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Tested: Best motorcycle rucksacks

We put 10 rucksacks to the test, Visordown style. We've got your back...

FOR our latest product test, we’ve taken a good, hard look at motorcycling rucksacks to see how they cope with life’s burdens. We selected ten rucksacks that fulfilled three base criteria: a nod to wearer comfort in the form of multi-point harnesses, weather resistance, and a price cap of £100.

We evaluated the rucksacks in terms of:

Quality and features: A close visual and tactile examination of each bag, checking its build quality, materials and fasteners, the number and type of compartments and pockets, and the presence and design of any biker-specific features, such as helmet nets or reflective piping.

Load: Manufacturers quote capacities in litres, which frankly mean little unless you’re a fuel tanker. So we gave it the practical touch by filling the packs with tins of beans to see what their real-world day-to-day capacity is.

Comfort: Filling each pack with 15 cans of beans (6.3kg) to simulate double a calculated average load, we wore them both on and off a commuter bike, with all harnesses fastened and tightened to suit, and evaluated how they felt in terms of adjustability, strap design, padding feel and size. We tell you what it felt like in standardised conditions so that you can make a comparative decision.

Weather-resistance: We filled each bag with loosely-padded soft tissue paper, made sure all the zips and flaps were fully closed, and subjected it to 60 seconds in the shower. We then opened the bag and examined the paper wad for any dampness to determine the amount and location of water entry. They may claim it's water-resistant or waterproof, we'll be the judge of that.

Price: With affordability in mind, the selected products range from £10 to £100. Which gives you most value for your money?

Styling: And, because every biker secretly checks himself out when riding past glass-fronted buildings, the report - but, in the interest of objectivity, not the final score - includes our opinion of how good each bag looks. 

Alpinestars Charger backpack

Alpinestars Charger

Quality & features: The Italian brand's Charger pack is made in Vietnam and looks well put together. The straps are padded, with rotating clips at the join, and have an equaliser strap adjustable for length but not height. The back of the pack has three sections of padding, at the neck and sides. The waist strap has wide flaps where it attaches to the body of the pack, which have mini pockets. A pocket at the bottom contains a helmet pouch, while the top of the pack has a waterproofed, fleece-lined pocket behind a hard moulded section, supposedly for headphones and sunglasses. The main zip has a single pull and the zipper has waterproof lining. A solid plastic carrying handle is provided. The interior has a laptop section, two Velcro pockets (one with a closure flap) and two mesh pockets for tools and electrical cables, as per the label illustrations.

Load: Billed at 17 litres, the Charger took just 14 cans of beans, with a 15th squeezing in when the helmet pouch was unfolded.

Comfort: The shoulder and waist straps are of medium breadth, and the padding is decent. Aided by its compact size, it does feel comfortable to wear, and sits nicely in the middle of your back so you don’t feel the weight of your load.

Water test: The Charger was let down by the four little perforated vents located a fifth of the way up from the base. Predictably enough, water collected at the bottom of the rucksack. But above this level, the interior remained dry.

Styling: Neat and unobtrusive in all-black, with the moulded portion on the front with the A-star logo adding a dash of style, the Charger is a good looking bag.

Price: Sold for between £98 and £99.95 online, it is at the top end of our budget. A premium bag from an upscale brand, it looks and feels it.

Verdict: A smart and handy pack for the style-conscious urban commuter… but stay out of heavy rain. 

Bike-It LUGRSBLK backpack

Bike-It rucksack

Quality: As having a product code for a name hints at, the Bike-It bag is a basic and functional buy. From a few feet away it looks decent enough, but a closer inspection reveals the nylon material to be rather thin and has a solvent-like smell.

Features: The shoulder straps are thinly padded, with a height- and length-adjustable equaliser strap, while the 4cm-wide waist strap is not padded. The back of the pack is stiffened and padded. The carrying handle is a stitched loop of strap. The main compartment is undivided, and there’s a small pouch towards the top of the bag. The front of the pack sports a tall, zipped mesh pocket over a zipped compartment with a hand-sized inner pouch.

