Adventure bike riding questions answered by our team of experts
Q.Me and my F 800 GS are off on our first big trip this summer riding down to Morocco. While riding in the UK, I’ve made do with just a top box for essentials, but for this trip, I’m looking to invest in a full luggage system. The big question is: hard or soft? My main concern with soft luggage is that it won’t offer the security of hard, lockable panniers. I also prefer the look of alu boxes if I’m honest, but I know these don’t come cheap and I’m reluctant to spend a fortune on something which will take the brunt of a fall if the bike goes down off piste. Any advice would be much appreciated! Kevin Bryce, via email
A. Bearnie Brinkmann, MD of British luggage specialist Stahlkoffer (www.stahlkoffer.com) says: As a manufacturer of both hard and soft luggage, I can understand your dilemma when it comes to choosing luggage for your trip to Morocco. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, but let’s look at soft luggage first.
Soft luggage is definitely more versatile when it comes to off-roading. It’s a lot lighter than aluminium panniers, so picking the bike less energy sapping. Look for lightweight, waterproof and has been designed so as if you drop the bike, none of the clasps or locking mechanisms get broken.
If you’re considering the soft-luggage option, you need to make sure that the bags don’t move due to vibration and finish up next to the silencer, which is a fire risk, or catch in your chain, which can lock the back wheel. The Stahlkoffer system combats this with a blanking plate, which fits onto the pannier frame and prevents two of the main drawbacks with soft luggage. The other consideration of course is security and as you rightly mention, soft luggage is quite easy to steal.
Hard luggage made from 2mm-thick aluminium is far more robust and has the added value of being more secure than soft luggage. Look for a system that offers a ‘one-key-fits-all’ locking arrangement so you don’t end up carrying a massive bunch of keys with you wherever you go. Check also that the panniers are powder-coated inside and out so if you choose not to purchase inner-bags, your belongings don’t become marked by the untreated aluminium.
As important as security is the fact that your panniers stay waterproof. Many manufacturers claim in their advertising blurb that their panniers are waterproof, but under extreme conditions this isn’t always the case. Check on the manufacturer’s website for a testimonials page to see what other riders have to say about the luggage before you commit to buying. Finally, see if the manufacturer offers a warranty with their luggage system. Will they repair or replace anything if it breaks?
Hopefully this will help in your decision making. We have lots of riders who travel around the world using our British-made equipment and so far we have not had any real complaints!
Q.I’m trail riding in the Pyrenees in June 2013. What riding kit would you recommend given the need for protection and hydration? Price is important and I need a value-for-money solution for boots, jacket and trousers. Andrew Mack, via email
A. ABR’s gear editor Paul Jennison says: I rode in the Pyrenees last June and what I can tell you is to expect mixed weather! We had some torrential downpours but on the whole temperatures were up in the mid-to-high 30s.
As for riding kit, if your budget is restricted, get the best you can afford.
Make sure your jacket is at least showerproof with plenty of ventilation and take a cheap set of waterproofs. Ensure that the jacket fits well and has armour in the back, shoulders and elbows at least, and that the armour stays in place. The same goes for the trousers.
Hydration is also critically important. If you can get a jacket that accommodates a bladder system then great, but choice is pretty limited in entry level gear. A good all-round suit which covers all the above is the RST Adventure suit (SRP £379.98). I’d also recommend an additional hydration pack such as a Camelback, and make sure you allow for lots of drink stops.
As for boots, you’ll need a strong pair of fully armoured ones that give you plenty of protection; waterproofing is a bonus. I’d go for something like the TCX X-Desert (SRP £259.99) or Sidi Adventure (SRP £314.99). I hope this helps. Let us know how you get on at www.adventurebikerider.com.