Though forests, mountains, plains, and deserts may not be the most accessible regions to navigate on a motorcycle, that has not stopped riders from still exploring the wilderness. Only the most experienced or adventurous motorcyclists dare to take their personal vehicles or rentals out into the wilderness. Whether they wish to go on camping trips, go on hikes, or reach the highest peaks, riders must be able to carry a lot of cargo in their luggage bags. However, whatever room is available on the motorcycles may not be able to store all the essentials. If you need an extra aftermarket part that provides additional storage capacity and improves your motorcycle’s capabilities, it may benefit you to install a sissy bar.
- Table of Contents
1. What is a Sissy Bar?
Sissy bars are constructed from stainless steel and have large flat mounting brackets, tall round bars, and a blunted tip. The mounting brackets fit around the sides of the rear end close to the turn signals. The tall round bars allow you to slide on backpacks and sissy bar bags by their straps and let you recline against them like a backrest. The blunted tip can be curved or pointed, making it easier to slide on luggage bags. The common colors of sissy bars are black or chrome, but it is possible to customize this aftermarket part if you have the proper work area and tools.
Sissy bars come in two types depending on which built-in mounting system they have: quick disconnect or hard mount. Quick disconnect sissy bars are the easiest to handle as you do not need complex tools to install or remove them. It is possible to remove quick disconnect sissy bars without leaving any marks on your motorcycle, making them suited for riders who do not use sissy bars frequently. Hard mount sissy bars include plates, bolts, and screws drilled into the sides of your motorcycle. This ensures the hard mount sissy bar cannot come loose or fall off except when struck with great force.
2. How To Prepare for Motorcycle Wilderness Trips
The most reliable two-wheelers for motorcycle wilderness trips are adventure or touring motorcycles. Adventure motorcycles have wheels with high traction, good suspensions, and can handle traveling on off-road terrain. Touring motorcycles are large bulky vehicles with powerful engines that allow them to cover long distances before they require refueling.
When planning a motorcycle wilderness trip, determine the final destination, any stops along the way, and the best possible routes to take you there. Use online navigation, a physical map, and a GPS to help you gauge the distance between the beginning and end of the trip. Check to see if there will be any complications, such as bad weather, closed exits, construction, or heavy traffic. Also, be prepared by knowing alternative routes in case your original path no longer remains viable and you need to take a detour. Though it is best to take the shortest route that consumes the least fuel, you are free to follow any highway or road that takes you to any interesting natural sites.
Based on where you plan to go on your wilderness trip, you will have to pack your gear that best suits the terrain, weather conditions, and distance. The farther you travel, the more you will need to take. Even with the inclusion of sissy bars, you need to be selective about belongings to take with you. When coming up with a checklist, make sure to take at least the following:
- Appropriate Clothing (short & light for warm weather, long & thick for cold weather)
- Provisions (small bags of fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc.)
- Water bottle/canteen
- Repair Tools
- Portable Charger
- Wallet (I.D. card, driver’s license, emergency cash, etc.)
- Sleeping Bag
- Cooking Supplies
- First Aid Kit
If you find enough space left on your motorcycle to carry extra equipment, you can add a few luxury items to your supplies, such as a pillow, electronics, etc. However, make sure that any additional belongings that can fit on your sissy bar do not become crushed against the steel bars, damaging the more delicate cargo, or causing an uneven weight distribution throughout the motorcycle.
3. What to Look for in Sissy Bars for Wilderness Motorcycle Trips
Though sissy bars do not differ too much in function or design, you should still be discerning when picking the one best suited for the environment of your destination. When selecting a sissy bar best suited for a wilderness motorcycle trip, look for the following features:
- Height - Though a taller sissy bar could carry bigger and heavier luggage bags, it may not be the optimal choice if your motorcycle is slimmer and lightweight. Choose a sissy bar that will be at or slightly above your height when installed; this will ensure easy access to your belongings and prevent the top of the sissy bar from hitting any low-hanging obstacles. Much like choosing clothes of a specific size, you should select the size of the sissy bar relative to your height when seated and your motorcycle’s dimensions.
