A soft-baggage BOOM for hard-charging adventure riders

Publish Date: 
Mar 20, 2013
By Dennis Johnson

UP UNTIL RECENTLY it seemed luggage options for the adventure bike market trended toward big beefy boxes — large aluminum or plastic cases that made a KTM or BMW rider look as if he were running an international cargo service. Sure there’s always been soft saddlebags, tank bags and other assorted bits, but for the most part, luggage for the AdvRider crowd was built with the American Tourister gorilla — or 1,000 miles of hell-shot terrain — in mind.

The hard bags of yore are still around, but the booming adventure bike segment has given rise to a number of companies producing rugged, waterproof, high-capacity soft bags that are lightweight and ready to rumble. At Dealer Expo were manufacturers charging forth into the wild with soft-sided goodness that feature compression systems and the ability to mount to a bike with little to no special hardware.

The lineup includes Bend, Ore.-based Giant Loop; Wolfman Luggage out of Longmont, Colo.; and Bags-Connection, a German company distributed here in the U.S. by Twisted Throttle, to name a few.

Giant Loop’s founder, Harold Cecil, told us that his business has evolved from two adventure bike riders with only a single saddlebag available into a company that, for 2013, launched four entirely new products and revamped its entire collection. Last year the company secured a Small Business Association-based working capital loan to aid with brand penetration and hired a new design director.

The unique Giant Loop lineup includes a saddlebag/tail bag system, the Coyote, that resembles a life preserver and fits on a bike where a passenger would normally sit. The company’s Siskiyou panniers require no rack or special hardware, and feature heat shields and two internal waterproof liner bags. Cecil pointed out that the bags accommodate a combined capacity of 70 liters, and riders can travel two-up without changing the configuration. Added capacity — 120 liters worth — can be added via the Fort Rock top case that easily handles bulky items such as sleeping bags or jackets, Cecil said.

Cecil said soft luggage such as the Siskiyou panniers are about 30 lbs. lighter then the typical hard-luggage system. They also help position the weight much closer to the center of the bike, he explained.

Over at Wolfman Luggage, Eric Hougen explained that the company’s new Rocky Mountain saddlebag has the same large storage volume — about 70 liters, all told — as a hard-sided piece, but can be much more forgiving in the case of a get-off.

Hooking an ankle on a hard bag in a crash is a possibility, but with soft luggage there’s a lot more give. Additionally, the bags feature a compression system that keeps them in place while still allowing the luggage to be easily released from the side racks. (Continued)