Here is what can easily happen when you ride dirt with hard luggage on your motorcycle – a broken ankle.
In March of 2013 I came upon the rider in the above picture on one of the dirt roads in Big Bend National Park. He was riding a 1200GS with hard bags and at a loose section he dabbed a foot down. It is the most natural thing in the world to dab your foot when you are riding slow in the dirt and your bike gets a little off balance. The challenge with putting your foot down is that when you plant your foot it is no longer moving. But the bike continues to move and that hard bag is right there, ready to trap your foot and ankle beneath its hard bottom as the bike rolls forward. That is what happened to the above rider. In the blink of an eye his foot got trapped beneath the hard bag and the next thing he knew his ankle was broken. He had been there about an hour when my group came upon him. We sent for help and a few hours later the park service was able to rescue and transport him to a hospital.
The same thing darn near happened to me a few years back, on a ride down in Mexico. I was riding a KLR with hard bags across this river…
…and as I exited the water on the far side of the river the bike got out of shape in the soft sand. Without even thinking about it, I put my left foot down to prevent the bike from falling and promptly ran over my foot and ankle with the hard bag. Unlike the unlucky guy in Big Bend I was in deep sand, which gave way beneath my foot, providing enough wiggle room for my leg so that my ankle did not break. Bruised and sore, but not broken. I was really lucky.
The thing is before I crossed the river I knew not to put my foot down for fear of breaking my ankle on the hard bags, but dabbing a foot in a loose spot is as natural as breathing. I certainly wouldn’t want to bet my ankle on being able to stop a very fast instinctive movement before it occurs.
Also, note that the issue isn’t that hard bags crush your foot/ankle/leg in a crash (though that could conceivably happen too). The issue is that when you put your foot down (which is highly likely when riding dirt) it will get rolled over by the hard bag, breaking it. Then you will crash. The hard bag breaking your ankle will cause the crash.
What should you do? Don’t ride your motorcycle off-pavement with hard bags. Use soft luggage instead, like the Dirtbagz in the picture below.