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RKA Luggage Review

RKA Luggage Review

Made in the U.S.A. Luggage Combo: The RKA Shiloh Road Tank Bag and the RKA Starr II Seat Bag

by "Burn" with Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com

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Summary

RKA Luggage has been made in the U.S.A. since the early 1980's.

The company now offers a huge line of tank bags, seat bags, saddlebags, bag liners and more.

Each luggage piece also comes in a variety of sizes, so choosing a favorite isn't easy.

We chose the mid-sized Shiloh Road tank bag and Starr II seat bag for this review.

The Shiloh Road is one of the most popular RKA tank bags in the lineup.

It has a 6.3 liter main compartment and the top easily expands to double that.

It also has a handy removable map case on top and a zippered pocket at the rear.

The Shiloh Road has an old-school three-point attachment system that works well, but check first to make sure the straps will fit your bike.

The real surprise is the Starr II rear seat bag, with 18 liters capacity.

The cleverly designed attachment system easy to use and it doesn't require any extra hooks or straps.

Attach "The Pad" to the rear of the seat, then use the long built-in hook-and-loop straps to secure the seat bag to The Pad.

It's both simple and secure and the best part is that no extra straps, bungees or hooks are needed.

The system really is ingenious and one of the best standard OE bag mounting we've seen.

Combine the mid-size Shiloh Road tank bag and Starr II seat bag for a matched luggage system on bikes like the 2015 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT (Blog), the current webBikeWorld Project Bike.

With the LT version's standard hard panniers, the SHAD SH39 top box (review) and the RKA luggage, there's more capacity than I have in my entire bedroom wardrobe!

Or choose from smaller or larger tank bags and seat bags to customize a system for your ride.

Also, all of the luggage is highly water-resistant, although waterproof vinyl covers are also available as an option.

And the fact that the luggage is hand made in the U.S.A. by a small family-owned business is a bonus.

RKA Luggage on Kawasaki Versys
Background

Visiting the RKA website is like going back in time to the early days of the internet. Yeah, it really needs a redesign. And don't even try loading it on a tablet or smartphone.

The bags are kind of old-school also; even the RKA logo looks a bit dated.

But none of that really matters, because the products do the talking and that's what counts.

RKA Luggage is a small family-run business and all of the bags are designed and made in the U.S.A., so that counts also (at least with us Americans, to whom finding something actually made here seems a miracle).

RKA = Beemers?

Wait -- doesn't RKA make luggage for BMW motorcycles only? That's what a lot of people think, but it isn't true at all.

There are RKA tank bags, seat bags, side bags, tail bags and more for pretty much any motorcycle you can name.

There's even a popular line of "Communications" tank bags with a built-in dashboard and wiring to hold and charge your GPS, smartphone and other electronic gear.

And guess what? You can even order your RKA luggage in a rainbow of custom colors with custom color piping. At extra cost, of course.

Very few -- if any -- motorcycle luggage manufacturers offer even one of these options.

Introduction

Let's take a different approach here for this review. I'll describe some of the features and then let's have a show-and-tell. We have a bunch of photos that best describe the luggage and I'll add the relevant info under each.

RKA has so many products listed in their catalog, all in multiple of sizes and options, making it really hard to choose a favorite.

There are big bags and small bags and everything in between, for any motorcycle made.

But for this review, we chose two of their most popular items to make a matched mid-range set: the 13 liter Shiloh Road three-point tank bag and the 18 liter Starr II seat bag.

Both are "basic" RKA Luggage items and both are in the standard black color with a silver non-reflective piping.

Whatever is said here also goes for just about every other RKA tank bag and seat bag, so you can judge accordingly.

A Few Details

All of the RKA bags are have a "lifetime-limited warranty" to the original owner. That includes zipper replacement. There's also a 30-day return policy for unused luggage.

The outer shells are made from 600 denier "solution dyed polyester" with "urethane coated 600 denier vinyl laminated PVC diamond embossed material."

Zippers are YKK units that work very smoothly and all of the luggage is lined in the main compartments. Bag stiffener material is 9.5 mm (0.375 inch) foam "combined onto a 200 denier coated nylon for the inside lining."

