One of the big attractions of our sport-tourers is the fact that OEM hard luggage is available for three out of four of these bikes (the Honda being the exception). Accessories from the manufacturer generally fit right, work well and match the color of the bike. Our BMW, Ducati and Triumph all arrived with the required bracketry installed and the bags mounted, and we ordered up a set of Chase Harper soft bags for the Honda so it wouldn't feel left out.
The BMW has the narrowest hard bags of the trio (our test unit came equipped with the city bags which are substantially narrower than the regular bags) combined with the lowest overall width. The Beemer's exhaust pipe arrangement means the bags are tall but not overly wide inside. The quality of the bags is excellent, with a sturdy three-point mount and separate latch for each unit. A two-stage handle can be used to open or remove the bags in approximately five seconds each, without requiring the use of a key (which is the ignition key). Cost of the BMW bags is $837.76.
The Ducati's hard bags are the widest of the bunch, easily able to fit a helmet, but the price is an overall width of 35 inches (be careful lane-splitting with these things). A two-point mount and separate latch system keep things in place, and a key is required to either remove or open the bags. Mounting or removing the bags can be accomplished in a few seconds. But the handle is a bit awkward when carrying the bag, because it's not the fold-out type. Bags for the 1999 ST4 sell for approximately $800 but are included with year-2000 models.
The Triumph's bags--which are slightly smaller than the Ducati's--will fit a helmet in one side, however, a chain clearance bulge in the left bag prevents a lid from squeezing in. Dual, lockable latches (that don't require a key to open) keep things snug, and the bags mount on a single pin and lockable latch. While this setup allows the bags to move around a bit, Triumph claims this prevents loaded bags from having an effect on the chassis. Removal and reinstallation is a snap, and the bags have convenient, fold-out carrying handles. The Sprint bags are available for $700.
The Chase Harper 3500 Aeropac soft bags we used on the Honda provide space similar to the BMW's hard bags. The bags have a Cordura exterior combined with an interior ABS support to help them keep their shape. Velcro straps cross or can be mounted under the seat, and the side-mounting buckles also serve to pull the bags in when they are underfilled. We removed the VFR's grab rail to make things fit better but the lack of turn signals (they're flush with the brake light) left us simply looping the rear straps together behind the seat. The 3500 Aeropacs are available from Chase Harper (877/965-7977, www.chaseharper.com) for $139.95.