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I agree very much with your view on alloy panniers, Ok for the odd Rally in a field or carting your sarnies into the city on your GS triple dark. We left home with two sets of TT zegas picked up like new off ebay - powder coated them - up graded the totally shite locks etc. One small fall bends the things out of square and lets the water in. We junked Angies boxes in the USA, she now has Wolfman panniers that have been great so far. I'm junking my TT boxes and converting 1550 Peli cases to panniers on TT frames for me. I've seen three overlanders with a Peli case set up and all have only good things to say. They look to survive off's well and are reasonably secure. I will say though that the TT frames are bloody good, My bike is LOADED and even after 7000 miles off road have been fine. Angie bent hers in falls and they bent back into shape and no breaks. Metal mule are by far the best alloy boxes but one fall and they will be buggered - My vote goes to Peli..
Pelicans are totally the best compromise of all solutions but I've so far been too lazy to build the pannier rails for them.
Very interesting discussion going on here! Thought I'd post my two cents worth too:
On my particular bike soft bags do look better than hard panniers imho. But soft bags are so simple to get into that it's not funny. I had my stuff stolen twice now and have had enough. I know what you guys mean by 'nothing is impossible to break into' but no one can deny that any alloy case is harder to get into than a soft bag.
That soft luggage will handle a crash better is utter rubbish. What they do is deform and transfer the impact forces to whatever is in your soft bags. If they only contain clothes then you might end up with torn up clothes (which could still be expensive), if it's your laptop then the soft bag becomes very expensive…
Alu cases may deform in a crash and may no longer be waterproof but they did take most of the impact and did protect your stuff, which the soft bag wouldn't do. You can always use an innerbag that is waterproof… that way you have impact protection, better security and dry clothes.
Soft panniers are not waterproof. My set of soft pannierz from Andy Strapz leak. The Ventura soft bike pack system leaks even more. After a minor bit of rain I had ducks swimming in them… The Ventura tankbag is even worse than that. After 15 minutes of rain, with the extra raincover over it, I had a drowned duck in it... and even the totally waterproof roll-top bag will leak when it has bounced over the road at 80 km/hr...
Taking all your valuables with you sounds easy but isn't when you like to go for a long walk and have to carry all the stuff with you up the mountain. Been there, done that... didn't like it at all.
Like a few others I looked at MM as they even have a rack for my bike as well (although flattened and drilled pipes are just simply amateurish). Still, if the bloke selling them here in Oz would have responded like a human being and if Paul Goulding would have been interested in anything more than just cold $$$$ then I probably would have bought them.
As it is I got fed-up with the feeling of getting ripped-off and made my own!
It turned out to be far easier than I thought too. I made mine from composite aluminium/plastic/aluminium panels of 3mm (made by Ullrich aluminium). Brilliant stuff! They come powdercoated on both sides in several colours (mine are black) and are stronger than plain aluminium sheet. When deformed you can knock them back into shape just like normal alu. I Sikaflexed and riveted 30mm alu angle around it and put ball-corners at the bottom. The composite panels are lighter and stronger than sheet aluminium and… cheap too! I made two 35 litre cases for just AUD $200,-- in total and have enough sheet left for a second set.
I opted not to worry about complex mounting systems as I basically do NOT want to be able to remove the panniers easily, so that the thieving bastards can't take them off easily either! No thin walled small loops, flattened pipe, poor quality welds, pathetic little brackets and 'smart' locking systems to break or bend. Just simply bolted into place over the full length and width of the pannier.
Ok, they are not easy to take off the bike. I have inner bags for that. Why would you want to take them off anyway? If they are secured to your bike then they are much better there than in your tent, or hotel room.
Are they waterproof? More than likely as each joint is covered in Sikaflex with roofing quality silicone on the inside as well. But I work on the assumption that they do, or will, leak. Hope for the best, plan for the worst! So I put a rubber self draining bung in the bottom so that it won't fill up and use waterproof inner bags to keep my stuff dry.
I believe that for adventure travel - aka overlanding (to me what HU is about, as opposed to conventional touring) these rigid plastic cases and the racks that must be bought with them are perceived as being very convenient and elegant but a bit flimsy when it comes to full loads on rough roads and rough treatment for months on end. They are not made for this sort of riding.
