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  #1  
Old 26 Apr 2010
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Steel Pony Panniers, a 20k km. review...

Last December while building my bike for a trip through Mexico i was contemplating which luggage to use. Having always had the security of aluminum panniers, i was always disapointed with the weight, bulkiness, bling and over regidity of using them and decided to try soft bags. This left we with only a few options, Ortlieb, Motosport, Dirtbagz, Andy Strapz and Steel Pony. For various reasons i narrowed it down to Andy Strapz and Steel Pony, due to their simplicity and lack of zippers. I finally chose the Steel Pony because they were the largest of them all, measuring in at aproximately 37l per side. There was also the claim of waterproofness, which i took with a grain of salt as i feel that the only bag that is truely waterproof is the Ortlieb, due to their welded seam construction and waterproof fabric. Indeed these bags were put through the test for over 20k km through the Western US and all of Mexico.
Construction:
The bags are made of a very durable canvas-like material which, to a degree is water resistant. They have a very simple roll-down velcro enclosure which works very well for keeping things compact, a huge advantage over aluminum boxes. The stitching is supurb :thumb. The bags hang over your seat with two straps, and have both lower forward and aft straps to attach to your racks to keep them in place, good for rough down-hill wandering.
Looking from the inside of the bags you can see where the canvas is doubled up for extra strength before it is stitched.
Each bag has a pocket inside that holds a piece of plastic making the bag rigid. This also searves as a good place to store maps and other flat objects, and it was never noticed during the most thorough military inspection.

Each bag has two pockets for one litre water bottles. This is an excelent idea! One of the most difficult parts of overland travel is efficiently packing adequate water, this makes it that much easier. I also used one pocket for extra tie down straps and my stove fuel bottle. The small straps securely lash everything down.

The Steel Pony bags are the only bag i found that have the option of securing a silicone pad to the exhaust side with velcro. This effectivly eliminates any concern reguarding melting or starting a fire from the hot exhaust pipe. Simple and brilliant!



The bags have two large plastic side release clips to secure them closed, and two more to attach the straps which hang over the seat. I found these to be simple and durable.


The small straps found on the bottom sides of each bad were the only ones that gave me any problems. The webbing is much smaller and the plastic clasps are too small, metal ones would be better. In fact i broke one rendering it useless. I found that when the small webbing got full of dirt and mud it was very difficult to undue, and the webbing itself is starting to fray. I cut the straps as short as possible to avoid any accidental interference with the wheel or chain, but in hindsight i wish i left them longer in the event of breaking a clasp and having to tie a knot. Maybe a simple pocket with a button would be good for storing the excess webbing?


Having something get caught in the chain or wheel was always a concern for me.
Waterproof:
Well, i hate to say it, but the bags are not wateproof. At least to my standards they are not. Considering that i live in the Pacific North West, where it rains for 8 months of the year, my standards are set pretty high. I don't believe that there is a flaw in the construction, or that i was not closing them properly, but that they are not waterproof simply by design. They are sewn together and made of canvas. Sure, they can handel a thunder storm, or maybe a few hours of rain, but after eight hours on the road with continuous rain, everything inside the bag was damp. I tested the bags when i returned home by placing a cotton tee-shirt in the middle of one amongst my belongings, and a pair of cotton shorts on the bottom of the other. After a full day of rain, hail, sleet, wind and generally horrible conditions, the shirt and shorts were wet, unwearable. Fortunately i double bag my down sleeping bag. I'm not upset by this as i really wasn't surprised as i did pack acordingly, but i do feel that the bags should be advertised as water resistant, and for true waterproofness, maybe consider making a strong waterproof liner with welded seams to sell along with the bags. I certainly would of bought them!
That being said, i am very happy with the bags overall :clap and i would recomend them to anyone who is looking for a large, durrable yet simple bag to use on their far away wanderings.
Steel Pony Gascoyne bags:
Cost: $315 AUS.
Silicone mat: $45 AUS.
Shipping to Canada: $101 AUS (They arrived in one week)
Customer Service: Superb!. Talk to Peter McGrath
Contact: Steel Pony Luggage Home

Last edited by Mr. Ron; 26 Apr 2010 at 22:01. Reason: Clarifacation of the waterproof comment, changed to water resistant.
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Old 26 Apr 2010
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Other aspects

Thanks for the review Ron, very informative with many useful points covered.
I'm curious about two other aspects. Firstly, was the amount of room you had sufficient and did you have any other luggage, such as for a tent, cooking gear etc?
Secondly, having used solid panniers in the past, was your decision to go for soft ones a good choice for you?

