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Equipping the Bike - what's the best gear? Anything to do with the bikes equipment, saddlebags, etc. Questions on repairs and maintenance of the bike itself belong in the Brand Specific Tech Forums.
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Giant Loop Motorcycle Saddlebags & Motorcycle Tank Bags: Panniers, Soft Luggage for Adventure & Sport Touring

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  #1  
Old 17 Jun 2008
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Ideal size of panniers - 35/37/41 litre?

Hi,

Sorry for such a basic question...but any ideas on what the ideal pannier size is? I know that all depends on what you pack etc but I'm quite new to biking and about the buy my first panniers for a Suzuki DL1000.

I have only backpacked before and tend to take too much but I do like to take camera gear and for a forthcoming trip around the Scottish Hebrides I'll be 2up with camping gear and my camera gear and some clothes.

My instinct is that say from a 37L to 41L (.e.g SW Motech Trax) is not much of a price difference and 'only' 10cm wider overall between the two (5cm each)....so why wouldn't I go for the bigger ones incase I end up using them for a bigger trip later (I already have a 48L Kappa top box)?

But when roughly measuring them out they make my bike seem reallllly wide.


So, any opinions? I don't want to be driving a bus but would like to be able to use them for bigger trips 2up further down the line....like the first bike, the first panniers seems to be a bit of a leap of faith.....especially when I can only see givi ones locally.

Thanks
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  #2  
Old 17 Jun 2008
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like you said, its down to how you pack. Bigger panniers mean you pack more and carry more useless junk, but small panniers mean that you might end up with more stuff strapped to the top.
I would personally go for smaller panniers and just take an ortlieb bag or similar that you can strap over the top of them. You can stuff all the soft bits into the ortlieb and put your precious items in the panniers. They make an OK back rest for the pillion too.

If you are definitely buying panniers you might want to check that the whole range has the same rack, which would make upgrading easier. A toolkit box further forward and low down (like in the bash plate) helps reduce pannier load and improves the weight distribution.
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  #3  
Old 17 Jun 2008
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There's nothing like small panniers to encourage you to take less stuff, and weight, while not as critical as it is when hiking or cycling, does make a difference to the bikes handling and fuel consumption etc.

My panniers are 36 litres and they are plenty big enough for most trips. To go with them you could buy a large roll top dry bag which can expand to carry extras like the food and stuff when you stop at the supermarket on a camping trip. As you've already done a bit of backpacking, my guess is that you've already got a fair bit of lightweight camping gear, so that should save a bit of space.
You'll probably curse yourself if you buy the smaller panniers the FIRST time you go camping, but once you've been you'll realise that you can leave a lot of what you took behind, and the panniers will suddenly seem big enough.

The old principle that you'll always fill any luggage you take with you (be it a rucksack, snowboard bag, bike panniers or a car boot) always seems bang on the money for me, so it seems to make sense to take small luggage! Remember that you already have a 48 litre top box, if you add two 35 litre panniers to that it's like back packing with 59 litre rucksack each, and that's without adding a roll-top bag or strapping your tent/sleeping mats behind the pillion.

Matt
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*Disclaimer* - I am not saying my bike is better than your bike. I am not saying my way is better than your way. I am not mocking your religion/politics/other belief system. When reading my post imagine me sitting behind a frothing pint of ale, smiling and offering you a bag of peanuts. This is the sentiment in which my post is made. Please accept it as such!
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Old 17 Jun 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Cartney View Post
Remember that you already have a 48 litre top box, if you add two 35 litre panniers to that it's like back packing with 59 litre rucksack each, and that's without adding a roll-top bag or strapping your tent/sleeping mats behind the pillion.

Matt
Yeh that's the problem - I backpacked with a 70L rucksack and a daypack for camera and laptop ;-> And that was with no camping gear....but with some climbing stuff, some trekking stuff etc. I'm pretty happy I can almost get tent, 2 camping mats + bags with stove in the top box. I think I'm swaying to the 37L side boxes and I can buy a top rack for the top box 'just in case'.....the larger boxes will make it like driving a bus and could lead to a lot of scratched cars when leaving town ;->

We had a few people out in Edinburgh for drinks via the edinburgh group last night...shame you missed it.
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Old 17 Jun 2008
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Metal Mules

We did the Africa west coast route with a Uber-large MM on the left and a medium on the right (so we must be legends!!!!). We also had an ortlieb (well, pacsafe in fact) on the back. And a 10ltr jerry. And 2 spare tyres. And 3-5 x 1.5ltr bottles of water. Phew.

No seriously, it did encourage us to pack slightly too much but then we could keep everything secure. It made the road sections a breeze (filtering? I'm not in a hurry luckily) but the off-road bits a nightmare. Still, we got through even though the extra weight was responsible for fracturing the rear-pannier frame loop (they do that on ATs with big boxes and offroad antics, or so I'm told)
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Old 17 Jun 2008
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Originally Posted by edteamslr View Post
they do that on ATs with big boxes and offroad antics, or so I'm told
If you have a big traillie with panniers and overlanding luggage and you don't snap your rear subframe then you probably weren't trying hard enough! My elefant suffered the same problem... by the end there was only one of the original bolts still intact and all my tyres irons had been swallowed by repairs.
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Old 17 Jun 2008
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Yes sir

Ah, the veritable tyre iron. A must for any offroading BMW too - damn those cast, shaft-drive struts.
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  #8  
Old 18 Jun 2008
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Good remarks about smaller boxes.However my own tuppeny worth is if you have larger boxes you can secure all your gear in them better than if you have a drysac strapped to the back aswell.If you work to the rule that the max width should be no more than 1 metre overall then you can calculate what width boxes you can carry on your bike.Mine have ended up being 57 litres both sides and are EXACTLY 1 metre wide!Sounds a lot but i have made the frames superstrong and can now carry everything in the boxes and lock it all away when i want to go walkabout somewhere.Weight distribution is quite simple given a little brain power and the bike handles well when fully loaded (XL600LM).
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  #9  
Old 18 Jun 2008
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JonStobbs is right, the first thing to do is to look at the overall width and 1000mm is spot on.

