Like most motorcyclists, I usually carry things with me on a motorcycle ride. There are many options for carrying items on a ride such as a backpack, a tank bag, saddle bags, hard boxes mounted to the bike, soft luggage with built-in strap systems, fender packs, tool tubes, and, yes, even the lowly milk crate. Oftentimes we may just want to strap an item to the rear of the bike.
The most basic and common method is to use the ubiquitous bungee cord. Everyone seems to own a few and they are very handy to use—just find a place to hook the cord and stretch it across the item until it feels secure.
There are problems, however, with using bungee cords. They usually have coated metal hooks that can leave scratch marks on your motorcycle. The cords themselves are stretchy and the item being secured can come loose over bumps in the road and slide or even fall off the bike. Dual sport and adventure touring riders know that bungee cords simply won’t work for carrying gear on bumpy dirt roads and trails.
In my personal experience, I have used bungee cords many times in the past without a problem (on street rides) as long as I am careful to make the cords very snug and evenly passed over the gear. I have ridden with others who were not as careful and they have had gear fall off their bike during a ride. As I began broadening my riding from street to dirt I soon found the bungee cords lacking. I needed something to secure my pack to the bike without any movement at all since dirt riding will exploit the slightest looseness in the strapping. Also, the contents of a soft pack tend to settle a bit and contribute to the loosening of the straps.
My trail pack for my dual sport motorcycle is small and weighs ten pounds. I strap it to a metal rack on the tail of my bike. It contains items I might need on the trail for tube repair, first aid, a tow strap, tools, etc. I first used some cheap webbing straps with cam buckles I picked up at WalMart. While much better than bungee cords they were a bit flimsy, the cam buckles somewhat weak, and without any rubber or elastic tensioner to take up slack they sometimes allowed a bit of loosening.
I also tried ROK™ straps and they were a big improvement over the cheap webbing. I didn’t really have a problem with them in my application. These straps use nylon webbing, a quick-release plastic buckle, a rubber tensioner on one end, and closed-loops on each end to loop through itself around a part of the motorcycle like the passenger foot pegs or subframe (girth hitch). The problem with the ROK™ straps is that they seem like rather light-duty straps that might not hold up under more demanding conditions with a bigger load than my little trail pack. The plastic quick-release buckle seems to be a possible weak point.
Green Chile Adventure Gear (GCAG) is a young company based in northern New Mexico that produces soft luggage systems for motorcycles. The owners are fellow dual sport and adventure riders active in Facebook groups such as IBAR (International Brotherhood of Adventure Riders) and KLR Owners Group, among others. Their centerpiece product is the versatile soft luggage rack that allows strapping soft luggage to virtually any motorcycle without the need for expensive and heavy metal racks.
I received two of their strap systems: The Mondo and Mondo UL (ultra-light). Theses straps can be used with their soft luggage rack or alone directly on an existing luggage rack, rear seat, or fender. The Mondo was in their line first and uses very strong one-inch webbing, a heavy duty cam buckle, elastic tensioner, and closed loop girth hitching. The cam buckle used on the Mondo straps is rock solid and heavy. The teeth on the roller of the cam bite deeply and firmly so the webbing will not slide at all. The cam buckle makes it super easy to pull the webbing through tightly; to release simply press down on the spring-loaded tab. The elastic tensioner is several layers thick and housed inside a tube of webbing so that even if the elastic should ever fail the strap will still hold.
The Mondo UL has the same closed loops for girth hitching and elastic tensioner. The difference is the one-inch webbing is a bit thinner and lighter and it uses a plastic quick-release buckle instead of the cam buckle. These straps are not as strong as the original Mondo. GCAG introduced the Mondo UL line at the request of customers who used the ROK™ straps but wanted something stronger. The UL straps are great for lighter loads or street riders that don’t subject their gear loads to the rigors of off-road riding.
The primary weakness of the UL straps is the plastic buckle. GCAG does offer replacement buckles should you ever break one. Carry one or two on a ride so you can easily replace the buckle in under a minute with no tools at all, if one should break. It is important to place the plastic buckle in a place where it will not be forced to bend or receive the highest load on bumps. In other words, don’t place the buckle at the high point of your pack or just above a solid but not flat object such as a steel water bottle or tire pump. The extra downward force and pressure on the plastic buckles can put them at risk of breaking. Of course this is not an issue with the original Mondo straps with the metal cam buckles.
On a solid item you are strapping, do not pull the UL straps as tightly as you possibly can. I broke a buckle strapping down a load of firewood. I was trying to make the load as snug as possible since any slack in the straps would allow the firewood to move over bumps and come loose. Since the firewood was solid, unlike a soft pack, it didn’t give under increased tension. As I pulled hard the weakest point of the buckle gave way. The original Mondo straps would be much better for strapping solid objects like firewood.
The Mondo straps are infinitely versatile and can even be used with the ring loops to create additional hitch points without the need for more straps. The final piece to mention is what to do with the extra loose webbing after you have tensioned your gear down. GCAG calls this “slack management.” If you always use the same size pack to strap down you can simply cut the extra webbing and then use a bit of flame to melt the edge of the freshly cut nylon to prevent fraying. Be sure not to cut it too short though so you can leave yourself enough slack to pull the webbing through the buckle.
Personally, I want to keep the length of the webbing so I can use the same straps for larger packs such as camping trips. In that case you can just tuck in the extra webbing under the tensioned webbing until there is no loose slack that can snag on something or flap around while you ride. GCAG also makes available a handy slack management tool they call a Web Dominator. It’s included in the UL kit and is a piece of plastic that slides under the tensioned webbing. You then take the extra slack and fold it over itself. Place the folded webbing on top of it and pull a piece of shock cord over and hook it down. The extra webbing stays locked in it.
The prices for the Mondo and Mondo UL straps are a bit more than some other straps but they use only the best materials, are made in the USA, and come with a lifetime warranty against any manufacturing defect for the original purchaser. The Mondo Straps kit (2 straps) is $35.99 and the Mondo UL Straps Kit is $33.25 and includes the Web Dominator slack management tool.
All of the parts are available for separate purchase including the Web Dominators, the ring loops, even a rubber cam bumper to provide protection against the metal cam on your gear. You can order online from GCAG directly at www.greenchileadv.com.
Written by Massimo Lorenzini