Monday Q&A: Luggage for the F650GS Ain’t No Pillion

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Monday Q-A: Luggage for the

January 30, 2012 0 Comments

week’s Monday QA is about for the BMW F650GS. I get a lot of questions about I would recommend the SW-Motech cases. what I like/dislike them, what kind of I’d recommend for the F650, etc. been meaning to do a more writeup of TraX versus Trails panniers, so this like the perfect opportunity to those questions as a FAQ and share my

The short answer is: it depends on type of riding you’re

Finding ANY type of luggage for any of bike is all about tradeoffs. You to think about your style, what features are to you in luggage, etc. There is no thing as one ultimate set of luggage does it all and is the BEST EVAR.

it’s about what you to do with it and how you intend to use your

The Soft Bags vs. Hard Debate

The first big question is vs. hard luggage. Some are concerned about hard falling on their legs and bones; I’m here to tell you is a very real concern. we had even left the United on our Boston to Ushuaia trip, Kay his bike in some sand and his pannier trapped his ankle the bike and the ground.

I believe he something in this drop; his swelled up, and he had intermittent trouble walking on it for something like six afterwards. If he hadn’t been good boots with protectors, I believe it would been worse – as it was, boots still bear the

This isn’t the only of hard panniers causing either. We’ve read reports from other adventurers who have had similar so it’s not an isolated case. is a real and valid concern.

However – hard luggage offers some very benefits: most noteworthy of is the fact that you can lock when you walk away the bike. Soft luggage the contents of your luggage to would-be thieves; a quick through can result in losing valuable stuff, and a lot of soft is just attached by straps would be easy to cut away so a could walk away your entire pannier. lockable luggage prevents all of

We went on a test trip soft luggage on both and when we went into a to have lunch, Kay couldn’t looking at the bike. He had to keep to make sure the luggage was ok. luggage gave him the piece of to lock it and walk away, and he that tradeoff was worth the risk of hurting himself hard luggage. (And he feels that way even dropping the pannier on his ankle.)

The disadvantage of soft luggage hard luggage is that luggage potentially exposes the inside your bags to when you drop the bike. I the bike with soft when I was still learning to and was maneuvering at 0MPH on an incline gravel/dirt that made my loose. It landed on the side contained our cooking pot, and the of the bike deformed the cooking

We had to bend it back just to get the lid on it, and it’s still not perfectly Had that been at more I would have been at a lot more damage than a cooking pot.

That being said, are plenty of people who use soft happily – particularly folks who use and duffles across the back of the instead of saddle bags hang down, which negate the dropping issue. who want to travel light, or who want to increase their because they’re doing riding, typically find luggage to be the perfect solution.

It all on how you want to use the bike, and what is important to you.

(That said, if you’re looking for soft saddle bags for the BMW – I highly recommend the RevPack Deluxe (AKA Expedition) Packs. They’re ridiculously which is great if you’re on a long trip, you don’t light, or you want to carry refreshment in them. RevPack is a business, which I love to and they make really products with thoughtful details. Plus they’ll them for you if you call and ask!)

you recommend the SW-MOTECH TraX

My short answer is: it all depends on type of riding you’re and what you want in a hard If you’re going to be doing street riding, there’s chance you’ll ever the bike, and you’re willing to put the stuff in dry sacks inside panniers, then yes – I’d recommend the TraX Cases. They good on the bike, they’re EASY to take on and off the bike does make a difference if doing it every day to take a hotel, take into the etc.) – check out the video I for details on that .

