I’ve always used bungee cords, and occasionally tie-downs, for strapping gear onto my bike. However, as I’ve painfully discovered, bungee cords are not necessarily the perfect solution for packing. There’ve been instances where I’ve scratched my paint work because the rubber bungee tips fall off rather quickly, exposing the bike to the sharp hook edges. Worse yet, I’ve had bungee cords suddenly slip off their moorings, recoiling to smack me in the hands, face, and other vulnerable body parts.
Tie-downs don’t seem to work well for me because as much as I might tighten them at the beginning of a trip, when the weight shifts in my duffel or other travel bag as I’m riding, the tie-down can easily loosen, allowing the bag to slip out of position and possibly even fall off the bike (yes, it’s happened once or twice).
I watched a ROK Straps demonstration given by Rolf Gabbe at one of the major motorcycle rallies last year. Rolf Gabbe ran a motorcycle touring company on the West Coast, and has put about a half-million miles on his own bikes, so he knows a good piece of equipment when he sees it. In fact, he was so impressed when he saw this simple yet incredibly functional piece of gear in 2000 that he decided to take over the U.S. distribution of ROK Straps.
The motorcycle-specific ROK Straps available include the Strap-It Motorbike Adjustable and the Strap-It Motorbike Flat (non-adjustable) Straps, as well as the Strap-It Cruiser Adjustable and Flat Straps. The only difference between the Motorbike and Cruiser straps is the color—Motorbike straps are black accented with a blue/green diagonal pattern, and Cruiser straps are solid black. Flat straps are 3/4″ fixed-length elastic, and they come in 12″, 18″, 24″, and 30″ lengths. The flat straps are great if you always carry the same item attached to the same place on your bike.
In discussing my needs with Rolf, he suggested that I try out the Strap-It Motorbike Adjustable Stretch Straps as well as the Adjustable Pack Straps. Each strap consists of two separate elements joined by a quick- disconnect heavy-duty Fastex buckle. The elastic part of the Strap-It Motorbike Adjustable Stretch Straps is used for tightening the load, and consists of a 1″ wide rubber strap with a female portion of the buckle on one end and a pass-through webbing loop on the other. The entire piece is less than 15″ long, and the rubber portion is covered with polyester braiding that’s UV-resistant and rotproof. The braiding also keeps the rubber from overstretching, and provides additional strength. Its mate is a 40″ piece of nonelastic polypropylene webbing that has the male part of the buckle on one end and another pass-through webbing loop on the other. The Adjustable Pack Strap is basically a scaled-down version of the Strap-It Motorbike Adjustable Stretch Straps, but the Pack Strap is narrower (about 5/8″) and shorter. The Pack Strap has a different color scheme than the motorcycle straps—it comes in high-visibility green with black diagonal stripes as well as solid black.
Every surface of both the motorcycle straps and the pack straps is designed to prevent scratching your bike. The loops provide a stable way to attach each strap to your luggage rack, sissy bar, or other places on your bike. This secure fastening method prevents ends from detaching themselves accidentally, which the bungee cords I’ve used have done frequently. According to the manufacturer, the ROK Strap is three times stronger than a bungee cord. If you care about specifics, the Strap-It Motorbike Adjustable Stretch Straps has a burst strength of 180 pounds, meaning that the strap is rated for a 90-pound load capacity. And the Adjustable Pack Strap has a burst strength of 110 pounds.
Once the two segments are attached where you want them (generally around or across your cargo), the two elements are connected by closing the Fastex buckle. Just pull the webbing through the ratchet hook on the end of the buckle until the load is cinched with the tension you want. The Strap-It Motorbike Adjustable Stretch Straps adjust anywhere from between 15″ and 18″ (the starting length depends on the diameter of the object that the ends are looped around) to 54″, and the Adjustable Pack Strap adjusts between 12″ and 42″ . ROK Straps won’t loosen like other types of straps can. And when it’s time to unhook the buckle, there are no loose ends flinging themselves around erratically and causing damage to you or your bike.
I’ve used the ROK Straps in several different configurations to pack gear on my bike. Two Strap-It Motorbike Adjustable Stretch Straps are completely adequate to hold down a large duffel bag on my luggage rack, although sometimes I choose to reinforce that system by using two Adjustable Pack Straps perpendicular to the two Stretch Straps to help fasten the duffel. I’ve also used the straps to keep a large backpack secured to my sissy bar.
ROK Straps also offers bungee cord-like straps: the ROK All Purpose sport, flat, and adjustable straps. However, these straps have differently designed hook ends and are advertised as being stronger and safer than regular bungee cords.
I’ve used the ROK Adjustable Motorbike and Pack straps on my rides to Sturgis, Laconia, Myrtle Beach, and other destinations in all types of weather—near-freezing temperatures, extreme heat, and driving rain. My ROK Straps have done a fantastic job in making the daily loading and unloading of my bike much quicker and easier while I’m on the road. And when I check the strap tension during pit stops, they’re as snug as when I first attached them, with no noticeable load shift. The straps have performed flawlessly every time, and I can’t think of a single complaint—extremely unusual for my perfectionist nature. The ROK Straps are pure genius, and I can’t imagine going back to regular bungee cords or tie-downs for my gear-securing needs.