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-   -   Hard or Soft Luggage for an XR650L (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/honda-tech/hard-or-soft-luggage-xr650l-8941)

funklab 1 Apr 2006 01:18

Hard or Soft Luggage for an XR650L
okay, here is the deal, i just got my 1996 xr650L from a local guy, and i need to rig it with some bags before my trip. I have a bout a year and a month to get ready for my tour of the americas, the plan is to head south until i cannot any more, i am hoping for at least 30,000 miles and 6-8 months on the bike.

I want to do it cheaply. I was plannig on just strapping on some duffelbags, reinforcing the subframe a little bit and heading out, i am going to put on a 5 or 6 gallon tank in a few months, so the bike will be realatively heavily loaded.

but then i got to looking around, and almost everybody i could find who did a LONG trip on a xr650 put hard bags on it, you know the big ass aluminum ones.

do i really need to invest in a frame/alum bags setup for my trip. i plan on packing as lightly as possible, and i really dont want to weigh down the rear with anything i dont have too, i still want to be able to go off road sometimes.

so what do u guys think, do i really need the hard bags or can i get away with some soft ones?????

mattmbishop 1 Apr 2006 03:14

Howdy funklab,
I've got an XR650L as well, am three months away from leaving for Australia and hopefully South America after that.

I've decided to use soft luggage, after a fair bit of deliberation I might add. Basically I see the argument like this, alloy panniers are great for touring because you can lock them, they're bigger and basically indestructible. But being bigger and indestructible are bad things if you're planning to do alot of off-road work and that's why you've got an XR650, right?

The main danger with alloy panniers is getting your leg caught between them and the ground and SNAP, end of your trip. Also they transfer alot more load onto your subframe. Fine if you've got a Beemer but different on the XRL frame, even with reinforcement. Also, they stick out the sides alot.

Soft luggage will move enough under impact to prevent leg breakages, and it's easier to take off and carry if you have to get across an extremly knarly section. But there isn't much security. Well, none really. As long as you can accept this, I'd go with soft luggage, especially if you want to get the most out of your machine.

I've personally half solved the security problem by carrying my gear in roll-top bags inside my saddlebags. That means when I stay the night somewhere I can uplift all the gear from my saddlebags and carry it inside. I also carry a Pac-safe that I can put over my soft gear while on the road.

Now, as far as soft luggage goes, forget just strapping a duffel bag to the top of your bike. Been there, done that. For starters you can't carry much gear and secondly it's real bad for stability to have all your mass up high. Get a set of soft saddlebags and use a duffel bag on the top for your light, bulky stuff.

I made my own racks, and got saddlebags made to suit but if that's not your cup of tea then the following is the best off-the-shelf options I've found:

Dirt-bagz have a decent soft pannier system. I don't like the zips on the side, but they'd do the job. They even have an XR650L as their demonstration model on their website!

For slightly more capacity and durability, I'd recommend getting a happy-trails side and top rack and fitting a set of Andy Strapz expedition pannierz. This is the setup that one of my mates is using for our Australian trip.

For what some other people have done, check out these threads on Advrider:

And that's about what I know on the subject, hopefully that's given you something to think on. If you want to check out what I've done, my website is www.yonder.orcon.net.nz/aussie2006.htm The bike setup shown isn't actually what I went with and I haven't posted my new saddlebags either but that should change soon. Feel free to email me if you want more info.


[This message has been edited by mattmbishop (edited 31 March 2006).]

funklab 1 Apr 2006 11:38

Wow, thanks for the response matt,

i'd really like to see what you did with your bike if u have pictures, maybe it can give me some ideas.

perhaps i was unclear before, i didnt mean that if i went soft i would just strap a duffel bag on and go. I would get some kind of luggage rack, like the happy trails rack, and then strap on one duffel bag on each side, and one on the top. I am sure it would take some modifying of the bags and whatnot, but i think if i worked on it i could get it right.

anyway, thanks for your input and all of the links, it is all very helpful



chris 1 Apr 2006 13:38

Go soft, IMHO. Alli boxes might look the part, but as long as your soft bags are waterproof, you'll be fine.


BCK_973 2 Apr 2006 06:00

just look here


I prefeare hard.I love my panniers.
I tour with it,and if i like some harder off road just take them off and do the desired track.
My 2 cents


funklab 2 Apr 2006 16:49

bck, those looked like soft bags, i see you have a frame and what looked like maybe a hard top box, but the bags looked soft to me??? am i missing something????

BCK_973 3 Apr 2006 07:02

Sory,i had to explained a bit more.
The link is from a swiss rider who has done a great job for soft luggage.


This is my hard lug looking bike.More pictures on my blog,just check.



Ironbutt 3 Apr 2006 17:15

My 2c worth, found only one problem with soft bags. When you stop to go do shopping or whatever you either need to get someone to keep an eye on the bike for you or carry the bags around all the time as the youngsters in some countries have become very good at removing important items in a hurry. Can be a problem at times.

RichLees 4 Apr 2006 00:40

IMHO, there is no right or wrong, but that's cos I wanted huge range and autonomy to go well off the beaten track.

there are many advantages to hard luggage - security, camping chair, centre stand for wheel changes, capacity ... and many potential disadvantages - ankle breaking, crash damage etc. well mounted, they don't affect the handling and are no wider than the bars. most of the advantages and disadvantages are marginal: they're not very secure and you can put the bike on its side for wheel changes.

some interesting (?) stats on my two XR650s:
- XR650L fully loaded with 30 (?) litre Touratech ally boxes, carrying 43 litres of fuel and 10 of water, weighed about 230kg
- XR650R fully loaded with 40 litres of soft luggage, carrying 42 litres of fuel and 11 of water, weighed about 240kg and handled little better!!! at least it still had monster power to enjoy, tho ;-)

go light, go far, have fun!

[This message has been edited by RichLees (edited 03 April 2006).]

funklab 4 Apr 2006 23:23

240kg x2.2lb/kg = 528lbs

damn thats heavy, you got almost 50kg of stuff strapped to that bike, is it really gonna be that much for me???

RichLees 5 Apr 2006 01:51

Basic XRL weighs about 145kg so you have to remove some rubbish, add a lot of metal and you get to 170kg. then add 43 litres of fuel, 10 litres of water, some spare socks, a 3kg tent, food ... and, yup, you get 240kg!

I once strapped a 60kg stone rose on the back, but it messed up the handling. it looks good on my mate's patio, tho ;-)

if 22 litres is enough fuel, you could keep it around 200kg - you'd be doing well to keep it below that! a naked XR650R + modest luggage and 28 litre tank would be 180-190kg

funklab 27 Apr 2006 23:43

yeah, i guess with a bunch of fuel and water it all adds up

man, thats gunna be heavy

POB/London 28 Apr 2006 10:15

I totally obsessed over the prep of my XRL for an unsupported Africa trip (including very loing solo desert legs in Egypt, in July). I would do everything exactly the same way again, except perhaps for the topbox. Great for commuting, not so good for dune-bashing. Look in my sig for some links / my galleries and prep advice.

Listen to Rich, too. He knows. It is possible to 1) lose a LOT of weight from an XRL if you try and 2) sort the carburation, suspenders and power delivery.

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