For day-to-day use, I can generally live without panniers. Of course, there are times when they come in handy. But for the most part, they’re big, cumbersome things that spend most of their time cluttering up my shed.
But a motorcycle top box, on the other hand, is a different matter entirely.
I know they look a bit pooh. And they have a knack for completely ruining the aesthetic of your bike. But their sheer practicality in almost all situations is enough to warrant their fugliness.
From carrying beers to bike festivals, acting as backrests for complaining pillions, carting around security chains in dodgy neighbourhoods, or holding your helmet and jacket when you stop for breakfast, top boxes are a dream.
Fitting them, however, can be a bit of a nightmare. Because while the top boxes themselves are often universal, the racks and plates (that attach to your bike) are usually bike-specific.
If you’re buying a top box for the first time, the natural instinct is to get hung up on the box. But this is the easy bit.
The real effort comes in finding the correct rack and mounting plate which will attach to your specific motorcycle.
In short, the rack attaches to your bike and holds the mounting plate. Then the mounting plate attaches to your rack and holds your top box.
For ease, I’m using Givi as my example top box – simply because they’re my luggage manufacturer of choice when using third-party luggage.
So if you’re looking to fit a top box to your motorcycle, here’s what you need to do.
Find Your Top Box, Rack & Mounting Plate
First, find your model of motorcycle. The websites will then filter the results, so only compatible products are shown. This prevents you from accidentally buying the wrong kit.
Choose your desired top box, and the website will inform you which rack and mounting plate you need. The rack should fit your bike and be compatible with your mounting plate. The mounting plate should be compatible with the rack and the top box.
So let’s use a real-world example. If I hop over to the Givi website and select my bike (a 2022 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX), the website tells me I need a 4130FZ rack which comprises a M9A mounting plate.
This setup is compatible with Monolock and Monokey top boxes – so now I need to choose from these two models.
For my purposes, I’ve gone for a V47 TECH top box in black and aluminium (to match my bike.) And I can see on the right that this top box is compatible with the 4130FZ rack and M9A plate.
Once you’ve done the same with your own bike, go ahead and order your setup.
How To Fit A Top Box To Your Motorcycle: Fitting The Rack
This is where it gets a little tricky – because different racks attach to different bikes in different ways!
As mentioned, they’re often bike-specific.
For example, the first time I bought a Givi top box, it was for a 1999 Honda CBR600. And for this particular bike, I didn’t need a rack because the universal plate fitted to the existing OEM rack.
But the second time I bought a Givi top box and rack, it was for a 2016 Honda VFR800. And this time, the rack attached to the bike via attachment points under the seat.
On my current bike (a 2022 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX), the rack fits externally in the gap between the frame and the rear wheel.
So three different bikes required three different methods of attachment.
The point here is that you need to get the correct rack and mount for your bike and top box. And you can avoid most of the trouble associated with this by simply searching by bike (rather than product) as outlined above.
Follow The Instructions
If you followed the above process, you should have ended up with a compatible setup. But mistakes happen.
So when you open your package, unwrap everything carefully – just in case it needs to be sent back.
Check all the bits and pieces (such as nuts and bolts) and ensure they match what the instruction manual says you’ve been sent.
Lay everything out and grab the required tools – usually just an Allen key and a spanner.
From here, you’re ready to start attaching the setup to your bike.
Mistakes may happen if this is your first time fitting a top box on a motorbike. So I always recommend fitting everything in the order shown in the instructions – but only finger-tighten the bolts and nuts.
Keeping everything loose gives you play in the moving parts and should make it easier to line everything up.
And if you make a mistake, it’s far easier to make corrections when the fittings are loose.
When everything is in place, and you’re sure everything is in the correct position, it’s time to tighten up your attachment points. For some setups, you may be given a torque level.
Finally, ensure you use all the required lock washers, thread locks and nuts. The last thing you need is your new top box flying off the back of your bike – and taking half your worldly belongings along with it.
How To Fit A Top Box To Your Motorcycle: Adding Precautions
You don’t need to adhere to the following points, but it’s nice to take pride in your handiwork. And if you’ve come this far, you may as well.
Whilst the nuts and bolts should outlive your bike, it doesn’t do any harm to spritz them with anti-corrosion spray to help keep them rust-free.
You can also apply a thin layer of paint to the hidden bolts – like the ones underneath your seat.
This allows you to see at a glance if any are coming loose whenever you take the seat off.
The Inaugural Ride
Once you’ve done everything above, you’re done! Clip on your new top box, admire your work and then ride off into the sunset to test it.
Listen out for any rattles and vibrations, and check that all the nuts are still tight on your return. Make adjustments if necessary.
If everything is good, congratulations! It’s time to plan your next tour!
How To Fit A Top Box To Your Motorcycle: Conclusion
As you can see, fitting a top box to your motorcycle isn’t all that difficult. But putting some time into the initial choice by using the search functions will save you a lot of headaches later down the line. So if you’re looking to fit a top box to your motorcycle, just remember the following three points:
- Select your bike to filter the results on the website
- Choose your top box, plate, and rack
- Double-check that they are all compatible
And that’s all there is to it. Good luck!
Top image: Rick Barrett / Instructions: Givi