JC Whitney Top Case
JC Whitney "Glossy Motorcycle Trunk"
by Bob S. for webBikeWorld.com
Owner Comments (Below)
See Also: wBW
Summary: Difficult to recommend this
product, even if it's on sale.
webBikeWorld is fortunate to have contributors and readers from every aspect of
the two-wheeled universe.
Many of them enjoy the ride but also believe that simple economics is a big
My guess is that basic scooters and older motorcycles easily outnumber all of the cool new
bikes that many people get to ride and which normally get all the buzz.
For example, the KLR650 used for this article is 20 years old -- the same
age, coincidentally, as my son, the 20-year-old college student who rides it.
This is a perfect example of motorcycle life in the budget-conscious world --
the target market for JC Whitney.
JC Whitney automotive and motorcycle accessories have
been available in the U.S.A. for generations -- literally. As teenagers, we would drool over the paper
catalogs containing lists and photos of hop-up parts from who-knows-where and knock-offs made
somewhere in the Far East,
long before Walmart was a household name.
One thing I'd like to note is that is is important to separate JC Whitney the company from the
actual top case product described in this review. JC Whitney has an
expansive website that is much easier to search than the websites of many other
large accessory providers and they have many good products.
Also, many of the items listed on the JC Whitney
website include feedback from owners; in fact, the collective summary
at the time my son and I placed the order gave this "Glossy Motorcycle Trunk"
(SKU number 1JA 277020) a total of 3.5 stars out of 5. So we knew going in that some customers had
difficulties with this product.
But the JC Whitney price was very low (a promotional price of $21.67 from the
current list price of $79.99), ordering was
easy and delivery was fast. Thus, we give JC Whitney the thumbs-up for this
The JC Whitney top case actually holds a full-face helmet.
The JC Whitney "Glossy Motorcycle Trunk" Black Top Case
The "Glossy" black top case in this review was made in China and is a knock-off of a
higher-end case, having design features that were apparently copied from Givi. The
case was on sale at nearly 75% off, so how bad could it be, we wondered?
The size of the box is
ideal for a commuter or student and it can actually hold a large Shoei full-face helmet or a
small laptop and lunch. There is a big red lens for a tail light (lights not
included) and a back pad for a passenger.
Motorcycle hard cases have certain criteria that they are expected to meet.
For example, a top case should, at a minimum:
Mount with basic tools and without the need for a
re-design of key features;
Stay on the bike after it is mounted;
Keep contents secure from the road, weather, and passers-by.
Well, the devil is in the details, because this one was heck to get up to
task. Although it looked good at the end of the process, what was shipped
accomplished not one of the above three criteria.
The rest of the article explains what it took for my son and I to get the
case mounted and functional.
The shipping box was partially opened when it arrived.
Motorcycle Books, GPS, Electronics,
Training Videos, Clothing and More
At the wBW
What's in the Box
The top case arrived in a thin cardboard box, wrapped in a layer of
thick plastic. Somewhere in the 12,000 miles between its country of
manufacture and delivery, the box
arrived a bit the worse for wear; the single strip of tape wasn't enough to hold
Having seen similar cases on scooters in foreign countries, I figured that
the supplier packed the top case and not JC Whitney, so this problem can be attributed to the manufacturer. If ordering one of these cases,
it's probably best to check it closely for damage as soon as it arrives; we were
surprised that the top case just had a couple of scuffs.
Otherwise, the gloss black surface looked good. The case has an odd
Maltese cross on the lid that I figured could be hidden with a sticker if necessary. The cast-in plastic hinges don't seem very substantial
but do work. The big red lens on the back of the case has been provided for a light that
unfortunately doesn't exist.
The box included the top case, a steel mounting plate that gets bolted to the
scooter or motorcycle, a rubber pad to go under the steel plate, a couple of
stamped steel mounting bars, a sheet of photocopied instructions, and plain
Mounting the JC Whitney Top Case
The top case is a generic design and not specific to any one particular make or
model of motorcycle or scooter. To give credit to the designers, the
instructions show that the mounting plate should be attached by placing the two
stamped steel bars under the luggage rack, which sandwiches the top case on to
the rack at the back of the bike.
Of course, this
assumes that there is a luggage rack or flat surface that is large enough
to hold the mounting plate.
