BMW Vario Panniers

Discussion in 'Parallel Universe' started by Fast103, Aug 9, 2012.

  1. Fast103

    Fast103 Adventurer

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    I am planning a South American trip....riding from Canada. My F650GS twin came with these and Vario top box. Should I change them for Touratech or other aluminium panniers? Any advice would be appreciated.
    #1
  2. dmaxr1

    dmaxr1 n00b

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    I had a minor crash on a rental F650GS on asphalt this week and the vario sidecase ripped apart. The plastic tabs on the back were already bent and let the case flop around a little, personally, I don't like them...but I'm a noob too.

    I ordered pelican kit from twisted throttle for my F800GS, but to be honest, if I already had the varios, I probably wouldn't replace them...

    Trip sound like fun, good luck.
    #2
  3. GH41

    GH41 Been here awhile

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    I like the Vario top case over others. The fact that it is expandable and removes in 2 seconds is important to me. I went with 9 inch Jesse Safaries for the sides. I didn't want the wide ass look most of the others have but I don't travel heavy. I had no interest in side loading Pelicans. If your Vario sides are in good shape they would sell quick in the fea market here and probably fianance half of a good set of alumimum cases. GH

    [​IMG]
    #3
  4. Dorito

    Dorito Dreamer and Doer

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    Well, you aren't going to get many tip overs with the Varios. Mine survived a less than a handful, but they were all mostly controlled drops than crashes. Even then, I had to disassemble them as they would "skip a tooth" on the expansion gear cog on crashing.

    Then I bought a set of adventure cases, and those aren't really waterproof for long. Now I am seriously considering soft bags or Jesse's.
    #4
  5. markymcd

    markymcd Been here awhile

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    I have the varios on mine, mainly because there was nothing else available as I got my bike when they were first coming off the boat. Once the others started coming in I thought I would not end up being happy with the varios.

    Now that I've had them for over 4 years I have to say I quite like them. They've seen lots of off road drops including a few semi unpleasant ones.

    Truth is they hold up quite well and the rack system is barely noticeable when the cases aren't on. Obviously they're not as durable and repairable as some of the metal cases but in any sort of crash most cases can be destroyed. Jesse's and Pelican are pretty hard core. Their are also lots of really cool new very light waterproof soft case systems available.

    You will need to figure out how much space you need, how light you want them to be, how durable you want them to be and how much money you want to spend.

    I seem to recall an awesome thread on ukgser.com where someone did a very comprehensive comparison of tons of different cases that were available for the 800. I'd troll around on their and see if you can find it.

    cheers,
    Mark
    #5
  6. Wildman

    Wildman In my castle

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    He posted it here too, linked in the thread index: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showpost.php?p=11386007&postcount=288
    #6
  7. JRWooden

    JRWooden Long timer

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    I have the Varios and find them durable when not expanded and somewhat less durable but acceptable when expanded.
    Since I ride most of the time without the sidebags I do like the fact that the bike looks very "normal" with the panniers removed.

    The Caribou panniers do have a mechanical "fuse" that allows the bags to break-away in a crash. I don't know of any of the others that have this feature. The lower mounting bracket on the Varios breaks away ... If I were going on a long trip I might pack an extra of that u-shaped mounting clip.

    I have a spreadsheet of pannier dimensions, volumes, and estimated costs that I can share with anybody that wants it...
    Just PM me... or if someone knows how I can post it to the forum that would be even better.
    I don't guarantee it to be 100% accurate, but its a good start.
    #7
  8. Fast103

    Fast103 Adventurer

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    Thanks for all the advice! What are the thoughts on Touratech panniers?
    #8
  9. GH41

    GH41 Been here awhile

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    I looked at them but I just didn't want to go that wide and they are in the same price bracket as the Jesee cases. My offroad riding consist of dirt roads. I can't imagine realy traveling offroad with 40" ++ cases. If I did have to load up I would keep my 9" cases and throw something like a Giant Loop bag over the hard cases. When you start adding weight to our 400+ pound bikes it adds up in a hurry! It is easy to pack 50 pounds of gear in panniers that weigh 40 pounds. You will suprised how much of a dog your 70hp bike becomes. GH
    #9
  10. ki_ote

    ki_ote Cindi Jo Admirer

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    GH41, that's a nice look. I have just about decided on an f800gs and if I do I'm gonna steal your panniers setup. Thanks.
    #10
  11. JRWooden

    JRWooden Long timer

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    If my memory is correct, the Jessies also are adjustable by a few inches front to rear, so if you are riding without a pillion you can slide the panniers forward for a better center-of-gravity.