- Weight - The sissy bar’s height tends to have a proportionate effect on its weight. The taller a sissy bar is, the heavier it is. Due to being made from steel, sissy bars have considerable heft that affects your vehicle’s maneuverability, braking, and cornering capability. If your sissy bar is already heavy by itself, you may struggle to keep your motorcycle from leaning against its rear wheel when luggage is attached. Try to get a sissy bar with a weight relatively similar to your motorcycle’s build, preferably within the lightweight or middleweight categories.
- Durability - To be able to support the weight of the luggage bags, all sissy bars have non-bendable steel rods that form the majority of their structure. Depending on how many inches thick the steel rods are, they should be able to handle impacts from flying debris or being dropped on the ground without suffering any significant damage. Unless they are hit with a large amount of force, sissy bars should be able to retain their shape.
- Comfort - Though a sissy bar is often used as a backrest for passengers, it can be used as a backrest for the rider if installed close enough to the rider’s seat. Though there is an open space between the bars, the curved shape can offer you a place to press your back. If the sissy bars are at or slightly above your height, they should have the right amount of coverage for your back. For additional comfort, you can install a sissy bar pad in the open space if you prefer a cushion.
- Design - Depending on the sissy bar, it can have a more narrow or round design. The open space between the bars ensures that air resistance is reduced when traveling, improving the aerodynamics of your vehicle. A narrow sissy bar makes it easier to slide on multiple bags by their straps. Meanwhile, a round sissy bar stretches the straps far apart, making it more difficult for them to be thrown off your motorcycle.
- Maintenance - Even if you handle your sissy bar with care, the surface will become dirty with dust, grime, or other debris over time. Especially if you are traveling through the desert or in the rain, the exterior may become caked in filth and lose its shine. For ease of cleaning, make sure that the sissy bar has a smooth, waterproof surface that makes it possible to apply soap, water, and a rag without marring the metal.
- Price - Aside from the features, another criterion to consider when picking a sissy bar is its price. If a sissy bar has a custom design or extraneous features that focus on style than functionality, it tends to have a more expensive price tag. Since the purpose of the sissy bar is to help make transporting luggage easier, focus on a functional sissy bar that fits within your budget. You do not want to put a dent in your wallet before setting off on your wilderness trip just purchasing the sissy bar.
4. Advantages of Sissy Bars on Wilderness Motorcycle Trips
You may only use your sissy bar when you root through your belongings or carry your belongings when going to and returning from your destination. However, you will find there are several ideas on how you can make use of a sissy bar on your wilderness motorcycle trip:
- Better Storage & Carrying Capacities - A sissy bar is a complementary add-on that offers an additional way to store your larger camping gear when your pre-installed saddlebags have run out of space. Unlike saddlebags, sissy bars are only limited by their dimensions rather than storage space or pockets. Thus, they allow you to mount your large essentials, such as the tent and sleeping bag, rather than force you to shove them into luggage already filled to bursting.
- Improve Comfort on Longer Trips - Without a sissy bar, you would have had to put on a heavy backpack, carrying the belongings that did not fit on your motorcycle for the duration of the trip. A sissy bar allows you to sling on your backpack and lets it hang securely rather than weigh on your back and cause you to suffer constant cramps. Plus, if the sissy bar has a sissy bar pad and can be positioned right against the rider’s seat, you may recline comfortably rather than force yourself to keep your back straight.
- Setting Up Your Tent - When you arrive at the destination, you will likely want to keep your motorcycle close to your campsite. Rather than waste energy searching for a suitable spot to set up your tent and park your motorcycle, you can use the sissy bar as one of the supports holding up one of the sides of your tent. Besides making sure that your ride is within view, this helps reduce the time it would have taken to finish assembling the tent’s frame.
Despite the simplicity of their design and function, a sissy bar can be a handy feature that will make planning and going on a wilderness trip easier. Though most motorcyclists tend to focus on their supplies and vehicles when preparing to go on a motorcycle wilderness trip, they often forget that none of that matters if they cannot safely transport their belongings. If you install a sissy bar on your motorcycle, you will not only find it easier to pack all of the necessary gear but also be surprised by how your sissy bar can improve the quality and ease of your adventure.
Photo Credit: @abelbrown