Nor are many bikes chosen by overlanders of course, but what most first timers aspire to do is to limit possible problems down the road, both in machine choice, set up and equipment. The critical difference with regular touring is that on the way to Kathmandu or Timbuktu there won't be any Givi dealers at hand and broken luggage mounts/racks are a regular problem and a real nuisance. I recall some guy describing his Givis as "great cases, terrible rack".
Much of it comes down to a solid mounting method that can take the knocks/vibration, overloading, falls and occasionally riding too fast for the conditions. This won't always be the most slick and convenient solution but is more important on the long road.
The picture below is of a couple's BMW with some quarter million miles and many years RTW. Two up and they use Givi Keyless panniers + a cheap Walmart box on the back. They must have tried many options over the years and the Givi set up works fine, but they are trundling along, living on the road at a steady pace with a well practised routine.
Then again look at this picture. Fine for the autoroute but ask yourself if that setup could handle a ride up the KKH, a corrugated track in Africa or even filtering through Lima at rush hour?
People seem to polarise between 'soft' and 'hard' luggage, but I've listed a 3rd category in AMH6: 'firm luggage' - injection moulded Pelicases, Nanuks, Caribou and the like (mentioned by me earlier). Heavy and side-loading (mostly), but tough, lockable and like Givis, with rounded edges and corners. I have never used them on the sides but I imagine they dig in less on dirt spills (and so don't stress the mounts) + hurt less than a 90° metal edge when laying on your leg in a roadside ditch.
You have to add fashion or 'the look' into it too. Givis are 'the wrong look' ;-) though clearly Ken and Carol above, as well as many experienced overlanders have got beyond that.
There is also the fact that an alloy case looks more secure (tho' few locks are, IMO). With no personal experience, most first timers seem to choose alloy cases for a first trip, with a few migrating to softer baggage, especially for harder off-highway riding conditions. Very few seem to turn to Givis and the like.
As far as aluminum panniers I would say the Jesse bags are the most robust and quality.
That being said Caribou Luggage is pretty impressive, and designed to take a spill.
The latch is designed to break and release the case from the rack in a hard crash therefore saving the racks and your subframe.
Then you simply replace the $25.00 latch.
In 2003, two couple friends and us, followed the Silk Road across China. One of those bikes T-boned me in the center of the Jesse Bag, so that the outside was 'V' d into the inner or wheel side. I had it straightened at a Nanjing moto shop, and not only did it work perfectly but has never leaked. These cases are 'bullit-proof'. No damage to the frame or the bike. I'd estimate the speed at 70mph and we spun 180 degrees. So a heavy hit. Don't even ask why!!
As for the plastic discussion, I have an MTS 12 and the stock cases, while beautiful, and work quite well, would never consider and adventure trip with them. They are function following form. let alone SMALL even with the large lids, and to flexible in the mounting system.
As the title of this thread is specific about alloy panniers I'll keep to them. If you want the best get metal mules no questions. No other alloy pannier has the same build quality and design.
BMW and touratech alloy, made of soft aluminium and don't have over lapping lids, so when it drops it bends (read squashes) and then leaks.
Trax/sw motech same but even less robust
Jesses built like a tank but the mounting system flawed, perfect for cruising the highway but forget it you are going off road Forget it.
Stalkoffer not experienced but at least have overlapping lid from what I have seen, unsure of mounting system
Ardcases, tried my best to destroy one of these and failed, great value for money
Happy Trails, did what they say on the tin, survived 8 RTW with at least 1 crash and a few drops.
For anyone thinking of buying alu panniers first decide are the for highway use only, if so any will do, or will you be roughing it, gravel roads, potholes, boulders, bike drops, remember the mounting system is as important as the pannier, how precious will your cargo be? Do you want it strewn all over the road when the lid falls off or it collapses in a minor off. You probably won't mind if it leaks if only used at weekends or a week in the alps, might get a bit annoying on a RTW.
I think Panniers are a personal choice, I have noticed a lot of brave people putting a lot of effort in to geting there opinion across as to which is best Soft or Hard, someone even mentioned a few people who use soft ones but I could name another 50 people who use hard cases. I personally use both but depends on where & what trip I am on, if I am on a relatively short one ie: 4 weeks or less I would use the soft ones, but any longer I prefer the hard panniers as I like to carry things on top of them like chairs & food etc. The biggest issue that I have seen on serious travel is not the panniers being hard or soft but the size of the bike ! At least 1/2 the people I come across have fallen prey to an image rather than reality, & really struggle with there bikes regardless of what panniers they have.
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