Strangely enough, I don’t mind packing when it comes to motorcycle touring. It’s all a part of the process. And it’s a part that I actually find quite exciting.
See, packing is like an hors d’oeuvre – a tasty little morsel of what you can expect later down the road. It isn’t packed with the dopamine hit of the ride itself. But it drip-feeds you just enough to get you excited about it.
It’s the sense of anticipation.
For me, the problem isn’t packing. The problem is the straps!
Ratchet straps, tie wraps, bungee cords, ROK straps, double-D ring straps. The list is endless.
And every single one of them is a faff. Each needs its own individual anchor point – a point that isn’t going to be in the way or destroy your paintwork.
But it doesn’t stop there. Because when you finally get to your destination, you have to take the straps off again to unpack your stuff. And then put it all back on the following morning.
Rinse and repeat. Every single day.
Straps Rip My Hands To Shreds
Does anybody else find that constantly tying and untying straps rips their hands to bits?
Maybe it’s just me. But the more I mess with straps, the more they rip away little bits of skin from around my nails.
I don’t quite know where it happens. But I think it’s through forcing the ends of the straps through loops to form secure fittings.
And this (in combination with constantly putting on and taking off gloves) means my hands get sorer and sorer as the trip goes on.
It’s got to the point where I now carry small plasters in my first aid kit. After a week or so, I put them around my nails to prevent the discomfort of losing any more skin!
Straps And Dexterity
For the last few years, my dad has joined me on tour. He’s 70 years old, but he’s a young 70 if you know what I mean?
That said, I’m sure he won’t mind me telling you that he’s lost a little bit of the dexterity in his hands and fingers. So tying stuff (whilst not impossible) takes a little longer than it used to.
Now, this is nothing more than a mere inconvenience with things like lacing up boots or grabbing a zip on a tank bag.
But it’s an absolute pain in the ass with things like strapping on a roll bag. We both ride with Oxford Aqua roll bags – and they have an attachment point at each corner.
So that’s four straps that need to tie to the bike (usually around the grab rail) to ensure a safe and secure fit.
For me, it’s a painful 10-minute job that rips the skin away from my nails. For my dad, it’s a frustrating 45-minute job as he fights to wrap and tie the straps with limited dexterity in his fingers.
When you put these together, it makes for a shit start and end to the day!
Clearly, a solution was needed. So over the last few months, I’ve been searching for something that could do the same job as straps but without the tying, wrapping, and knotting.
I didn’t want loose ends. And it had to be strong, reliable, and flexible.
In my head, I wanted something akin to a belt or a watch strap. (If you’re wondering, I did try a silicone watch strap, and it worked brilliantly. I just wasn’t convinced about the tensile strength over time.)
I also considered a plain leather belt. But again, I wasn’t convinced about the durability – and I didn’t want the buckle scratching the paint.
And then, eventually, I came across Voile straps.
Let Me Introduce You To Voile Straps
Before you ask, I don’t know how to pronounce it. It seems that nobody knows, but that’s beside the point.
The best way I can describe a Voile strap is like a silicone watch strap on steroids.
Developed more than three decades ago in Utah, they were originally produced to bind skis together. Since then, the designs and materials have evolved to make them stronger and more durable.
But the true beauty of Voile straps is that they do different jobs for different people. They’re as useful to a skier as they are to a cyclist. And they’re as useful to a motorcyclist as they are to a climber.
They’re like the ultimate ubiquitous tool – useful to anyone that uses them.
Want more like this? Of course you do! Try these:
Types Of Voile Straps
There are now a plethora of different designs available. But suffice it to say the difference is really in the length, width, buckle, and colour.
The standard Voile strap is available in 15, 20, and 25-inch lengths. XL straps are available in lengths of 22 and 32-inches.
We went for the nano series straps – slimmed-down, smaller versions of the original Voile straps. These are available in 6, 9, and 12-inch lengths.
Each variant is available in orange, red, black, blue, and green.
You can also mix and match on the buckle. Traditionally, Voile straps come with a sturdy aluminium buckle.
But seeing as though ours were being attached to a motorcycle, we went with a super-tough nylon buckle that is non-marring.
What We Love About Voile Straps
- Won’t slip
- Holds tight
- Super strong
- UV resistant
- Works in extreme weather
- Can daisy-chain them together
What We Don’t Love About Voile Straps
So far, there are only 1.5 things we dislike about Voile straps (we’ll get to the .5 bit in a minute!)
The first problem is the price. In the US, you can pick them up pretty cheap. Nano straps in America range from $4-5.50. Regular straps range from $6-7.
In the UK, regular-sized straps are £7.50-8.50. Nano straps are about 50p cheaper.
To put that into context, I bought four 9” nano straps for £28. The roll bag they were securing cost £49. In comparison, that’s quite a lot to be spending on straps!
Now onto the .5 thing we dislike.
Do you know how a watch strap comes with loops on the strap to stop the excess from flapping around once it’s fastened?
Well, it’s the same with Voile straps. Once you’ve secured whatever it is you’re securing, you’re left with excess material that needs to be stowed somewhere.
But Voile straps don’t come with storage loops as standard – you have to buy them separately. Known as ‘sleepers’, they cost $3 for four in the US, and £5 in the UK.
However, Voile doesn’t make sleepers for Nano versions of their straps. So if you want to stow away excess material, you’ll need to find some elastic bands (or something similar.)
We actually found that the best way to stop the ends flapping about was to double (or even treble) wrap the strap. This way, the band tightens against itself making it super secure whilst minimising left-over material.
Uses of Voile Straps On A Motorcycle
For us, Voile straps were purchased for the sole use of securing soft luggage. They were to replace traditional straps and bungees.
And in doing so, Voile straps have turned a 10-minute job (that ripped my hands to bits) into a no-hassle, 30-second job.
For my dad, they turned a frustrating 45-minute chore into an easy 60-second job.
But once you have some, you start to use them more and more for reasons you hadn’t thought of.
I’ve used mine to secure a roll-bag, a tail pack, and even a photography tripod. I’ve also used them to secure soft luggage together, and I once daisy-chained them together to secure my jacket to my luggage at the Eurotunnel.
But you could use them for multiple fixes at the roadside (like a tie wrap) or for holding on indicators, pedals, or panels that have come off after a tumble.
Their uses are endless, both on and off the bike.
Voile Straps: Conclusion
Okay, so are Voile straps pivotal to motorcycle touring? No. They’re a little luxury that makes life easier. You could do the same job with traditional straps, bungees, or tie wraps for a fraction of the price.
But if you have the extra cash, I would highly recommend them. Not only are they brilliant time-savers, but they never come loose, don’t ruin your paintwork, nor do they perish in temperature changes.
They’re also reusable and practical – even when you’re off the bike.
It’s a shame they don’t come with sleepers as standard. But a few elastic bands take care of that.
If you want some Voile straps (and you’re based in the UK) there are very few places that stock them. But we recommend Bikemonger in Ripon.
Not only are the staff lovely, but it’s actually a pretty nice ride to get there!