Load: The LUGRSBLK swallowed a creditable 24 cans of beans. The 10kg load however clearly put a strain on the material; when I picked up the bag to sling it over my shoulders I heard a stitch give way somewhere.

Comfort: The weight on your shoulders is tolerable and the fully-padded back helps, but the bag sits a bit low so the lumbar region does feel the weight a touch. If, like me, you have enjoyed far too many beers in your past years, the waist strap can dig into your belly a bit.

Water test: No go. The bag was wet through, and water pooled up at the bottom.

Styling: Plain rather than stylish, but not bad-looking by any means. The all-black works, less so the logo and slogan.

Price: At just £10-12 online, this is by far the cheapest rucksack in this group, and you get what you pay for. But it’ll do an adequate job, provided you don’t demand too much of it, and even if it serves you for just one season, it’s worth the asking price.

Verdict: If you’re a learner rider on a budget, are not too bothered about the brand of kit you use, and need a pack for occasional or light use.

BikeTek helmet rucksack

BikeTek helmet rucksack

Quality: This Chinese-made bag appears reasonably well-made, though when it came to us the logo was covered by an irregular patch of clear plastic stitched through, which appears erroneous. 

Features: The two strips of back padding are pleasingly thick, while the padding on the straps is moderate, and the equaliser strap is not height-adjustable. The waist strap has padded flaps where it attaches to the body. With one main, undivided compartment (two zip pulls) and two zipped side pockets, this pack does not indulge too many odds and ends. However there is a mesh helmet holder, which tucks away into a little zipped pouch at the base. The carry handle is integrated into the top of the straps – while not very wide, it feels solid.

Load: The BikeTek accommodated 19 cans (20 with the helmet pouch unfurled) – fewer than all but the Alpinestars bag in this group.

Comfort: The BikeTek felt quite comfy, with its compact size keeping it centrally positioned. But I had to tighten the straps up a fair bit to prevent it sagging, and after a while I could feel them a bit more than I preferred.

Water test: Water penetrated the bag and the paper wad was damp at the base.

Styling: The BikeTek looks smart enough in its black, grey and white colour scheme, but it looks like a college student’s bag rather than a biker’s bag. Ideal, then, for a student biker…

Price: £40 in online shops is not a bank-breaker by any means, but as there are three other well-specced packs in this test costing just a tenner more, you’d have to consider them first.

Verdict: A compact urban bag for the multi-tasking beginner rider.

Furygan Phantom

Furygan Phantom

Quality: The French bag's build quality is top-notch, with visibly good workmanship and materials used for the moulding, padding and plastics. The zippers could be chunkier though.

Features: The bag has two sections. The laptop section is padded and its zip lining is waterproofed. The main compartment (two zip pulls) offers an elasticised mesh divider, a mesh pocket with a zipper, and Velcro-fastened pouches for your phone and keys, There’s a little zipped exterior pocket at the top of the pack as well. The entire back is well-padded, and the shoulder straps have adequate padding, and a height-adjustable equaliser strap. The waist strap’s flaps have two tiny zippered pockets, which could probably accommodate not more than loose change or a key. The bottom is rubberised, and the rubber carrying handle is easy on your hand. Reflective piping runs along the front of the pack.

Load: The Phantom took in 24 cans, but that’s underwhelming for its overall size. The culprit is the narrow-bottom/wide-top shape and the half-length zip, which makes it a bit annoying if you’re trying to get right to the bottom of the general compartment, and the shape of the front moulded section fixing the space available for use.

Comfort: The padded back spreads the load nicely, though weight can be felt through the shoulder straps. The pack’s preformed shape however meant our load felt a bit top heavy.

Water test: The laptop section remained dry, thanks to its waterproofed zipper lining, but the main compartment let water through, with the bottom of the paper wad revealed to be damp.

