10.07.2006,10:09 AM
Journey Review: Luggage

As a youngster I dreamed about riding across the country on a horse, throwing saddlebags and bed roll over horse and saddle. Now, so many decades later, my dream has come to fruition albeit my bike is my horse. Similarly, I have saddlebags, or sidecases, and bags draped over the seat and back of the bike.

For sidecases, I chose semi-soft Yukon II panniers from Moto-sport.com. These panniers have an aluminum backing that protects and supports them on easy-to-install mounts. At 27 liters, they hold quite a bit. The zippered liners with handles are great for easy loading and unloading, but they are not waterproof; neither the outer bags or liners. After riding several hours in rain the first day, everything in the panniers were wet; I hung everything inside them in my motel room to dry that first night. I since enclosed the packed liners in two large plastic bags to keep them dry.

A reason I chose this system is beause aluminum panniers can be mounted to the same brackets. Most Al panniers are waterproof and available in various sizes.

The Wolfman Explorer series of tankbags suit the V-stroms well because of their contoured bottom that nicely fits the bike's gas tank. I'm glad I chose the Lite version; the other would be too large for me. I often ride with my chest supported by the tank bag, enabling a comfortable forward position in which most of my body is relaxed. It helps for those long-distance, many-hours rides. I discovered that the rain cover is not waterproof, much to my dismay since I had to purchase it separately. I will try a coat of Scotchguard on it to see if that resolves the water problem.

The mounting system is a bit awkward, especially the front straps which have to be unclipped when fueling the tank. They usually slip down into the cowl and I have to fish for them with gloved fingers in an already tight space. I commonly refer to them as "those damned straps". I would also like to have had more room in the front zippered pocket; it's quite small.

Case for Laptop
Electriconic devices are expensive and delicate, including laptops. I bought a hard case to carry the laptop on the trip and it served its funtion well. Storm cases are similar if not equal to the popular Pelican cases: impact- and water-proof. They are engineered to enclose and protect sensitive electronic equipment in many challenging environments (including bear proof). I chose a Storm case over a Pelican for two reasons: less expensive and more color options. I added strips of reflective tape to the three sides of the case facing outward.

The inside contains three layers of foam. The inner layer is a cubed foam; you can pull out cubes to create cushioned compartments to fit the contents. The MacBook Pro, in a thin protective sleeve and plastic bag, fit inside perfectly. The test was when the fully loaded bike slipped on icy pea gravel on an incline and fell over on its side. Nothing, including the case and contents, were damaged in any way. In fact, nothing even budged from their place on the bike.

I lashed the case to the bike's luggage rack with tie-downs, bungee cords and a cargo net. Perhaps overdone, but I had peace of mind that nothing was going to move or fly off on this journey. Despite that it took forever to load the bike.........

I'll be investigating a better system to mount the case on the back to facilitate quick-release and mounting. A keyed mount would be ideal.

Packing gear
Considering the length of this trip, the limited carrying capacity, and the unpredictable and varied weather conditions, choosing and packing gear -riding, clothes, and camping- was a challenge. Off-bike clothes were kept to a minimum: jeans, two T-shirts, tank top, shorts, and sandals. A zip-up light fleece jacket with standing collar, a thin windproof nylon/spandex jacket, same cut as the fleeced, were the only outerwear (under gear and off bike). The summer clothes were mailed back when I reached Taos; it was unlikely I would need them and therefore unnecessary baggage.

Aside from three pairs of socks, one pair heavy wicking and warm, the only other clothes were a set of cold weather UnderArmors. These are expensive, but they proved well worth the expense. They are extremely light and thin, warm, and wick away moisture from the skin very successfully. I slept in them the night on Mesa Verde when freezing rain, wind and snow bombarded me in the tent. They were warm and thin underneath my insulated riding gear and excellent for layering. The only days I did not wear them were 'off-the-bike' days and the last day on the road when temperatures were in the 90's. They wash up easily in the sink and dry quickly when hung.

All clothing went into Coleman Space Saver bags, much like Seal-a-Meal bags where the air can be compressed out the bottom by a one-way exhaust. These bags significantly reduced the volume of my clothes into two tightly rolled bags that fit very well into the side cases.

Nearly all the camping gear, including battery-powered portable air pump, went into two dry bags lashed onto the pillion seat. The only items in a side case were the mummy bag (in a compression bag) and the Big Anges inflatable pad. I was also able to store the insulating liners for my riding jacket and pants in the dry bags. My mesh gear, both jacket and pants, were in a horizontally compressed nylon bag also in a dry bag.

One of the dry bags and two sets of webbed straps with D-ring extensions were ordered from Helen2wheels. The cord-close dry bag accommodated all the tent components, including ground cloth, the portable air pump and one of the outer gear liners. The straps were a godsend. I will be ordering more of those and an extra set of the D-ring extenders; in bright yellow!

The dry bag contained the long compression bag of mesh gear, a folded Therma-rest pad, the Big Agnes sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, and anything else that needed a 'home'. As you can see from the photo, the bright orange increases visibility; I also added a length of reflective tape on the black bottom of the bag.

Both bags were strapped to the bike in front of the Storm case with the webbed straps and one heavy duty bungee cord. A cargo net on top completed the attachment. When I stopped overnight without camping, I left these two bags strapped on to the bike and removed the laptop case and sidecase liners with contents. When camping, everything came off the top of the bike, but most of the contents of the sidecases stayed in.


posted by Macrobe
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