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Old 30 Aug 2000
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Location: Sydney,NSW, Australia
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Hard panniers

We took 2 Transalps 30,000kms from England to India including rough jeep tracks etc. We kitted the bikes out with hard panniers before the trip but by the time we got to Pakistan we were sick of them.

They were too rigid so when you crash the force of the impact is directly transferred to the latches that attach the panniers to the racks. This puts alot of stress on the latch & the rack and, in our case, repeatedly broke the latches. Also if you get bumped by something (as happens in the physical contact driving of Asia) the force is directly transferred to the bike and you get pushed over. With soft panniers this is better.

We went to the local market & bought 4 buffalo hides, marked out a design on the back and employed a cobbler from a street-side stall to cut & stitch up the new bags. These leather panniers lasted about 20,000kms and we're taking them to S.America in January. With a plastic liner they are waterproof and they are nearly as secure as our Hepko & Becker boxes that could be opened with a lolli-pop stick. They have also survived 80km/h crashes with nothing more than a graze.

The metal panniers made good packing cases to send souvenirs home in.

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Old 9 Sep 2000
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But how did you stop the heat from the exhaust burning a hole in them?
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Old 14 Sep 2000
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The pannier racks are still on the bikes and they hold the soft "throw-overs" well away from the exhaust & bodywork. (Too far away really but I haven't had time to move them in.)
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Old 8 Mar 2001
tom tom is offline
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Location: london
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hi dave and jane
im off with my girlfriend to india on a dommi in september and the pro,s and con,s for hard and soft luggage are many. interesting what your saying. buffalo hide must be tough eh? right now i just can't decide whigc wayto go. maybe a hard top box would be good. did you find the buffalo bags good in indian traffic? this buffering and banging around by indian traffic has concerned me about metal panniers. but would you feel confident about leaving belongings or indeed even the empty buffalo bags alone for awhile in an indian city?
enjoy s, america.
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Old 17 May 2001
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Location: taunton,uk
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Soft luggage is arguably better in a lowspeed bang because it tends to move , rather than break. Its also a sight cheaper and quicker to buy, and tends to have greater adaptability than hard stuff. Panniers can have a tendancy to rub the back wheel which is annoying-a bar between the footrest and grabrail or base of the seat stops this. The main thing about soft stuff is that there is usually a kmack to it -youll probably end up modifying it or experimenting with various bungees or whatnot before it works really well. to this end it is a good idea to test your kit well before heading off into the middle of nowhere.olly
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Old 21 Sep 2001
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Location: in Samaipata, Boliva
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I recently discovered an other nasty thing about hard-lugage. After putting zega-cases on my AT I could no longer put it on the center-stand. So... I toke them of.

I guess I'll be using my old soft-bag's maybe with a modification to prevent to much rubbing againts the side-panels.

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Old 26 Sep 2001
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Location: Matane, Quebec
Posts: 90
I have been using soft luggage for years on my Suzuki DR 600.
I have had numerous crashes and after any shoe maker or tailor can fix them. If not bring a roll of waxed dental floss for sewing them up yourself. If you are lane splitting in traffic they don't scratch up our 4 wheeled friend as you whiz by them. I will be using Chase Harper Dualsport Bags for my next NZ to Siberia trip. The bags have a built in heat shield for exhaust side and they have a hard plastic liner which gives them some shape no matter how many dirty undees you overload them with. They gave us a sponsorship. Free bags and accesories, can't complain. It is such a pleasure to throw off the bags and go for a real ride once in a while without having to be confined to some rack, carriage or other permanent hardware. There is a security device that looks like a wire cargo net that you can put around your soft bags and lock to the bike to deter theft. I do have a small lockable aluminum trunk on the back for my valuables. To be honest after travelling around the world I have never had one thing stolen from my bike. This includes some pretty places.
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Old 8 Oct 2001
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We have just got back from our South America trip (8 months & ~30,000kms) so here's a follow up to our original posting:

We used the same buffalo hide panniers that we had made in Pakistan on the last trip. Preparation for the latest trip was brief. We taped up polythene sheet into new waterproof liners which lasted the whole way. We dusted off the panniers and gave them a rare coat of dubbin. The main thing we did was to replace the original buffalo straps with jazzy nylon webbing straps and neat plastic clip buckles. This turned out to be not such a good idea. Leather stretches a bit & looks a bit rough but it handles abrasion really well. We found that dirt would get between the nylon webbing and the pannier racks and, as the bags shook around on rough roads it would rub away the nylon at an alarming rate. Being low-tech it was easy to fix, we just got another cobbler to stitch leather patches over the worn areas where the straps lie over the metal pannier racks.

The bags themselves with the original stitching survived many more crashes and are still going strong.
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Old 18 Nov 2001
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One advantage of hard boxes (especially the easily-removable Zega cases) is that you can sit on 'em when you're camping... pretty cool after months of sitting on the ground.
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