Over-the-shoulder straps are included with the tank bags, along with attachment straps for the bike, of course.

RKA Starr II Seat Bag

RKA Starr 2 Seat Bag
The RKA Starr II 18-liter capacity seat bag.
The Starr II Seat Bag

Let's start with the Starr II seat bag, because it has one of the most ingenious mounting systems in the business.

Rear seat bags are pretty handy, because they can store a lot of gear at relatively low cost and without a lot of messing around with pannier mounting racks.

But the problem with many seat bags is the mounting system. Example: The SW-Motech EVO Rear Bag (review), which uses friction clips to (not) hold the straps. 

Some are downright ridiculous and most require looping various accessory straps around the rear of the bike and using clips or hooks to hold the bag in place (or not).

On some seat bags, the built-in strapping system is so lame that you'll positively need another solution, like ROK Straps (review), to hold the bag on the bike.

RKA came up with a "Why didn't I think of that?" solution with something they call "The Pad". It eliminates all that bother and it does it with style, as you'll see.

Let's take a look:

RKA Luggage The Pad Side View

(Photo Above): "The Pad" is a flat base with built-in straps and square "D" rings at each corner.

Center The Pad on the back of the seat, then connect the straps under the seat using the hook-and-loop to secure tightly.

You may end up with some extra strap length at the rear, if the seat tapers towards the back.

(Photo Below): The rear part of the OE seat on the Versys is narrow, so there's an extra length of strap on The Pad.

I suppose you can cut it shorter if it really bothers you, but simply lay it flat on top of The Pad before the Starr II bag is mounted.

RKA Luggage The Pad Rear View
Extra length of strap at right rear.

(Photo Below): Next, slide the straps that are built into the tank bag through the square "D" rings on the outside corners of the seat bag.

Pull the straps tight and secure them on the sides of the seat bag using the hook-and-loop on the straps.

The seat bag is now secure:

RKA Starr 2 Seat Bag Under Seat Attachment
RKA Starr 2 Seat Bag Installed Right Side
Close-up of the Shiloh Road seat bag mounted on "The Pad". Center zipper opens the expanding compartment.

(Photo Above): The RKA mounting system for the rear seat bag is simple, easy to use and it has a low profile without the use of any additional hooks, bungees or straps.

It's also very secure. It's more secure, in fact, than using auxiliary straps and much, much better than bungees.

By the way, you don't really use bungee cords, do you?

RKA Starr 2 Seat Bag Liner Close-up
Close-up of the inside lining and stitching in the Starr II seat bag.

(Photo Above): The RKA luggage is lined with some type of laminated vinyl. The bags are nearly waterproof (is any textile truly waterproof?) but waterproof vinyl covers are also available as an option.

(Photo Below): Here's another look at the Starr II mid-sized seat bag on the Versys 650 LT:

RKA Starr 2 Seat Bag Rear View
Starr II Storage Capacity

The Starr II seat bag is expandable and it has two compartments. The bag measures about 305 mm long and 203 mm wide (12" by 8").

The Starr II seat bag measures about 305 mm long (12") and it's about 200 mm wide (8") and about 150 mm tall (6").

That yields approximately 9.5 liters capacity.

The upper compartment expands another 140 mm (5.5") tall for an additional 8.5 liters capacity, more or less.

There are 3 zippers on the Starr II:

(Photo Below): The upper compartment can be expanded or used as is.

Under the lid is a separate translucent pocket for papers or maps, along with a couple of loops for a pencil, penlight flashlight, tire pressure gauge, etc.

There's also a plastic key ring holder (seen in the photo below).

RKA Starr 2 Seat Bag Top View

(Photo Below): The top compartment has one of those "one-and-a-half" circumference zippers. Undo the zipper and pull the top half of the bag up to nearly double the carrying capacity of the bag.

Note that the Starr II bag also has a big rubbery carrying handle and a shoulder strap is included.

The shoulder strap connects to the two "D" rings on either side of the carrying handle.

RKA Starr 2 Seat Bag Capacity
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The Starr II bag is easy to remove. Simply unfasten the 4 hook-and-loop straps, two per side, grab the bag and carry it away.

