top of each pannier and duffle. If we stop for site seeing of extended periods where the bike is out of our site, just pull the mesh out of each bag and lock it up. The small Bag Connection Micro tank bag can fit into the Camel as well as any other valuables and that will stay on my back. Riding gear can go into a packed duffle.:clap
  16. levain

    levain STILL Jim Williams

    Oct 29, 2005
    Providence, RI
    I have Kriega soft stuff and a lockable top box. I keep anything I'd like to see again in the top box, and I do feel more secure having a lockable place to keep my laptop. When I travel, I keep my passport, drivers license, credit card and cash on me always. Most of that is in my pants since a jacket can get nicked at a cafe or restaurant. Anything that gets left on the bike is superfluous. It won't stop my trip.

    Honestly, the bags themselves are worth more than anything I keep in them. I'd be more bumbed that someone stole my Kriega bags than the contents. Maybe, I need to switch to Hefty:lol3

    Never had a problem, but I wouldn't park loaded in a major city either.
  17. sledgegreen

    sledgegreen Adventurer

    Sep 2, 2012
    I used to use soft luggage a lot, but then switched to Givi hard cases about 15 years ago. Used soft luggage all over the UK, in towns and outside.

    Never had anything nicked. Used to put valuables in a tankbag, which I would take with me when I left the bike. Also had a topbox for most of the time I was using soft luggage, so that gave a degree of secure storage. Apart from that, I would park it in a place that was highly visible - ideally where I would be able to see it myself.

    Hard luggage 'feels' more secure (both "less likely to fall off' and 'less likely to get nicked') and is much less fiddly to use. I always found that I was trying to feel for bungee points that were hidden under the soft luggage. Now, when I load stuff on the rear seat/across the top of the panniers, the Givi racks or the pannier handles provide ample, easy to reach tie down points.
  18. nylon2000

    nylon2000 Wanderer

    Feb 8, 2013
    Here's how i do it:
    Here's my setup:

    On self - all real valuables - passport etc

    Tank bag - contains all other valuables (electronics), fitted a shoulder strap to it, it comes with me when needed

    Soft panniers: I use these: Super light, fairly invisible, but a deterrent for the casual. The bags arent possible to open, without a knife/cutters. And in terms of stealing the bags themselves, thats hard work - i can barely be bothered to remove the bags, it takes 5+ minutes.

    Tail bag: Similar, but longer: Again, hidden, but stops the bag being opened without slashing. A small padlock locks the bag to the bike. Again, simple, and discrete.