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  #1  
Old 8 Mar 2004
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Happy-Trails Alu Panniers

I'm finally considering getting some aluminum panniers. These days, most of my riding is on paved roads, so I can sacrifice a little toughness for a reasonable price. So far the Happy-Trails setup for my R100GS looks pretty good. Butt...before I jump into it, has anyone here had any experience with these bags?

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Bob Shilling, Berkeley, California

'88 BMW R100GS, '91 BMW R100
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  #2  
Old 8 Mar 2004
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I've got Happy Trails bags and racks on my KLR. The setup is decent and the bags are good sized. I've used them heavily loaded on lots of offroad in Copper Canyon, Baja, and the mountains of Colorado and they carry lots of stuff.

Now for the bad news. Both bag seams began to split at the corner welds after 1+ years of use. These splits occurred where the back side of the bag is welded to the front and rear panels. I took the bags to a local welder who repaired and reinforced the welds. He said that the small weld applied by Happy Trails just wasn't strong enough to hold with the constant flexing and pounding, but he thought his reinforcement would hold. So far they've held up, but I haven't loaded them to the max yet.

Note that I haven't had such problems with any of the other aluminum bags I've used and abused, including Jesse (old and new style), Touratech, and Tesch.

So if you go with Happy Trails bags, ask Tim to do a good job on the seams, and if the seams look skimpy when you get them, consider having your local welder take a shot at reinforcing them.

Story
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  #3  
Old 9 Mar 2004
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Story-

I am considering some aluminum panniers for my bike also, an '89 Transalp which I just purchased two days ago. Since you have had experience with several models, which ones were the easiest to get on and off the bike if one were to remove them each night? It seems like the Jesse bags come off and on quickest, but I don't know yet if he has a model for the Transalp.

-Dave
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  #4  
Old 9 Mar 2004
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I agree that the Jesse bags are the quickest to mount/unmount. The Tesch are the slowest - 4 bolts on each bag.

The Touratech and Happy Trails are about the same to mount/unmount - loosen a wheel inside the bag and lift the bag off the rail.

If you're looking to mount and unmount the bags quickly, any of these would work well except the Tesch.

Story
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  #5  
Old 9 Mar 2004
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Story,

Many thanks for your reply. With your experience with several different panniers, you certainly have the grounds to compare them.

I'll call Happy-Trails and see if they've addressed this problem. Since you blew welds on both bags, I'd assume that others have had problems as well.

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Bob Shilling, Berkeley, California

'88 BMW R100GS, '91 BMW R100

[This message has been edited by shilling (edited 09 March 2004).]
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  #6  
Old 9 Mar 2004
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Re: Tesch

Don't be too put off by the Tesch option. Mine were fitted by Ernie of Overland Solutions fame. He built a new rack with nice trays for the boxes to fit into - and two sturdy locakable catches at the front and back.

The result is a bomb-proof set-up and both boxes are off in less than a minute.

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  #7  
Old 10 Mar 2004
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Note that I wasn't putting down the Tesch system. I have them mounted on my PD and plan to use them RTW. I was only commenting that they are slower to mount/unmount as they come from Bernd.

I was also thinking about how I could modify them to be quick release. I think I could do something similar to the Touratech/HT system with the spin wheel inside and a locking arm against the rail. However, for the Tesch system, I would need a longer through-rod and a spacer to take up the slack between the crossbrace and the rail. Or I could talk to Ernie at Overland :-)

Story
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  #8  
Old 28 Apr 2004
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Just mounted these boxes to my KLR... perhaps I was naive about aluminum boxes, but I was expecting something that would be able to withstand a crash with minor damage and protect my legs. They feel like they might protect my legs on the first crash, but they don't inspire too much confidence in terms of durability. One crash might be their last. Anyone have any experience with this? Either way, hope this is helpful to someone.
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  #9  
Old 19 Nov 2004
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Well, I went ahead and bought the HT bags. The welds on my bags looked plenty big enough. The material is 2 mm thick, and the welds were at least that size. I've had the bags since late March and have ridden several thousand miles with them. As I mentioned in my first post, I am riding mostly paved roads these days although some of my miles were off-pavement.

Right after I got them, I dropped the bike in one of those embarassing, 0 mph accidents. It was on some gravel, and there was no damage to the bags. The bag held the bike up so that it was easier to lift than usually is the case when you fall.

The racks are really sturdy, but the holes did not quite line up in a couple of places with the matching holes in my bike's luggage rack, so I had to drill a couple of extra holes in the luggage rack. I got them clear, powder coated. I also opted for the hinged lids. Based on comments from others, it seems like a good choice. I know one person who has HT boxes with removable lids on his KLR, and he is sending them back to get the hinges put on.

So, my evaluation. Other than the initial fit-up problem, I have been very happy with these bags. I've carried some fairly heavy loads in them, over quite a few miles, and NO problems. They come off easily, but I usually park close enough to my tent that I don't bother. There is a lip around the top of the bag which I believe makes it much stronger, and also makes it seal better. The lip does have a disadvantage in making it pretty much impossible to use bag liners. I carry a mesh shopping bag in there to transport my stuff if I want to carry everything at once. The only improvement I would recommend might be to put some carrying handles on them, but it would add to the cost, and I'm not sure how often I would use them anyway. Given the overall quality of the bags and the racks, I think I got the most "bang" for my bucks with Happy Trails.



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Bob Shilling, Berkeley, California

'88 BMW R100GS, '91 BMW R100
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  #10  
Old 19 Nov 2004
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I have the Happy Trails panniers also, and I can vouch for everything that Bob mentioned previously. I spoke to Tim also about the welding and he said that they have refined their design over the years. The welds look plenty beefy on mine also. These are definately the best product for the money, IMO.

However, I would think carefully about getting the hinge option on the panniers. Having lift-off lids makes it much easier to get into the panniers if you are using a top box. My panniers would not open at all with a hinge as the top box would prevent the panniers from opening.

-Dave
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  #11  
Old 19 Nov 2004
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Might also be worthwhile posting here:
http://www.advrider.com/forums/

I thought that HT did not have the best reputation compared to TT/Tesch/Jesse etc?
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  #12  
Old 27 Nov 2004
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David, you make a good point about hinged bags when used with a top box. The folks I talked to at HT (I think it was Todd) pointed that out before I ordered. I can now get most everything in the panniers except my tent, which I prefer to keep out anyway, since it often gets packed wet. I do usually put a few other items on the luggage rack that I might need during the days ride, but have never felt like I needed a top box.......... but.....maybe...someday :-)

Steve, the only negative report I've ever heard about HT was in this thread - about the welds. I think all the makers of metal panniers have their pros and cons. I've looked at a lot of cases on a lot of bikes, and in the end I felt that HT provided the most of what I needed for the money. I believe they started off making accesories for the KLR, and have grown into the bigger bikes. The ones you mentioned pretty much seem to have started off with the heavier dual sports, and that may be why we hear of them first.



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Bob Shilling, Berkeley, California

'88 BMW R100GS, '91 BMW R100
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