Motorcycle side bags: types, homologation and tips for buying them

Find out on Auto Care Inigo what types of side bags are on the market, the legal requirements to be met and our advice on how to buy them.

Riding in comfort is one of the main features sought after by motorcyclists. The comfort of the seat, the riding position and the possibility to use the side bags for the bike. The market offers different types, both in terms of material with which the side bags are made, and in terms of size and, of course, price. The side bags for motorcycles are, as we have said, an extra comfort: they increase the functionality of the bike and it is possible to avoid putting a backpack behind the back, heavy and often not very comfortable.


Surely the main focus for the side bags is travel. If you’re the kind of biker who loves motorcycling – it doesn’t matter whether you’re going for a Sunday ride just outside the city or you’re leaving for your motorcycling holiday – you can’t help but own two side bags that can hold clothes, tech accessories or an emergency kit. In this case the size shouldn’t be a limit, the larger and more spacious the bags, the more things you’ll be able to fit inside them.

In the city

Using the bike daily to go back and forth between home and office is certainly a choice that allows you to be agile in metropolitan traffic, but often, once you arrive at your destination, whether it is the workplace or simply the restaurant where you have lunch, forces you to bring a helmet and jacket, so as to be cumbersome and “heavy”. The functionality of the motorcycle side bags allows you to leave your technical clothing safely inside the suitcases, so as to be more agile and lighter wherever you are. The topic of dimensions becomes more important here, precisely so as not to sacrifice the agility intrinsically available to a two-wheeled vehicle compared to cars. If the side bags are too bulky you will be constrained by the size of the suitcases that will not allow you to be quick in traffic. But let’s see specifically what kind of dimensions you can find on the market.


There really is a very wide basket of choices on the market – of course, as written above, it depends on your needs. You can find very small, space-saving side bags that do not exaggeratedly alter the width of the bike. Cases ranging from 10 to 22 litres are perfect for those who need to compromise between agility and space. For this type of bags, with limited dimensions, the same manufacturers recommend a maximum load of 5 kilograms, in order to prevent the luggage from perishing or ruining the attachment to the bike.

From 25 litres on (it is possible to find side bags up to 48L from 50 centimetres in length, more than 30 in depth and more than 30 in height) the dimensions increase radically, increasing overall dimensions but also the maximum transportable weight, up to 10 kilograms. Perfect for those who love to travel and therefore need to take along clothing, technological objects or other fundamental products for your motorcycling.

For which motorcycles

Side bags have been increasingly successful in recent years and many manufacturers have decided to create them natively and make them available to customers on new models put into production, especially in the road enduro and sport touring segment, often sold together with the bike or available with an additional kit. All bikes can accommodate the side bags, but currently most manufacturers make original frames and cases for their bikes, so they can support the side bags. Leaving aside the motorcycles that have the original side bags supplied by the manufacturer, the market offers a wide range of possibilities among side bags diversified for material, litrage, maximum load. Of course, if you have a sports bike the choice is harder, but the market rewards all segments with a suitable offer.

Rigid Side Bags

The market is very wide and varied with many companies, more or less reliable, offering their products. Among the different types of motorcycle side bags we find the rigid ones. On the market there are various types, but the cases made of aluminum are certainly among the best available. This type of side bags are resistant, light, but are also among the most expensive cases on the market. Prices start from 120/150 euro up to 350/400 euro (per bag, not per pair).

Soft or semi-rigid side bags

Side bags are also available in other materials, not only rigid but also soft or semi-rigid plastic. The most popular variants for custom or cruiser bikes are the leather (or leatherette) side bags, but you can also find many models of polyester side bags. An excellent material to keep the price low enough and get a product still very functional and practical to use. These types of bags start from a price of 40 euros up to 100 euros (per pair).

What the law says

Like any accessory with which motorcycles or other vehicles are equipped, the side bags must also comply with the highway code, so as to avoid unpleasant inconveniences or unforeseen circumstances. There are no special requirements for standard panniers supplied by manufacturers. On the other hand, for those interested in fitting aftermarket top cases, it is necessary to bear in mind what article 170 of the Highway Code says: “it is forbidden to carry objects that are not firmly secured, that protrude laterally with respect to the axis of the vehicle or longitudinally with respect to the silhouette of the vehicle beyond fifty centimetres, or that prevent or limit the driver’s visibility”. In essence, the pair of top cases may not exceed one metre in width.

What to buy

Before buying motorcycle side bags from the net or from your trusted dealer, please take your motorcycle into consideration and in relation to the type of vehicle you have and consequently what is the purpose of the purchase, travel or metropolitan jungle. Once you understand all this then you may come across the search for your side bags that will accompany you on holiday or in your daily home-work trip. You can consider the price or just the production quality of the motorcycle side bags and in that case the leading companies in the sector have a very detailed catalog on the type of luggage.

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