But they’re not

One major downside is that pretty flimsy. If you’re to do any off-road riding and there’s any you’ll drop the bike, panniers might not be the right for you. The corners of these are plastic caps – there’s no under that. I dropped the a couple of times at zero and managed to rip one of the plastic caps off – had to it on with stickers until I an aluminum worker who could some repairs. (Just a quick look and apparently is now such a big problem that Throttle is selling “Replacement ” pieces for these panniers…)

Also, the SW-Motech Keyed Quick-Lock Fasteners designed to the luggage rack to the bike are and will break if you look at wrong. The little pin on the end of the fastener is holds it in place…

And when pin breaks off, the fastener vibrate right out of the pannier and you’ll be lucky if you catch it this:

If I hadn’t had my dry sack to the homemade pannier handles I there would have nothing holding the pannier on at the Luckily, I noticed this I got off the bike and was able to find a roughly the right size to through the hole and hold the on – same thing happened on the side but I caught it before the vibrated completely out and used to hold the thing in place.

panniers also have a for not being entirely waterproof. were good until the end of the trip when they’d been dropped enough that water was coming the bags around the plastic But I pack things inside my in stuff sacks to make easier, and I packed things my laptop in dry sacks, so a little inside the panniers wasn’t a for me.

The newer generation of TraX seems to have a better seal around the top, might help somewhat – if you drop your bike, the corner pieces may never being watertight and you may keep panniers.

Bottom line: I recommend the SW-Motech TraX if you want something that good on the bike, and is convenient to on and off the bike – as long as there’s no you’ll ever drop the My cases got pretty beat up in a of no-speed drops. If I had taken an off at any of speed, I believe the case have been totally as these are very flimsy

But I’d probably still buy them because I firmly believe no matter *what* sort of you buy, you’ll have kind of trouble with on a serious trip, like an trip or a RTW, so you should get you like and be prepared to deal whatever issues you have the way.

Would you recommend Trails panniers?

I have the benefit of traveling with a other on the same bike on the trip with different He took the Happy Trail 38L Panniers  on his BMW F650GS. They several hundred dollars than my TraX cases, and pretty darn sturdy – held up well in a series of and no-speed offs.

But they hold up *too* well – a particularly bad off in the mud, Kay’s pannier got ripped off in the fall and the rack is now bent so that not level – the left side of the rack is angled up, and the right of the luggage rack is angled

This off actually ripped the pannier off – but didn’t break any of the Instead, it bent the pannier where the mounting point – enough so the puck could rip out of the and and the pannier popped free. we went to put the pannier back on the the pannier was bent – Kay replaced the bolt but the pannier wouldn’t attached to the rack because it was so badly on the rack side.

We on it with a rock for a bit – enough to get the three mounting points to to the rack. It wasn’t until we home from Buenos and worked on it with a hammer we got the fourth mounting point to line up with the rack and even today, it doesn’t sit flush with the rack.

I’m concerned, based on the way the rack is it has to have transferred some of force to the sub-frame… but so far we haven’t any signs of damage other the rack itself.

Aside this being “too” issue, I have a bunch of quibbles with the Happy panniers. The angle cut on the bottom of the means that whenever you set down on a flat surface when you’re loading up) they fall over. the lids and built-in lid locks can be a sometimes if the pannier is fully

But the biggest complaint would be the system, and how annoying it is to take off the bike.

To remove the Happy panniers from the bike, you to unlock the pannier, open it, stuff out of the top of the pannier until you can get to the top pucks, unscrew the pucks, the pannier off the bike, re-insert the you had to take out to get to the panniers, close the lid and it again so you can carry it – and then do all of again for the other pannier. And do it in reverse in the morning when you put the back on. At the same time, exposing the stuff inside the to rain if it’s raining you open it to unscrew the pucks,

While my TraX cases are a “unlock” from the rack, it off, and go. Takes me about 30 to do both, and takes Kay about 3-5 (or more if the panniers are particularly or if he’s moving slowly) to do By the end of the Boston to Ushuaia trip, he was getting annoyed with system, and how convenient mine was by

Bottom Line:  I believe Kay says he’d recommend the Trail Teton panniers for the BMW from a sheer value – they’re some of the cheapest panniers you can get for these bikes – but he not take them on another big because of the annoyance factor of the panniers.

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