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Soft or Hard Panniers

41076 Views 61 Replies 33 Participants Last post by  oalvarez
What kind of panniers will you go with soft vs hard, pros vs cons, companies you like?

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None, hate panniers, Ventura system and tank bag, that is all :)
For long trips, IMO a quality set of hard panniers with solid mounts work well. I used a set of the Jesse aluminium panniers. Everything inside stays dry and is protected. In the event of an off, the panniers usually take part of the hit and often protect your leg. The weight is kept low so helping the COG issue. I used several plastic snap containers inside the panniers to keep items separated categorically and easily accessible. Kick off the mud and a quick wipe down with a wet rag gets them clean and functional.

I don't like zippers as on some soft luggage makes as they get mud in them and wind up getting stuck and/or breaking.

Soft waterproof bags are also very good (ie. Wolfman, Ortlieb) and can add to a pannier system easily as required or just use the soft bags without the panniers when only minimal luggage is required. I highly recommend the use of Rok- Straps for attaching these to the bike. They do get dirt/sand etc. all around the folds of the bags so when opening them, especially when wet and dirty it's inevitable that some dirt gets on the inside contents. Cleaning them up is a little more involved as compared the hard panniers.

My 2 cents.
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.......for me only soft panniers due to the fact that you WILL drop it every now and then. Hard panniers will bend, break, and probably screw up the whole rear sub-frame of your bike.

With the soft panniers you just push them back in to shape and away you go. The Hustler bags in the photo on my old Varadero were beautifully sealed and never had issues with dust entry. My only problem now is what sort of brackets will the AT have for holding the factory panniers on?(no close up photos of the mounting system). I may just have to wait until my AT arrives and have a close look.


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All the advice I read is that if you plan to go off road, soft panniers are a must... so that's the way I'm going with this I think. Not sure which ones yet, maybe the Adventure Spec Magadan ones... probably over a Touratech rack.
A hard top box at the back and soft panniers on the sides might be the way to go considering all of the above. Surely a hard box is more secure for things like a camera etc. Use the soft side panniers for clothing and the hard top box for anything breakable.

I've never used panniers so the above is just a thought..
My main concern is security. Some of the time I'd like to be a tourist and park up to wander off and have a look at things away from the bike. Whilst I've heard many people say they have never had a problem with soft luggage I always felt really uneasy whenever I parked up my old sports bikes with their Oxford soft panniers. So much so that ultimately it deterred me from going too far from the bike or for too long.

But I also don't want to be riding around on a wing-nut which is what a lot of the hard cases end up making the bike look like. I had a VFR800 back in 2002 with Givi cases. It was almost as wide as the other half's car - where's the fun in that if you get stuck in traffic? I know - I shouldn't be in traffic with the Africa Twin but sadly in the UK and a lot of Europe this is pretty unavoidable en route to off-road paradise...

So, I'm favouring the travelling light option - which for me (I can't pack to save my life...) is a top-box for valuables (not the ugly Honda OEM one though), a seat pack if the other half is at home, and perhaps a tank bag although I generally don't like tank bags for some reason. If the other half ever does come out I might have to go for side cases (one for her shoes and the other for her make-up, hair dryer, hair straighteners, hair conditioner, face wash, hair brush, spare hair brush...). And if I'm camping I also might have to have panniers.

There's no perfect solution is there? And that's despite the ones you can buy being priced for perfection...
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I was debating this topic with people over on the Horizons Unlimited board recently. Lots of people there who really do the whole round the world bike travel thing. The considered view seems to be that soft luggage all around is best from the point of view of weight distribution, and crash survivability. You don't want hard panniers on the side as they deform in a crash, and you don't want a top box on the back as it's a lot of weight in exactly the wrong place.

Most seem to believe that a hard box also attracts attention - "what is so valuable in there that it needs locking up?" wonders the thief - and can be jammed open with a screwdriver almost as easily as a soft bag can be slashed. So most bring a bike cover with them, and cover the bike whenever they're away from it, opening an out of sight out of mind policy. The cheaper looking the bike cover, the better.

Then your real valuable (passports, documents, electronics) go in a tank bag that you carry with you at all times when you're away from the bike.

Also, re: top boxes - whenever I've used them in the past I believe that they do impact fuel economy a bit.
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I will get H&B Xplorers and will use topbox when I'm commuting. The reason is simple, I want to put my laptop there. For longer trips I don't plan to use topbox, but when ridin 2-up then I will.
RTW trip would probably be with soft luggage.
Anyone ever use wolfman luggage? I've read good things but no experience personally.
I guess having a brand new bike - and a near top of the range new model one at that - is possibly an indication that the owner might have a bit of wealth - albeit perhaps on credit!

Makes it more of a target in the first place. So soft or hard luggage has problems from that perspective.