Styling: The Phantom undeniably looks great and appears high-quality. The only one in this group with a pre-formed ‘aerodynamic hump’ shape, it looks like a proper bikers’ pack. The big white Furygan panther logo enhances rather than detracts. You’d flaunt this one.

Price: At £99.95, this is a top-end (for this group) bag, but holding the Phantom in your hands, you’d feel comfortable paying that.

Verdict: Not as practical as it could have been, but will look right at home when you’re riding your shiny new litrebike.

Givi WP403

Givi WP403

Quality: This huge, Chinese-made, roll-top style pack from the Italian brand looks tough, with its TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) shell, but on close inspection it appears of moderate rather than high quality. The material is on the thin side, the pocket zipper snagged after a few pulls back and forth, and the fabric on the adjustment straps looks basic.

Features: This type of bag is spartan by design – one massive main compartment and a zippered front pocket ticks off the storage box. The back has three patches of padding (sides and lumbar) while the straps have rather hard padding and a height-adjustable equaliser strap. Closure of the roll-top is by a length-adjustable buckle on each side. The carrying handle is a loop of strap.

Load: With 35 litres of capacity, the Givi inhaled a massive 52 cans with a double-roll of the roll-top (two more cans would fit in with the absolute minimum roll, but that amount of closure was not confidence-inspiring).

Comfort: The straps and padding do their job well enough, but you can feel the contents through the soft back. 

Water test: As expected of a waterproof roll-top, the interior remained happily dry. But the front pocket rather surprisingly let in some dampness, and this was likely due to the slightly faulty zip.

Styling: The bag looks rather industrial, with its two-tone flat grey colour scheme and the text ‘35L waterproof bag’ given prominence. Its sheer size, functional though it may be, also makes it look unwieldy. It's more rocket-pack than rucksack!

Price: At between £61 and £68 online, good value – but near enough to the next bag in the line-up, the Held, that you’d want to consider the latter.

Verdict: Sporting a massive capacity but with little else going for it, the WP403 is a one-trick pony. But some people do like ponies…

Held Moto-Flash

Held Moto-Flash

Quality: Made of welded tarpaulin, this Chinese-made rucksack is solidly built and exudes the German quality you’d associate with Held.

Features: As with the other roll-top bags, the Moto-Flash has one big main compartment and a front pocket, which is generously sized and has a waterproofed zipper. The padding – two strips down the back, the flaps of the waist strap, and the shoulder straps – is adequately thick, if a bit stiff. The shoulder strap equaliser is height-adjustable within a limited range. A Velcro strip helps to secure the rolled top. But the lack of a carrying handle is a glaring omission.

Load: The bag’s labelling declares the Moto-Flash to be between 30 and 40 litres in capacity. Luckily, baked beans don’t hedge their bets: the Visordown bean-counter has a definite number, and that’s an impressive 46 cans into the Moto-Flash with a double-roll closure (or a couple more with the bare minimum roll).

Comfort:  the shoulder straps could be better padded and the back stiffer. But if you carry less or less dense contents, the bag will feel much better. The lack of a carry handle is annoying.

Water test: The main compartment and the front pocket are both waterproof.

Styling: Hi-vis elicits a love-or-hate reaction – ok, mostly the latter – but in the Moto-Flash’s case, it works. The black-and-fluo colour scheme is sensibly proportioned and gives the bag a no-nonsense, purposeful air.

Price: £70 gets you a tough, capacious, waterproof bag. Can’t argue with that.

Verdict: If you ever find yourself needing to transport a small nuclear warhead to the other end of the country by motorcycle, this bag will do nicely.

Knox K-Pack

Knox K-Pack

Quality: This Chinese-built polyester bag from British body-armour specialist Knox is hard to fault, though visually, the materials have the slightest hint of cost-shaving about them.

