If it’s one thing that marks out a car-driver-turned-motorcyclist it’s that moment when you leave a shop, arms full of sandwiches and crisps, before realising your sleek, aerodynamic machine has the same luggage capacity of a pair of Speedos.
One option is to carry a rucksack with you (like our favourite Alpinestars City Hunter), but they can be bulky and restrict your movement on the bike, plus it’s just another item to forget when you’re heading out the door on a spur of the moment ride. Luggage that you can fit and forget is a much better option, but doesn’t suit every type of motorbike.
That’s not a problem for an adventure bike like the Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro – which, when loaded up with a full set of aluminium cases, has a sense of rightness about it. They look like they’re just part of the bodywork, and can turn the Daventry ringroad into the Dakar Rally.
So whether a practical or style-conscious decision (or likely a combination of both) a set of luggage cases on a Tiger 900 is a good-looking and useful upgrade to an already good-looking and useful bike. But where do you start?
Triumph Tiger factory fitted luggage
One option is to buy some aftermarket panniers or a top box and the corresponding fitment kit - we've covered this at length in the luggage section where you can find all sorts of explainers and how-to guides, plus round-ups and reviews of our favourite products.
Another significantly more fancy alternative is to get a bit tick-happy on the configurator and get a set fitted to your new bike from the factory. There are two advantages here – you can be sure the luggage will fit properly, and it will lock and unlock using the bike’s key. But that convenience comes at a cost.
We’ll have a look at the bottom line a bit later – first let’s talk options for the Tiger 900. Triumph has two versions of hard luggage called Expedition and Trekker. We’ve got the former and it comes in one size, a 42-litre top box big enough to fit a helmet into, and two 37-litre panniers big enough for my size 11 Forma Adventure boots.
You can get the Expedition kit in black or silver, with the darker option curiously costing slightly more. All three boxes are made from 1.5mm thick aluminium with polymer reinforced corners and are lockable using the same key as you start the bike with. They feel super solid but light enough to easily remove and store in the garage.
Triumph says they’re water-resistant rather than waterproof, but I rode around in torrential rain for hours without anything inside getting damp. I even blasted them with a pressure washer when cleaning the bike and they were fine.
Only once did even a small amount of water get in and that was largely due to the fact a zip from a jacket inside was trapped in the seal. So from my experience, unless you’re an idiot like me, your stuff should stay dry.
The tops of the box and panniers hinge forwards so you can access all three from the back of the bike and the locking mechanisms are protected from the weather. The lids are removable using a simple clip at the back to make loading and unloading easier.
Closing the lid requires locating a latch and pressing down on a locking handle. It snaps shut with a satisfying clunk, feeling both reassuring robust and secure.
All come with lid-mounted rails in case you want to lash something soft to the top, and Triumph sells a waterproof drybag that you can mount on top of the panniers in lieu of a top box, tied down with luggage straps so it’s secure.
To take the boxes off you simply unlock them using the key and then pull a silver handle to release the mechanism. I assumed it would be more complicated than this, that you’d have to get some spanners or at least allen keys involved, but it’s very simple indeed.
This opens up the possibility of easily running different configurations – just the top box or just the panniers, or nothing at all, depending on what sort of ride you have planned. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
The top box alone is a good option when you need some luggage capacity but also the ability to filter - tricky to do with the panniers fitted given the width of the bike. It also gives a pillion a handy backrest, without the panniers getting in the way of their legs.
Conversely, the lower centre of gravity with just the side-mounted boxes fitted improves the handling and also makes getting on and off easier – folding your leg past the top box calls for contortion, but the panniers are mounted out of the way.
If this is a real issue then maybe a lower profile tailpack is a better option - although in general these take up the space where a pillion would sit.
That brings us to some of the disadvantages of this setup. When you’re up and moving the extra weight isn’t as obvious – the front wheel felt marginally lighter under acceleration until I wound a bit of preload onto the shock, and that improved things enormously.
But with all three boxes fitted and filled, the additional weight is located quite high up, and that can make low-speed manoeuvres feel a bit tip-toey and sketchy. Not helped by the Tiger's high seat, of course.
Getting on and off is a bit harder as well as there isn’t as much space behind you to swing your leg over the saddle, and if you’ve got muddy boots on that all gets dragged across the pannier tops and pillion seat.
Finally, with that extra weight over the back wheel, it can be a bit harder to get the Tiger onto its centre stand. With the right technique on a flat surface it’s still possible but on muddy ground I found it easier to remove the top box first, through fear of dropping the bike.
How much does the official Triumph Tiger 900 luggage cost?
As mentioned earlier the convenience of properly fitted luggage that all uses the same key comes with a pricetag, but the Triumph Tiger 900 official luggage is broadly in line with what competitors like the KTM 890 Adventure offer. Plus you should be able to claw some of that back when you sell it.
The black Expedition luggage here is the most expensive, topping out at £1,349 when you add in the rails to hold the panniers and the sliding plate for the top box.
Opt for the less off-road looking Trekker luggage and the price varies depending on what size topbox you pick – there are 52, 46 and 33-litre options, costing £1,324/£1,313/£1,233 all in.
The middle 46-litre box is closest to the 42-litre version we’ve got on test, and so comparing Trekker and Expedition broadly like for like, the former is about £40 cheaper. So really it comes down to what style you like best.
That’s quite an investment whichever way you slice it but it’s a much more efficient use of space than a cheaper set of soft panniers, giving you maximum luggage capacity for the minimum size increase.
For the kind of long-distance adventure touring synonymous with a bike like this, a proper set of hard cases is just the thing. They attach and detach easily, don’t require an individual key, and feel suitably robust.
Even regular riding is enhanced by decent storage though – whether it’s being able to store your helmet in the top box when you get to your destination or carrying a spare pair of shoes or waterproofs, you can always be prepared for what the road is going to throw at you.
If you regularly commute in busy traffic then a set of throwover bags could be a better bet day-to-day, in which case I’d still recommend getting the luggage rack installed to avoid them drooping into your back wheel.
Otherwise Triumph's official Tiger 900 luggage is a brilliant blend of form and function. Much like the bike itself.