Jun 1 2008

Panniers, Saddle Bags and… StompGrip?


A lot of the material I read about adventure riding mentions the pros and cons of hard panniers and saddle bags. I’ve never been a fan of panniers, particularly on an off-road or adventure bike, where the rider frequently has to put his feet down, and where dropping the bike is a reality. Most panniers have hard corners, which I wouldn’t like to connect with in a fall. Also, being both rigid and metal, they really don’t seem likely to survive an impact (or frequent impacts, for that matter). Plastic panniers seem to be more rounded, but they’re usually smaller than their metal equivalent, and look as though they would hold less than a saddle-bag.

So, I’m settled on saddle-bags. No surprises there.

There also seem to be some differing schools of thought on how best to support saddle-bags. There’s a few reasons for this. Heat is an issue on whichever side of the bike the exhaust sits. I experienced this in Tasmania, where my buddy and I both managed to melt our side plastic, though this was only a little, and only on long, slow, difficult stretch, where the bikes were running hot and the bags were tied down hard. If heat is the only issue, I’d rather find a heat shield or spacer behind the plastic that stopped contact with the muffler. (We also found out, after some of the mount points tore off the bags, that you don’t need to tie them down all that much. They tend to move with the bike.)

Another issue, particularly where there’s dirt involved, is that of scratching the side-panels. My KLX-250 came back from Tassie with plenty of scratches, and the ones under the saddle-bags managed to get fine dust ground into them over the 10 days of the trip. Some saddle bags offer soft backing material, but I can’t see that making much difference. Even soft cloth with grit in it will scratch the plastic.

I’ve seen a variety of frames for the KLR and other bikes which can support saddle bags. Some of these are as heavy and involved as pannier frames, which seems a bit over-the-top to me. Some follow the contour of the side panels. Some push the bags out wide to give them a straight drop. None of them do it for me. As long as the sides of the bike are roughly symmetrical (something the KLR does better than my KLX, and even that was fine) and the plastic panels cover enough of the exhaust (and on the new KLR they do), I’d rather just let the bags sit.

The other day I found a product which looks as though it will address some of these issues. StompGrip is a clear, self adhesive rubber surfacing which provides grip and protection on hard surfaces. Most applications seem to be on the tank area, to give the rider knee-grip. I’m not sure if that’s a great idea on a dirt-bike, or even a dual-sport, where your ability to move independently of the bike seems to be just as important as your ability to hold on. But putting it on the side panels where the saddle-bags would rest might make sense. It would provide some grip for the bags, provide protection for the bike, and probably add another layer of insulation from the muffler.

Unfortunately there’s no kit specifically for the KLR, but they sell sheets of the stuff, so I could cut my own easily enough.

Now I just need to find that heat-shield or spacer for behind the plastic and I’m all set.

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May 11 2008

Andy Strapz


It’s funny the rabbit-holes you go down when you’re looking for (or at) things. I followed a link from Eastern Beaver to Ted Simon’s site – of Jupiter’s Travels fame. I’d read about Ted in a bike mag a few years ago (come to think of it, it was over 5 years ago, when I was shopping for my last bike… but I digress), just after he’d broken his leg. Even then this guy impressed me. He was 69 when he decided that riding around the world again was a good idea. Classy.

Haven’t got to my point yet. I should do that.

Ted Simon ditched a lot of the gear he was carrying when he got to Melbourne, finally realising that since he was generally known, he really didn’t need to camp all the time, or at least didn’t need to assume that he was alone in whatever county he was visiting. He sent his panniers and some other gear home, and acquired some soft panniers (I’d call them saddle bags, but that’s just me) from a guy in Melbourne.

Andy Strapz (for the moment I don’t know whether to refer to it as a person or a company) makes some really clever and functional motorbike gear. I love the flat strapz, and I think I’ll add those to the must-have list. As much as I love the ol’ ROK straps, the idea of adjustable tie-downs with just a bit of spring in them appeals to be, particularly on a long journey.

The soft panniers are really smart, too, Rather than a zip-up affair that gets wider (if anything) with the amount of stuff in it, these effectively get taller. Also, they roll down to the level of the stuff you’re carrying, so everything is held firm.

Wonder if I could put the Dri-Riders on eBay. None of his stuff is cheap, but it seems very good. He has a factory outlet in Frankston, too. Hmmm…

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