Features: Someone at Knox evidently thought a lot about this bag during the design phase. It borders on overkill thanks to the attachments on its front – a triangular helmet-bag holder (helmet bag also provided) attached to the main body by three buckles, and a detachable bum-bag, which contains its own strap, buckled and velcroed to the lower part of the K-Pack. Take these away, though, and the K-Pack looks more like a regular backpack. The main compartment is readily accessed through a zipper (two pulls) which is protected by storm flaps at the top and sides. Externally it sports a zippered pocket on the left and a mesh pocket on the right, while inside, there’s an elasticated high pouch and a non-elastic lower pouch. The back has no padding, while the shoulder straps and waist strap flaps have moderate padding. The carry handle is a loop of strap.

Load: Advertised at 25 litres, the K-Pack took in just 22 cans of beans – a decent sized load for daily use, no doubt, but fewer than all but two other bags in this test.

Comfort: The K-Pack’s relatively stingy padding means you do feel the bag’s contents, if not the weight thanks to the wide shoulder straps. The bag sits low and feels better when on a bike than off it. 

Water test: The K-pack emerged from the water test quite sodden on the outside. When opened, the contents appeared dry at first – but when the wadding was removed, the bottom of the bag was revealed to be a puddle.

Styling: It’s a fussy-looking bag, with that helmet pouch holder and bum-bag attached, but still kind of cool: the rucksack equivalent of a Z750 with all manner of aftermarket parts fitted. But when you remove them, it looks a bit incomplete. The red interiors of the bag look more striking than the black-and-grey exterior.

Price: At £50, undoubtedly a good deal.

Verdict: A capable biker’s rucksack, though we’d want more weatherproofing.

Kriega R20

Kriega R20

Quality: British firm Kriega has a well deserved reputation as a leading rucksack manufacturer; numerous motorcycle journalists use them as their daily packs. The made-in-China nylon bag looks tough and well put together, though the stitching on some of the panels at the front looks a bit untidy. Kriega stands by their products with a 10-year guarantee – can’t say fairer than that.

Features: The R20 has Kriega’s Quad-Loc system, which has pre-curved straps that attach across your chest with a rotating buckle at their midpoints. There are two generous strips of padding down the back, and less generous padding on the shoulder straps. The bag has one front pocket, besides the main compartment, both with waterproofed YKK zipper linings. The interior is divided by a large pocket, and there’s a zippered, waterproof compartment on the inside of the rucksack’s front, which could accommodate passports, money, smartphones etc. The carrying handle is a loop of strap. Like its brethren, the R20 is built to take a back protector, hydration reservoir, add-on pack, harness pocket and various other accessories.

Load: The 20-litre pack took in a middling but acceptable 23 cans of beans. A couple more could have been squeezed in if not for the rigid structure of the strap system at the back.

Comfort: The Kriega has a three-position strap adjustment system, for Small, Medium and Large; I stuck with the factory setting (Medium). The wide straps and padding made light work of the nominated load, with the relative rigidity of the R20’s x-strap feeling like an enthusiastic embrace around my chest. The pack’s stiffened back kept the hard contents off my spine.

Water test: Moisture did enter the pack, but not to the extent of some of the other bags in this test; the top of the paper wadding was damp.

Styling: Choosing functionality over flourish, it certainly looks like it means business.

Price: RRP is £85, but it can be had online for as little as £75, which is a good price for a serious piece of kit. But how much will it cost with all the accessories?

Verdict: Not the flashiest or the biggest, but a highly capable rucksack for the daily biker.

Oxford Aqua 25R

Oxford Aqua 25R

Quality: The tarpaulin bag feels substantial and built to last, but the finish is not entirely up to the mark, with the crude seams most obvious.

Features: At the risk of sounding repetitive, roll-tops are pretty bare-bones. Here, you get a big main compartment and a large front pocket (vertical zip, waterproof lining), plus a small mesh pocket on the left. The Aqua has a patch of padding for the neck and moderate padding on the shoulder straps, which have a height-adjustable equaliser strap. The 4-to-5-inch wide, fully-padded waist-strap is attached to the bag by means of a large Velcro patch, so it can be detached completely if required. The bottom is rubberised, and a flexible plastic carrying handle is provided.