Starr II Seat Bag Conclusion

We are very impressed the the Starr II seat bag and "The Pad" mounting system is a work of genius.

There's nothing that we can really think of that we'd change, except maybe adding a padded shoulder cushion for the shoulder carrying strap.

Rear seat bags can be a pain to mount, but this one is so easy, yet so secure.

The system also makes it super easy to remove and re-mount the bag without having to deal with a bunch of straps, re-aligning and re-securing your seat bag every time you want to get back on the bike.

The Starr II also holds a lot of gear but you can also go down a size to the 14 liter Starr I or up to the 33 liter Starr III. Or, there are several other rack bags and sissy bar bags to choose from in various sizes.

If you're looking for some handy rear seat storage, this is the way to go.

RKA Luggage Starr 2 Seat Bag Attached Left Side
The RKA Starr II 18 liter seat bag on the Versys 650.

RKA Shiloh Road Tank Bag

Shiloh Road Tank Bag

RKA has two main categories of tank bags, with the "classic" tank bags and their "Communications" tank bags.

The latter has a built-in dashboard on top to mount a GPS, smartphone, etc. and it also has wiring for power.

Some of the RKA "classic" tank bags can be optionally fitted with the dashboard and they have a hidden panel on the right side for wiring, with a passage entry for the wiring into the main compartment of the tank bag.

The 13 liter (total) Shiloh Road tank bag sits about in the middle of their tank bag range.

It's an "old school" design, which means it mounts directly on the tank and uses front and rear straps for attachment.

There are many different tank bags from many different manufacturers to choose from.

Although we can't say that the RKA Shiloh Road is the easiest to use, it's one of the least complicated and it's pretty easy to install.

RKA Shiloh Road Tank Bag
The RKA Shiloh Road tank bag with 13 liter capacity on the Versys 650 LT. Note extra length of rear strap.
RKA Shiloh Road Tank Bag Expanded
The Shiloh Road tank bag with deployed expansion chamber.
RKA Shiloh Road Tank Bag Top Compartment
Slip-in paperwork or map pocket under the lid, with pen and key ring holders.
RKA Shiloh Road Tank Bag Main Compartment
The Shiloh Road tank bag main compartment.
Tank Bag Thoughts

Before we take a closer look at the RKA Shiloh Road tank bag, here are some thoughts.

To be honest, the current "state of the art" method for attaching a tank bag is the SW-Motech Quick Lock EVO tank ring system, like the one on the SW-Motech Quick-Lock EVO Daypack (review).

The SW-Motech system is more complicated and more expensive, but once installed, it makes installing and removing the tank bag as simple as it gets and the bag never touches the paint.

It's not a perfect system, because the tank ring and bag must be purchased separately and there's some complicated drilling and assembly to mount the base plate in the bottom of the tank bag.

The base plate snaps to the Quick Lock ring on the fuel tank surround but it does steal some capacity from the tank bag.

Overall though, it's a really cool method of attaching a tank bag and if I were RKA, I'd be looking to license the Quick Lock system for use on a line of tank bags.

The only problem is that some motorcycles don't have the "aircraft" style fuel filler with a bolt-in metal surround.

That's when you may have to use a strap-on tank bag.

RKA Shiloh Road Tank Bag Inside Details
Close-up of slip-in pocket, pen holders and key ring holder under the lid.
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Shiloh Road Details

The Shiloh Road is a mid-sized tank bag and it's a good fit on the 2015 Versys 650 LT. In fact, at 13 liters total capacity, it's about as big as you'd want on this bike.

The external measurements of the bag (approximate) are 25.5 cm long (10") by 178 mm wide (7").

The main compartment has approximately 9.5 liters capacity, while the upper compartment expands another 140 mm (5.5") tall for an additional 8.5 liters capacity, more or less.

The shell materials, liner and stiffeners are the same as I described in the Starr II seat bag.

The tank bag also has a non-removable stash pocket in the rear with a zipper on top. It measures about 140 mm tall by 140 mm wide and it's about 30 mm deep when stuffed.

On top is a removable (hook-and-loop) map case with a hard clear Lexan polycarbonate cover. This is removable via the hook-and-loop on back.