If you are touring the States (where you can't filter) and looking at long straight roads then you could stick massive panniers on the bike, but if you want to filter in traffic or do some narrow offroad tracks where you have to follow other vehicle's tyre tracks then limit the width to 1000mm max.

As others have said you can always stick a roll bag across the back. The other alternative is a tank luggage arrangement like Touratech's VP55 which has additional side sacks coming down the tank.

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  #10  
Old 18 Jun 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wanderingscotsman View Post
Yeh that's the problem - I backpacked with a 70L rucksack and a daypack for camera and laptop ;-> And that was with no camping gear....but with some climbing stuff, some trekking stuff etc. I'm pretty happy I can almost get tent, 2 camping mats + bags with stove in the top box. I think I'm swaying to the 37L side boxes and I can buy a top rack for the top box 'just in case'.....the larger boxes will make it like driving a bus and could lead to a lot of scratched cars when leaving town ;->

We had a few people out in Edinburgh for drinks via the edinburgh group last night...shame you missed it.
Fair enough, I've a bit of a 'kitchen sink' tendency myself! My mates are forever laughing at my toolkit (until they need something from it!). To be honest I don't ever ride two up (my lass does road accident cases for her law firm and is reluctant to pillion for some reason...) so I can see why you might need the extra room.

There's an Edinburgh group? Let me know next time you're heading for a pint!

Matt
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*Disclaimer* - I am not saying my bike is better than your bike. I am not saying my way is better than your way. I am not mocking your religion/politics/other belief system. When reading my post imagine me sitting behind a frothing pint of ale, smiling and offering you a bag of peanuts. This is the sentiment in which my post is made. Please accept it as such!
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  #11  
Old 18 Jun 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonStobbs View Post
If you work to the rule that the max width should be no more than 1 metre overall then you can calculate what width boxes you can carry on your bike.
1 metre is not a bad start, but I reckon that not going wider than the handlebar width (widest point) should be the rule. We crossed Northern Asia with Metal Mules and jeez they made the bike wide. Turned out a big mistake, because you just don't really consider the rear width that's outside your view. So when the Mrs had to manouvre out of the way of a car overtaking on here 'lane' she moved, but not quite enough as the car hit her pannier. She ended up flying into the ditch and nearly hit a tree in it. She was very lucky, the bike not so much and the pannier even less. That was the end of our trip.
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Old 18 Jun 2008
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even with my tint little gobi enduros I have managed to tough up the paintwork on a few cars....
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  #13  
Old 18 Jun 2008
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Smile

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Cartney View Post
There's nothing like small panniers to encourage you to take less stuff, and weight, while not as critical as it is when hiking or cycling, does make a difference to the bikes handling and fuel consumption etc.

My panniers are 36 litres and they are plenty big enough for most trips. To go with them you could buy a large roll top dry bag which can expand to carry extras like the food and stuff when you stop at the supermarket on a camping trip. As you've already done a bit of backpacking, my guess is that you've already got a fair bit of lightweight camping gear, so that should save a bit of space.
You'll probably curse yourself if you buy the smaller panniers the FIRST time you go camping, but once you've been you'll realise that you can leave a lot of what you took behind, and the panniers will suddenly seem big enough.

The old principle that you'll always fill any luggage you take with you (be it a rucksack, snowboard bag, bike panniers or a car boot) always seems bang on the money for me, so it seems to make sense to take small luggage! Remember that you already have a 48 litre top box, if you add two 35 litre panniers to that it's like back packing with 59 litre rucksack each, and that's without adding a roll-top bag or strapping your tent/sleeping mats behind the pillion.

Matt
I agree with this approach. I have 32 litre panniers - it's the smallest I could then get. Backpacking with 70 litres? Sorry, that's outrageous. Change your needs, dont get bigger boxes.

2x32 litres and a rollbag across should really be enough. OK we're all different, but actually I've met overlanding Africa travellers with about 20 litres of baggage.
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Old 19 Jun 2008
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Also agreed, I'm currently using a pair of Andy Strapz canvas panniers and a Ortlieb bag, all secured with Pac-Safes. On my Americas trip, I used Al Jesse boxes, which I liked for the security but were pretty damn heavy. Now I find I'm always thinking of things I don't really need or like anymore and what I can get rid of to cut down on what I'm carrying. The stuff I use on a daily basis is all in the Ortlieb and that includes a sleeping bag I've not even used yet. On my last trip, I made the mistake of carrying a synthetic sleeping bag, now I have a down one which is about half the size. Also, I have one pair of high ankle army boots and one pair of sandles instead of also carrying bike boots.

What ever you go for, definitely get panniers that are narrower than your handlebars, it makes it so much easier in heavy traffic.

And I didn't know there was an Edinburgh HU crew either, I'll have an IPA ta!

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Change your needs, dont get bigger boxes.
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Old 19 Jun 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Cartney View Post
Fair enough, I've a bit of a 'kitchen sink' tendency myself! My mates are forever laughing at my toolkit (until they need something from it!). To be honest I don't ever ride two up (my lass does road accident cases for her law firm and is reluctant to pillion for some reason...) so I can see why you might need the extra room.

There's an Edinburgh group? Let me know next time you're heading for a pint!

Matt
Matt is that an HU Edinburgh group, I wouldnt mind coming along .
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