Geoff
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Old 26 Apr 2010
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Steel Pony Bags

Great review,many thanks.
I have been looking at exactly these bags for past few months & found the Steel Pony people very helpful with any questions that I emailed them.
One of my concerns was how waterproof they really were,now I know,"forewarned is forearmed" as they say.
I am also considering the Simpson bags for use as tank panniers,Has any one used these?
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Old 26 Apr 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kentbiker View Post
Thanks for the review Ron, very informative with many useful points covered.
I'm curious about two other aspects. Firstly, was the amount of room you had sufficient and did you have any other luggage, such as for a tent, cooking gear etc?
Secondly, having used solid panniers in the past, was your decision to go for soft ones a good choice for you?

Geoff
Hello Geoff. Inside the bags i carried my tent, sleeping bag and mat, kitchen, warm clothes, a pair of sandals and daily use stuff. The space was adequate as the bags are about the same size as your average ally box, around 37 litres each. The outside enclosure straps are very convenient for strapping stuff to the outside of the bag, like my tent poles, and my Dromedary water bag when i needed extra water. I use a Pelican Case top box for my clothes, lap-top and papers.
Soft bags vs. Hard bags, a loaded question! Both have their advantages and disadvantages. I like the security and waterproofness of hard bags, but i don't like the fact that they can be more dangerous in a crash, both to your sub frame and to your legs. Soft bags pack stuff tightly so it doesn't move around, a big bonus. With soft bags you need to be more vigilant as they are easily cut open and robbed. Soft bags are easy to repair and much cheaper. The weight difference is a non issue IMHO. If you want to save weight on your bike, go to the gym. Either way, its the gear that is all the weight, the bags or boxes is as much as you may dehydrate in one day in the dessert. Soft bags have less "Bling Factor", its easier to blend in. Really, no one is better than the other, you just need to adapt to whatever you choose to use.
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Old 26 Apr 2010
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Ripley 2010

Is there any one who owns a set of steel ponies going to Ripley this year? I like the look of these bags and so far I have heard nothing but good things about them. However I would like to be able to see, touch and feel these babies before I part with some hard earned cash.

Sadly from experience too much of what I have purchased over the internet has not been fit for purpose.

Great review, thanks.
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Old 28 Apr 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Ron View Post
Hello Geoff. Inside the bags i carried my tent, sleeping bag and mat, kitchen, warm clothes, a pair of sandals and daily use stuff. The space was adequate as the bags are about the same size as your average ally box, around 37 litres each. The outside enclosure straps are very convenient for strapping stuff to the outside of the bag, like my tent poles, and my Dromedary water bag when i needed extra water. I use a Pelican Case top box for my clothes, lap-top and papers.
Soft bags vs. Hard bags, a loaded question! Both have their advantages and disadvantages. I like the security and waterproofness of hard bags, but i don't like the fact that they can be more dangerous in a crash, both to your sub frame and to your legs. Soft bags pack stuff tightly so it doesn't move around, a big bonus. With soft bags you need to be more vigilant as they are easily cut open and robbed. Soft bags are easy to repair and much cheaper. The weight difference is a non issue IMHO. If you want to save weight on your bike, go to the gym. Either way, its the gear that is all the weight, the bags or boxes is as much as you may dehydrate in one day in the dessert. Soft bags have less "Bling Factor", its easier to blend in. Really, no one is better than the other, you just need to adapt to whatever you choose to use.
Needless to say, there's no easy answer to the hard/soft luggage conundrum. As you say, you live with what you've got. I think my preference is likely to be for soft, if for no other reason than cost.
What's really interesting is the amount of gear you managed to pack into them. You've clearly learnt the art of traveling light.

Geoff
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