Our Soft Motorcycle Luggage Solution
Have you noticed that motorcycle accessory catalogues can feature hundreds of biking products but few of them actually fit your exact needs? It is like they make the perfect product in the research and development department and then deliberately make a few changes - most of which seems to affect my wallet I might add!!
Take motorbike side panniers for example. My wife Carole and I tour long distances through rural South Africa both on road and off road. There is no pannier designed for this.
Last year we toured with two genuine BMW hard panniers. They were great as they did not rattle, they attached securely and offered reasonable security. This all came to halt when we dumped the bike into a ditch and two very expensive panniers were left with cracks the size of the San Andreas Fault.
This year we needed replacements. Buying a new set of hard panniers did not make any sense - plastic or aluminium they cost a fortune and will get damaged with our type of touring! We considered having then made up in galvanised sheet metal by a dude who sits at the side of the road (a common sight here in South Africa) but expecting them not to rattle would be just too much to ask.
Soft panniers on the other hand have a reputation for shifting around and still cost a lot. A cheaper generic set would be a high risk. How would we know whether they would shift around unless we tried them? (a scenario that would render them un-returnable to the store)
Instead we saved ourselves a bundle and bought two matching 35 litre day (hiking) bags. Well made of rip-stop fabric, waterproof and with lots of convenient compartments they lacked only one feature i.e. security. This was sorted by buying two Pacsafes i.e. a lockable cable net designed to protect the hiking bags of international backpackers (for more on Pacsafes see the luggage page). This allowed us some measure of security when the Pacsafes were fitted over each of the day bags.
The net result was a reasonably priced solution that can be replaced every year if necessary. The solution offers reasonable security, some water protection, does not rattle, does not shift around, keeps the weight down low and looks attractive.
The pictures below will give you some idea of our design.
The system above served us very well during our 1500km trip through the Western Cape. We knew that if we dropped the bike the damage would be limited to bending - something that can be repaired on the road. If a bag was ripped to threads we could simply buy another from a market or department store and keep going!