Originally Posted by TxWhiteKnight
What is the best way to tie down things on the rear rack/seat?
My laptop and bag wonít fit in the side bag so I am looking for a good way to strap it to the back and I have not figured out the proper way to attach to the rack. Any ideas and what sort of straps/nets do you use?
That is a very good question. I keep a 17 inch laptop in a 49 liter BMW top case. It is the only BMW case that will fit the backpack with laptop inside. If you aren't going to wear a backpack, then the sooner you get a top case, the better. If you don't buy a top case, you may have to buy a strong laptop case with money that could have been used towards a top case.
On my Magna, I used a bungie net, with the laptop case held down by two pairs of front hooks attached to the grab handles, and the third pair attached to each other behind the short pillion backrest. On my K1200GT, I would think about something similar, with two pairs attached to the grab handles, and the third pair wound tightly around the rack to prevent the laptop from sliding backwards.
Bungie Net Problems and Concerns
Bungie nets stretch and loose their elasticity. You must replace them often.
Early in my riding career, I lost a duffle bag on an LA freeway when one side (3 hooks) of a bungie net unhooked itself. The bungie net was dangling on the other side of the bike, and could have easily hooked or tangled with the rear wheel, resulting in a rider's death (me!). Never again.
(A kindly and foolhardy man risked life and limb to recover my possessions, which were scattered over six lanes of the East LA Interchange, at the northbound 5/101 split. This happened at 5:00 PM on a Friday afternoon ... But I digress...)
Twice the backpack holding my laptop slid sideways off the pillion seat, where it was held in place by the stretched bungie net itself, like a side saddle. The hooks stayed in place, but it was definitely not a good thing.
Laptop Robustness and Durability
I have found that Apple laptops are well built and can withstand the vibrations, trials, and tribulations of a daily commute by motorcycle. My non-Apple laptops have not fared as well. I have never had a motorcycle-related problem with four different Apples, but can't say the same for two Dells and an HP. YMMV, of course.
Dangers to Your Laptop - You Need a Good, Strong Laptop Case
Another concern is that the pressures required to hold your gear in place may damage the laptop, especially the delicate screen, which can crack. A good laptop case is essential. I use the Brenthaven professional cases and backpacks. They came with heavily padded and shock-resistant removable liners. Unfortunately, they haven't been made for a long time, and were quite expensive ($150 and up).
In your situation, consider a very strong hard shell case that can shield the laptop from the pressures applied by bungies or straps, as well as the vibrations and strong jolts caused by chuckholes and rough roads. It must also protect the laptop in a fall from motorcycle seat height to a hard concrete floor. Few cases can do that. The original Brenthavens can, because of their padded inner liners and other special shock absorbing features. Hopefully a hard shell case can do it too, but it would be best to ask.
Modern Solutions May Be Better (Rok Straps)
These days, I would NOT use a bungie net. Instead, I would find a way to use Rok Straps. I recommend them highly. They are very secure, and won't scratch or damage your motorcycle or gear. Be careful with them - you can tighten them to the point where they apply extreme pressure to your gear.
Get the kind with the loops at the end, not the hooks. I have two pairs of the large and two pairs of the small. I keep one pair of each under my KGT seat, for tying unexpected packages to the pillion seat and rack. I keep another pair of each handy for when I know I will use them. I bought mine here:
Other Dangers: Theft and Loss of Data
Thieves will notice your laptop and attempt to steal it. They are quite clever, and can steal it in less than one second, while you are watching. You should encrypt your data, preferably with whole disk encryption software such as PGP or Bitlocker (if available). Do not leave your laptop case unattended for any reason. Period.
You will also need a good backup solution for when the hard drive fails, or the laptop dies or is stolen. It is inevitable, but motorcycle commutes add significant stress to laptops.
(The battery on my motorcycle died after an ordinary fill-up. I was 15 feet away from the motorcycle, staring right at it while I was on the phone. A thief walked by, between me and the motorcycle. He stole the case in less than a second. In less than 15 seconds, he took it to the gas station washroom, removed my laptop and camera from the case, left the case and the rest of my stuff behind, and disappeared. It all happened in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, my data was encrypted. I bought a new laptop the next day, restored my data from the backup, and was running within a day. I lost less than a day's work. But I digress... )
Safest Solution: Wear a Backpack?
One final comment. Think about wearing a backpack with your laptop in it. This is the most secure, shock resistant solution of all. It is good for a short commute, but won't work for a trip of any length. If you're like me, your laptop case is heavy and full of stuff. This solution works for me when I have a "loaner" bike, but I hate it, even for short trips.