Hepco Becker + Caribou + Seahorse 720 install write up and review
I just finished installing Hepco Becker pannier racks on my 2012 G650GS along with Caribou quick release hardware on Seahorse SE720 cases. I bought the racks from Caribou along with their DIY case hardware kit.
This is the previous generation Hepco Becker rack without the quick release quarter turn fasteners. I'd prefer not to have those 1/4 turn fasteners as a week point in in the system anyway. I didn't capture any images of the rack install but it went relatively smoothly. The instruction suck terribly. You get a German copy and a horrible, horrible English translation. That said, they're good enough that with a little intuition anyone should be able to get the racks installed. There weren't any particularly terrible points in the rack installation. All the holes lined up close enough to where they needed to be to not create big headaches and all the required fasteners were there. I used blue Loctite on all the threaded fasteners and the racks took about an hour to an hour and a half to install. They seem solid but of course the real test will involve time and some washboard gravel roads.
The DIY quick release kit from Caribou is really intended for Pelican cases and I did have to do some very minimal modification to the Seahorse cases to get the hardware mounted correctly. You can see in the photo below where I trimmed off one of the ribs of the case with a pocket knife so that one of the brackets would lie flat. It's not by any means major surgery and it took all of 2 minutes.
After trimming the plastic I carefully aligned the plate according to the instructions, taped it in place with a half dozen pieces of wide blue masking tape, and drilled pilot holes in all locations with a self centering bit. I then removed the plate and enlarged the pilot holes with a step bit. This method resulted in clean holes that were all spot on.
The most time consuming task, for me anyway, was trying to make sure I put the holes in exactly the same places on the two different cases. I ended up drilling one case and then taking careful measurements from the case feet to the edges of the plate and transferring those measurements to the second case to assure that I got the holes drilled and thus hardware placed in as close to the same place on both cases as possible.
One moment of frustration occurred when I unpacked the Caribou hardware to find that the mounting plates that go inside the cases were not powder coated black as shown on the site. I could immediately see in my mind's eye the oxidized aluminum dust all over my gear. I emailed Caribou and Roger promptly replied that they have switched to another coating that's less costly than powder coating that will still prevent the oxidation. I asked what the new coating was but Roger neglected to say. I'm still a little nervous, as the coating scratched relatively easily as I installed the hardware, but I can always paint them if I need to. Only time will tell how well this new coating will hold up.
The case hardware overall looks like good stuff. I have no reason to believe that it won't hold up over time. One minor concern I have is that some paint was unavoidably removed from pieces of the rack and the case hardware during installation and when attaching and unattaching the cases from the rack. Firstly, the screw holes through the bracket that hooks on the back of the H.B. racks are too small once painted for the screws to fit through. That is, the screws take off the paint as you force them through the holes. The interface between the Caribou case lock assembly and the bracket that attaches to the HB rack is a very tight, painted surface to painted surface connection. This interface needs to be tight to keep the rack from being loose but paint on both the lock assembly and the rack bracket came off on the first case install. This will undoubtedly get worse over time. It would cost more but the only solution I see here is to use stainless parts. I just plan on lubing the rub spots well and regularly with Fluid Film, Boeshield T-9 or similar.
My last concern, and the more I think about it the less of a concern it is, is that even with the cases installed on the bike the jam nuts that hold the locking assembly in place are exposed. You could relatively easily disassemble the lock in a mater of minutes with the right sized wrench. Roger at Caribou assured me that they've never had a theft reported but it still makes me a bit nervous. The thing is, I could steal the case and the racks even faster with a halfway sharp hacksaw and/or crowbar. That is, if someone wants the cases they'll get them. In the end the locks probably are not the weakest link.
Of course the case no longer sits flat on a flat surface but I knew it wouldn't and this is hardly an issue for me. One could add a spacer to one side of the case equal in height to that of the lock assembly to make it sit flat but I don't plan to.
Had I designed the system I might have done a few things differently but overall I'm pleased. The set up seems rugged and will offer plenty of space for my daily commute and weekend trips.
Looks like a clean install. How are they working out for you?
I've been using them to and from work since I got them and took a short ride with the wife yesterday. Yesterday's ride was only about 150 miles, about 15 on gravel with some patches moderate wash-boarding. So far, so good.
The space has been more than adequate so far. We've got a longer distance camping trip planned for a couple weeks from now that will require more stuff so we'll see how that goes.
I haven't dropped the bike or done hundreds of miles on rough gravel with them, yet, but the rack and case hardware were all tight when I checked them after getting back from the trip yesterday.
That is, no complaints so far.
What's the storage capacity of those cases? 35L, 36L? Are the Hepco racks a tight fit to the bike? Nice work.
As p0diabl0 mentioned they're roughly 26L. They're 26.8L to be exact. Not the biggest but large enough for everything I've wanted to do so far.
The fit to the bike is pretty tight but I haven't seen them next to any other set-up though so I can't offer a comparison. I did measure and the width at the outside of the cases is nearly exactly the same width as the handle bars.
I can also note that I have done some mild off-road riding and have dropped the bike while at a near stand still (momentary lapse in concentration while moving the bike into the garage :huh) once since my last update. Besides a scuff in one of the cases everything is as tight and solid as the day I installed them.
Having used them an average of somewhere around 3 or 4 days a week since they've been installed for everything from camping to grocery shopping to hauling my laptop and various parts for work I think having the ability to easily remove the cases, pack them up, and then quickly mount them on and remove them from the bike while full is the way to go. On one camping trip the wife and I had to walk a ways from where we could park the bike back to the campsite. We just popped the cases off and carried them back to the site; piece of cake. When packing for a trip we can bring the cases in the house, pack them until they're about to burst, and then mount them on the bike. I have experienced a wide variety of scenarios like these where any system that doesn't allow the cases to be easily taken on and off the racks while the cases are full would have been a pain in the a$$ to say the least.
Overall I'm still very pleased and don't have any buyers remorse.
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