The KLR does have its own flat luggage mounting plate, and I could have used a drill
to attach the JC Whitney steel mounting bars. It would have been a crude
installation and every way I looked at it, I would either have to trust the
thinnest areas of the KLR plastic, or drill through the stiffening webs that
gave the plate whatever strength Kawasaki intended it to have.
So my son and I were into the shop
right from the start to replace the luggage plate on the KLR, although I'll
admit that this is not necessarily a
fault of the JC Whitney top case, because the designers donít know what type of motorcycle the case will be
We copied the KLR plate hole pattern onto a longer piece of heavy plastic
that would allow us to bolt on the JC Whitney steel mounting plate. We tried
attaching the Whitney plate both with and without the provided pad and
ultimately left the pad off. It was not needed and added a degree of movement to
the top case.
Modifications to the mounting plate, which must be secured to an existing luggage rack.
With the mounting plate bolted to the bike, the next shortcoming of the
JC Whitney top case as a system became evident. The top case has two plastic fingers that
slide into slots at the front of the steel mounting plate. The top case then needs
to be pressed down over a post at the rear, until a spring-loaded piece of metal
engages a groove in the post (yellow arrow in photo above). This is very similar to the concept used by Givi,
but the execution was a dropped ball.
The JC Whitney version has four rubber feet that the plastic case sits on --
they can be seen in the photo above. The rubber feet are part of the steel
mounting plate and I just could not get the
box to compress the hard rubber enough to allow the rear of the box to engage
the groove in the post to secure the box.
Even with the pad under the plate, the box seemed to be in the right spot but
never engaged the slot. So for the next mod, I had to use a Dremel tool to shave down the rubber feet.
Success after engagement? Nope! I read some reviews of this top
case, describing owners watching in their rear-view mirror as the box rolled
down the road after falling off. Forewarned, I tried pushing on the case
when I thought it was engaged in the groove of
the post but the box would occasionally pop free.
At first I thought the red engagement button was simply not working
correctly, but after marking it so I
could see if it was connecting properly, I could
still knock the top case free on occasion, so back to the shop it was.
My cure was to drill a 1/4-inch hole through the base of the top case
and the steel mounting plate. After mounting the top case normally, I then installed
a clevis pin and a spring clip to hold the case in place as a back-up for the slotted post design.
The reviews on the JC Whitney site indicated that the top case may also have
opened unexpectedly for some of the owners while they were riding. Because
of this, every time I closed and locked the box with the key, I would firmly shake the lid to make sure it would stay
shut. It popped open about half the time.
The JC Whitney top case mounted on the KLR650.
Using the JC Whitney Top Case
Once I was sure that it was shut and everything was secure, I set off for some
errands. Three miles to town and back, the case worked and I thought we were done. It really looked
But this is when the case really let me down. During my first ride to the
office, I threw in a rain suit, a laptop and a cable lock.
We set off for the office, after the now-routine process of shut, lock, pop
open, shut again, and lock again, till it stayed shut. After about 10 miles of
two-lane roads, we got onto the highway and a half mile later, felt something
different about the mightly KLR. Reaching back, the topbox was wide open and the
lunch that had been on top of the laptop was gone. The laptop was waiting for
the next big bump to launch.
Fortunately, I also had a roll of black electrical tape, which ended up
day. The lid had to be taped down to keep it shut while I rode back home again.
Unfortunately, the lid opens up randomly on its own, even when I'm sure that the lid is secured first.
Looking closer at how the lid is secured, the lock pulls down a plastic hook
that engages the lid, again very similar to the concept used by Givi. As with
the mounting post, this is another aspect that the Chinese clone got wrong. The
hook is too narrow and the flexibility of the lid is enough to disengage the
hook. Not always, just when you need it to protect whatever valuables you are
carrying. Like lunch and a laptop.
I also found that the lid is too flexible, which allows rainwater to get past the sealing
lip, so the top case failed the important real-world test of keeping its
contents dry. Don't forget to drill your own drain holes!
Also, the lock on the back turns a metal finger that keeps the red mounting button engaged,
which keeps the lid locked. I discovered that the metal finger is
pretty loose -- another
reason not to trust the latch/lock mechanism.
Here's a photo:
Close-up of the key and locking system.