A friend of mine once mislaid his Givi top-box keys - he said it was quite difficult to open the case with a screwdriver or two in the peace and quiet of his own garage. I've always wondered how secure they are in reality though - someone who knows what they are doing could probably get in quite easily - just like they can with your car...
Well I think the argument is that if you put a fairly shabby looking bike cover on it, no-one knows that there's a top of the range new bike under there without going to the effort to look. Therefore it's less likely to catch the casual thief's eye.

Ultimately, if a professional thief wants your bike & possessions then he'll get them whatever you do.

I may also use Pacsafe mesh with some of my soft luggage though, to make it slightly harder for someone who does look under the cover.

This is the approach I think I'm going to take with luggage for long-distance touring:

Tank bag that comes with me at all times for really valuable stuff - money, electronics, documents, etc.

Soft bags with pac safe for stuff I don't want to lose but wouldn't ruin my life if I did - camping gear, tools, spare parts, specialist riding clothes like heated vests

Soft bags for stuff that I don't care too much about losing - casual clothes, food

Then every bag will be taken off the bike at night to come into the hotel/tent with me.
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I've no direct experience with Wolfman but I know a lot of folks who do and I've never heard any complaints. Another brand to look at is Giant Loop. I have some of their small bags for my dual sport and they are great. Their big horseshoe bag (Coyote?) is supposed to be great as you don't need any real hardware to mount it but I've heard it's a pain to live with as you can never find anything in the bag.

But if I get another set of soft bags it's likely to Mosko Moto. Their bags look fantastic and it turned one of my off road instructor friends into an evangelist for them, he can't stop singing their praises.
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The Reckless 80L system certainly looks quite smart! Might be tempted by that... lots of little ingenious ideas in it that all add up. Clearly designed by people who have actually done touring on a motorcycle and understand all the little annoyances there are with normal luggage systems. The built in tent pole carrier, and expandability to carry food shopping or a jacket are particularly clever.

My only concern about it would be security. The main waterproof bags look easily removable to come into a hotel/tend with you at night, so that's good. But the rest of the system looks like a pain to remove, so you'd presumably keep that attached to the bike overnight. And while I don't think it necessarily has any value to a thief, there are plenty of kids out there in the world who will take something anyway just because they can.

Still, thanks for linking to them, I'd definitely give their products some consideration!

The support stay with the motorbike. The 3 bags are easly removable.

The only problem is that the new version is not yet available.
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More will be available at some point. They are a very small company who have not been around long so I guess they have to balance how much stock they order versus expected demand. I almost ordered the Reckless 80 when they first announced it but I was worried it would be too large. I did see the bags in the flesh at a local bike show and they looked great. Not *too* big and great quality. They certainly wouldn't look out of place on an AT.

But I am attracted to the simpleness of the Honda hard bags. Simply click in place and you're done. Decisions....
I've looked in more details at their products now, and the Backcountry Pannier System looks even better! I did have a question, about security again, so emailed them and they came straight back to let me know that the next production run of their attachment system would allow for a padlock to be added to it.

Because here's the thing with motorcycle luggage. Most of the time, what you've got in the luggage (dirty socks and the like) isn't as valuable to you as the luggage itself. So you want to make it annoying for the thief to remove the entire bag, so that they take the content instead and leave the empty bag attached. It's way easier to buy replacement socks in the middle of Africa than it is to buy an entire new soft luggage system!

So anyway, based on my first impressions, top company! It's really striking with their products how they must have been designed by people who actually go on motorcycle trips. There are myriad little annoyances that can happen with luggage on trips and they've obviously experienced that, thought about it and designed a way around. It's very likely now that this will be the luggage I get for the AT.
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Thanks for mentioning Mosko, have never heard of them. I like that some of their products have the ability to double as back packs should you want to get up and wander.
Thanks for mentioning Mosko, have never heard of them. I like that some of their products have the ability to double as back packs should you want to get up and wander.
Yeah, I like that too. In the video with the duffel thing, he takes that off, puts it on his back, then shows that he has two hands free for quick detaching the panniers and carrying both of them at the same time with their handles. He also showed how to attach your helmet to the bag so you don't have to carry that. So that's one trip into the hotel to take all your luggage and helmet, rather than two trips.

Ok, it's not the end of the world to have to make two trips to carry all the luggage in... but when you're touring for weeks, you do get a little annoyed with it by the end. This is what I mean about them clearly having done long distance touring, identified the little annoying bits, and thought about ways around them.
He says "molle" so much in the vids I had to look it up - whole new world for me.

Great the way the other founder (I guess) is often lurking in the background on his laptop - no doubt trying to negotiate the price of a boatload of new Reckless systems.

Until I saw these products I had never considered soft luggage - but if they can also be locked on then I might give them a go.
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