Load: A massive 38 cans (40 with the barest minimum roll) went into the 25-litre Aqua. (As with the other roll-tops, it is deep: if you’re just carrying a few things, accessing them is an arm’s-length issue – but if all you’re carrying is a notebook and a Snickers bar, you really should be looking at a regular backpack instead.)

Comfort: While the back could do with a bit more padding, the shoulder straps were comfortable, and the extra-wide, padded waist strap – the best of the group – pitched in to ease the burden.

Water test: Both the main compartment and the pocket are fully waterproof.

Styling: Roll-tops are not the sleekest designs, but in that context, the Aqua looks good in all-white, with touches of black and grey. Giant text logos are never handsome, though.

Price: £50, bargain. Broadly comparable to the Held, if a little smaller, for £20 less.

Verdict: If you want a solid roll-top pack with respectable capacity, this is the one.

Richa Expedition

Richa Expedition

Quality: Richa products are generally of good quality, and the made-in-Indonesia Expedition is no exception. We could not find fault with the exterior of the bag, but the interiors felt a bit flimsy and rustly.

Features: This is a well-specced rucksack with adequate storage. The main compartment (zipper, two pulls) is divided into two sections by a thin, stiff board, presumably to hold a laptop. A zipped front section has an external zipped pocket, and internally, ten sections of differing sizes specifically designed for phones, cards, keys, pens, notebooks and so on. The exterior zipped top compartment contains an attached hi-vis, elasticated waterproof cover for the whole bag. The back has two vertical strips of thick padding. The shoulder straps feel thin, but have sliding adjusters to vary the height of the equalisers. The waist strap is rather basic. The bottom is rubberised and the chunky rubber carrying handle feels pleasant to hold.

Load: Taking in 26 cans thanks to its squarer shape, the Expedition beat all but the roll-tops in this test.

Comfort: It took the weight well, with the stiffened back keeping the edges of the tins off my spine, but the lack of padding on the shoulder straps was felt.

Water test: Water entered the pack and pooled at the base, turning the bottom of our paper wadding sodden. That said, a hi-vis rain cover is provided in the top of the pack, which you can use to protect the bag unless you’re caught out by a sudden storm.

Styling: Richa sent us a sample of the Expedition in an eye-piercing black/fluo version. There’s hi-vis, and there’s crimes against vision. The bag itself looks decent enough, and could be used for non-biking social purposes, but the fluorescent elements are just garish.

Price: At 50 quid, this bag certainly gives you a lot for your money.

Verdict: A sound everyday pack that works on and off the bike, but we’d choose the plain black option.  

conclusion

The results, like the products lined up here, are – pardon the pun – a mixed bag. Some rucksacks are great at swallowing huge loads or keeping water out, while others offer loads of biker features or simply look great. So which pack you choose is a horses-for-courses selection: if you ride daily through the city, or cross-country in the summer, or do the weekly grocery shop, pick a pack based on which one offers more of what you need. 

Nevertheless, a test needs a winner. And so, we’ll score each bag thus: a poor performance in a particular attribute gets one point, an average performance gets two, good gets three, and excellent gets four. So, a maximum of 24 points on offer. Our scores are in the table above. 

The top ranker – scoring heavily for capacity and waterproofing, but backed up by fair pricing, decent quality and good comfort – is Oxford’s Aqua 25R, and is Visordown’s rucksack test winner. Congrats! The runners-up are Kriega’s R20 and the Knox K-Pack.

All of these are very good biking bags, though with different purposes: if you want weatherproof, load-lugging, durable rucksacks, the Oxford roll-top is your best bet; if you want a more everyday urban pack, with less capacity and weatherproofing but more accessibility, style and features, it’s the Kriega for you - or if your budget is a bit tighter, the Knox.

Now, isn’t that a weight off your back?

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