The underside of the lid is identical to the Starr II seat bag, with the same translucent pocket organizer and storage for a pen, tire gauge, penlight flashlight, etc. along with a key ring holder.

RKA Shiloh Road Tank Bag Removable Map Case
The Shiloh Road tank bag has a removable map holder.
RKA Shiloh Road Tank Bag Rear Pocket
Rear stash pocket, carrying handle and "D" rings for the included shoulder strap.
More Shiloh Road Features

The Shiloh Road tank bag has a hidden pocket on the left side to hide any electrical wiring and you can add the optional dashboard if desired.

The pocket closes with hook-and-loop at the front and rear.

Many options are available for wiring and other accessories, including extra-large map cases if desired.

RKA Shiloh Road Tank Bag Attachment Strap
Close-up of one of the mounting straps for the Shiloh Road tank bag.
RKA Shiloh Road Tank Bag Rear Attachment Strap
The rear strap is looped around the seat bracket and tightened.
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Mounting the Shiloh Road Tank Bag

(Photos Above): The bottom of the Shiloh Road (and all RKA tank bags) is covered with something RKA calls "Slip-Not" for added traction on the fuel tank. It feels like the basic rubbery stuff on the bottom of most tank bags.

The RKA tank bags come with three-point and four-point mounting systems and this is where it gets old-fashioned.

We recommend that you fully understand how the bag mounts and where the potential mounting points for the tank bag straps are located on your bike before you order.

The Shiloh Road bag for the Versys comes with three nylon webbed straps with an adjuster, along with a quick release snap at one end and a loop at the other end.

For the front mount, loop the straps around a frame part on both sides of the bike and then snap the other end of the strap into the mating clip on the bag (two in front and one in the rear), then tighten the straps.

The rear strap goes under the seat and we looped it around the metal seat hook at the rear of the fuel tank on the Versys.

On the 2015-2016 Versys 650 models, you might be able to slip the straps under the main frame tubing under the tank.

However, we used the fairing support brackets on either side of the fork tube, located down around 4 and 8 o'clock looking down from the handlebar.

Loop the front two straps around the fairing brackets (or the frame members or suitable location on other bikes), then attach to the front snaps on the front of the tank bag.

The bag also comes with a strap keeper that has a loop on either end. This forms an "H" with the two front straps and it can be used to hold the front straps in place.

There's one snap and strap for the back of the tank bag; we looped it around the front saddle "horn" connector under the seat of the Versys (see photo above).

Once it's in place, the Shiloh Road tank bag feels pretty secure and although the mounting system is better than some other tank bags we've had come through here, it still is nowhere near as slick as the SW-Motech Quick Lock EVO system.

Fill 'er Up Notes

RKA suggests unfastening the two front snaps, then the rear snap, then removing the tank bag for refueling.

To be brutally frank, this is a true PIA and we think the easiest way to refuel is to leave the front straps fastened, then un-buckle the rear snap, swing the bag up, refuel, then lower the bag and re-connect it to the rear snap.

Here's a photo:

RKA Shiloh Road Tank Bag Lifted for Refueling
Detach the rear snap and lift the tank bag from the rear for refueling.
Conclusion

The RKA Shiloh Road tank bag and Starr II seat bag make a nice luggage combo for mid-sized motorcycles.

The luggage is well made and it has adequate stiffeners, so it doesn't look saggy and baggy when it's not stuffed with gear.

The rear seat bag attachment system is very clever and although the tank bag strapping system works well, we like the SW-Motech Quick Lock system even better.

Bottom line: if you're looking for a wealth of options and hand-made luggage, made in the U.S.A., the RKA lineup may be the ticket.

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wBW Review: RKA Luggage
Manufacturer: RKA Luggage
List Price (2016): Tank Bag: $155.00. Seat Bag: $140.00
Made In: U.S.A.
Colors: Black, optional colors.
Sizes: 3-24.5 liters
Review Date: November 2016

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From "M.K." (November 2016): "I have had RKA bags for almost 20 years. Every bike I own has RKA tail mount.

I have two custom color ones that are awesome.

I have many thousands of miles in every type of weather, they are the best bags I have ever owned. I converted most of my friends I ride with to use RKA bags. Everyone who has converted has thanked me."

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