So it was back to the shop again. If I lived in an apartment without access
to powered tools and a local hardware store, I probably would have taken a
sledgehammer to the case long before this point.
Bringing the process to a close, I drilled a nice hole in the handle and
secured the lid with a combination Master Lock that ended up costing a quarter
of the original price of the top case.
Yes, the lock looks tacky and making sure the latch
and lock are shut at the same time takes some practice. But the installation is
as basic and functional as the KLR and will hopefully defeat the average campus thief...besides keeping lunch and laptops safe.
A Master Lock was added for security.
Kudos to JC Whitney for providing mail-order and internet service to
anywhere, and at great prices, with fast delivery.
Unfortunately, the JC Whitney top case just doesn't work for me on most counts. The 32-liter size is great and the gloss
surface look nice, but after that, I'm very disappointed.
The tacky Maltese cross on the top is
puzzling, but it's there and it does get an occasional chuckle. But the plastic
used for the top case itself seems nowhere near as tough
or forgiving as "normal" motorcycle luggage (probably ABS) and the mounting system and the latching
and locking mechanisms needed modifications to work correctly.
case leaks and one of the
strings that is supposed to keep the lid from tilting back too far when it is
opened broke after only a few uses. So even for the deeply discounted
price of $21.67 (plus shipping), I'd have a hard time recommending it.
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►Your Comments and Feedback
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From "S.L.B." (7/10): "It reminded me of a
very similar case I bought a year ago that looks just like
yours, except mine did not have a Maltese cross on it - it had a
blank circle, onto which I glued a BMW logo.
My case is water tight and, while it bounces around a bit, never
has come loose by accident."
From "C.Z." (7/10): "I enjoy your articles
and more so the reviews, Iíve purchased several items based on
your comments and findings.
Regarding the JC Whitney trunk, Iíve purchased the same one some
3-4 years ago and mounted it onto my Givi rack on a Honda VFR.
Iíve had to add a brake light to it, as tall vehicles (trucks)
canít see my factory brake light as the trunk hides it from view
when the other vehicle is close to the back of the bike.
For the money it works well, not once did it fail to remain open
and is leak free. It does squeak when going over rough
road, but for the money I donít care."
From "T.G." (7/10): "I recently purchased
the same trunk for the same discounted price. What have I
got to lose?
It cost another $20 to ship it standard. So, I'm into it
for ~$42 by the time it arrived. The intended bike is a
Kawasaki Concours C10.
The included mounting bolts and rails didn't help me in
attaching to the Concours built-in mini-rack behind the seat.
Fortunately, Murphs carries top box mounting brackets with bolts
that fit into the factory rack holes. Another $40.
So, I'm into it for ~$82.
I was able to easily install the box mounting plate to the
brackets though. I experienced some of the reviewer's same
issues with mounting the box to the mounting plate. It is
not a precision fit but I was successful without modifying
anything. I do double check myself as the reviewer did on
the latch to make sure it has latched, but once done it has
Contents of my box stayed dry while I rode in a heavy rain this
last weekend. I am able to fit a 2XL full-face helmet in
it plus some other stuff when I stop. I also rode with a
passenger for about an hour this past weekend and had no
problems with the backrest or box mounting stability.
While not exactly plug-n-play, it does work and probably the
discounted price reflects that. I don't intend to
frequently remove the box from the mounting plate, if I did,
this may not be the box for me. However, I recommend
buying it if you don't mind a little extra work to mount it."
From "RLD" (7/10): "I have the exact same
case - but I got it through SEARS! I have the larger size
and it works well on my Suzuki Vstrom DL1000K5 It even has
the same "Maltese cross" sticker on top.
The latch is not loose on my model - but it's
great for less than $50 delivered. I can only think that
Givi is worried about charging folks so much for what they
deliver. If this goes bad - I'll spend another $50 to
Editor's Reply: I've seen
Bob's case and this one looks a LOT better!
Congratulations on a good find!
From "M.K." (7/10): "I had a different model
Top Box from JC Whitney, SKU Number: 2JA 277021. I bought
it for $50 and had it on my DL650 for 3 years with zero
complaints. The only reason I replaced it was I needed a
larger bag for my fiancťe's stuff. No, it's not a
Givi, but it cost less than just the mount for a Givi bag."