Believe it or not, there was a time in the not-too-distant past when humans were able to survive without air conditioning or cruise control in their automobiles. But those accessories that were once considered luxuries proved to be so useful that they quickly became essential features of modern life.
It’s the same thing with motorcycle luggage. Experience the benefits of adequate storage space on your bike and it’s hard to imagine how you got along without it.
Motorcycles have very little room for taking along even the most basic life sustaining items. For example, how can anyone ride without a cell phone, an MP3 player, a selection of Power Bars, bottles of water, an LED flashlight — not to mention the laptop, the digital camera… (just joking, of course!).
But seriously, if motorcycling is to be promoted as an alternative to cars and SUVs for daily commuting, then some type of on-board storage capacity is a must. And it goes without saying that any type of long-distance motorcycle travel certainly requires significant amounts of room to stow the essentials. But not everyone wants a Gold Wing…
Only one or two motorcycle manufacturers seem to understand this, and who offer hard luggage designed specifically for their bikes. BMW motorcycle owners are especially lucky in this regard, because almost every Beemer since the 1970’s has been available with factory designed hard luggage and purpose-built mounting systems. Several of the modern Hinckley Triumphs also come to mind. But it’s hard to fathom why more motorcycles aren’t sold with some form of luggage, hard or soft. Surely there’s a profit center here, no?
Well, don’t hold your breath waiting for your dealer to stock ZX-10R hard bags. In the meantime, Oxford manufactures a variety of soft luggage systems will fit just about any type of motorcycle, including sport bikes. So now you can get serious about turning that Blackbird into a super-sports tourer!
Oxford Products was started by a group of motorcycle enthusiasts in the university city of Oxford, England (hence the name) back in the early 1970’s. Oxford now manufactures a wide variety of motorcycle accessories that are distributed worldwide, including their soft motorcycle luggage, which has become their flagship product.
I first discovered Oxford luggage during one of my trips to the U.K. several years ago. It’s usually easy to recognize a motorcycle accessory design that springs from real-world experience rather than from the mind of some marketing consultancy. The right combination of passion and knowledge results in products with much more value and utility. This is the case with Oxford luggage. Something about its design and functionality just seems right, so my guess is that Oxford’s designers know what they’re about.
It took a while for the Oxford distribution network to make it to the U.S.A., but the wait is over. Fans of Oxford’s soft luggage for motorcycles will now be pleased to learn that there’s a U.S.A. distribution network, managed through Castle Sales in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I caught up with the folks from Castle at the recent Motorcycle Dealer Expo in Indianapolis, and they sent us a complete set of the Oxford “Sport” series of soft motorcycle luggage for this review, including the Compact Tank Bag, the Sport Tail Bag and the Oxford Sport Saddlebags. We installed the system on a 1999 Suzuki Bandit 1200 workhorse and spent a few weeks checking it out whilst laying on the miles.
Oxford luggage is rugged and compact and it has the right proportions for motorcycle use. This may sound like a simple equation to solve, but I guess it isn’t so easy. Too many brands of soft (and some hard) luggage for motorcycles seem to lack any sense of style or scale and can easily make a cool-looking bike seem more like something Granny might own. Oxford soft luggage is available in two different styles that look right on most any bike; the Sport series shown here and the “Humpback” series, which is a bit smaller and a touch more “streamlined”.
The two product lines can be successfully mixed and matched, and they will fit many different motorcycle types, including touring bikes, sport-tourers, “naked” bikes and even sport bikes, whose owners normally can’t even dream of factory luggage options. It’s interesting to think about the possibilities of fitting, for example, a complete set of luggage on a GSXR-1000 for a cross-country blitz!
Even though I’m sure Oxford would be delighted if you purchased a complete set, each of these luggage items are available separately, so we reviewed each one on its own merits. Consider this as a three-for-one webBikeWorld review: we’ll take a detailed look at Oxford’s Compact Tank Bag, the Sport Tail Bag and the Oxford Sport Saddlebags (Panniers). You’ll have to read through to the final page for our conclusion!
Suggested Retail Price: Tank Bag $104.95; Tail Bag $124.95; Saddlebags $194.95
Colors: Black, Red, Blue. Also special Silver coating ($5.00 extra)
Made in: Indonesia
Product Comments: Soft motorcycle luggage that fits a variety of makes and models, including sportbikes. Mix and match components to obtain touring bike storage capacity. Rugged design and good looks. Sport and Humpback lines of soft luggage carry lifetime guarantee against manufacturer defects. Made from waterproof PVC-backed 1500 Denier polyester. 3M Scotchguard treated and 3M Scotchlite reflective accents. Rain covers and padded shoulder straps are included for each item. Tank bag includes separate rubberized mesh blanket for protecting fuel tank finish. Nice strong zippers with big pull tabs that can be gripped when wearing gloves. Sport models shown here are designed for maximum capacity; also available in the “Humpback” series, which are slightly smaller and more aerodynamic. Oxford also offers the “1st Time” range of soft luggage at a lower price point. The 1st Time line carries a 1 year warranty against manufacturer defects.
wBW Visitor “J.”: “Your article on Oxford luggage was really great and told me so much about the product that I bought it. Panniers and Tail Pack in black. Thanks for taking the time to put that all together. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found it very helpful.” Thanks for your comments, J.!
wBW Visitor “G.S.”: “Really enjoy your site. Have owned the Humpback Tail Bag for 2 years and never take it off my ’01 B1200. Top quality, fit and looks. Outstanding product. Regards, G.S.” Thanks for sending your comments, G.S.!“