    The only reason I don't have the Vario top case is because it does NOT slide forward ...
    I may have to make a custom mount ... :evil
    #11
  12. GH41

    GH41 Been here awhile

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    JR, mine move fore and aft about 3 inches but the truth is I can't tell the difference in weight distribution. Remember that I am not an aggressive rider! What moving them forward does do is increase the dificulty level of mounting the bike. I am 6'1" ++ and my old crotch isn't limber enough to do anything other than poking my right leg through the slot between the bags and raised front of the seat. Moving the bags foward shortens the slot. GH
    #12
  13. JRWooden

    JRWooden Long timer

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    GH41:

    3" is not a whole lot ... I was under the impression it was more...
    I had one trip where I was heavily loaded and had not cranked in quite enough pre-load on the reas shock and got a bit of a high speed weave ... I was thinking that being able to slide the bags forward would give a bit more "tolerance for error" there but maybe not...

    I'm now more careful about setting the pre-load and I'm OK ...
    THANKS!
    #13
  14. Fast103

    Fast103 Adventurer

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    Ok so I just sold my Vario panniers, kept the Vario top box, and will get Touratech panniers as due to the low Euro they are not a bad deal.
    Thanks everyone for the advice!
    #14
  15. GH41

    GH41 Been here awhile

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    You may want to drop a tooth on the front sprocket to pull the windage and weight of those panniers loaded. I am not trying to spoil your trip but these bikes are not over powered. 50-60 pounds doesn't sound like much of a load but your bike will feel like an overweight pig with the stock gearing. GH:freaky
    #15
  16. Fast103

    Fast103 Adventurer

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    Thanks for the advice. I only weigh about 150lbs and will be travelling I guess with 50 lbs. Do you think It will still be necessary to drop a tooth? Of course there still will be the wind to deal with.
    #16
  17. GH41

    GH41 Been here awhile

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    Even with one less tooth in front you will still be geared higher than the F800GS and they do fine at internet speeds. It will only cost you $35 and a little labor to try it out. I don't have TT cases but I bet my Jesses with mounts weigh 35-40 pounds empty! The Vario top case with mount probably weighs another 15-20 pounds. Then there are the things you will be carrying loaded or not. My tool kit, air pump and tire repair stuff probably weighs another 10 pounds. Bug cleaner, chain lube yadayada. Do you see where I am going with this? You could easily add 100 pounds before you load up for the trip. GH
    #17
  18. Fast103

    Fast103 Adventurer

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    Ok! Fully understand and will try it out. Thanks man!
    #18
  19. Ceri JC

    Ceri JC UK GSer

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    Varios are much tougher than people give them credit for. A lot of people, usually those with aluminium cases or a penchant for soft bags, will claim authoritatively that "they'll shake themselves to bits" or "the extending box might be a nice feature to go to starbucks, but would break in 2 seconds of real adv riding". You don't, however, read a lot of instances of this actually happening to people who have them and put them through their paces.

    Mine have been on the bike for about 40K miles, including plenty of offroad. The bike has lived outside in the rain for half its life. My Varios rattle a little now and I decided* to get a new attachment mechanism (available as a seperate part) after damaging one in a crash that wrote the bike off, where the box concerned hit a car at a closing speed of about 50mph. Otherwise though, they're like new. They're still waterproof and after a wipe down with a damp clock, they look in far better nick than any other hard luggage I've seen of equivalent age/mileage. They also have a very nice feature in terms of how they line up with the pillion seat to make for a large flat surface to tie large items to.

    I have come very close to replacing them with 31L Metal Mules a couple of times, but have never quite been prepared to lose the expandability. Being able to have a pannier narrower than my mirrors, but when parked up, I can extend to accomodate a full face enduro lid, or a size 11 pair of Tech 3s is real boon.

    *I didn't need to, it was just more stiff and slower to attach/detached than I'd have liked.
    #19
  20. Kiwi Dave

    Kiwi Dave Beemer Boy

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    I have a couple of questions for the end user.
    First, will you be traveling solo on the bike?
    Second, Are you planning a RTW trip or just a lap around the proverbial block?
    Third, is security bound to be an issue where your going to be traveling?

    Without going into long stories of all my trials and tribulations with BMW Vario panniers I'll just share what I have found to work. At the end of the day, and at the end of the journey, this is what's important, to have something that just works the way it's meant to.

    When riding solo I use soft luggage. Not I'm trying to endorse any particular brand here but it's a Giant Loop and it carrying as much are as little as I need and works full stop. I can mount it to the bike without the need of a special rack for it and its on and off the bike with just the simple cinch down straps that loop around the pillion pegs. Simple and very easy to use. When I get where I'm going, everything comes off the bike at one time and nothing is left behind to "grow legs".

    Having said this, when traveling with my wife along, we use Touratech boxes along with the Bmw Top box that came with the bike. The top box locks so camera equipment and other valuables are kept in here. We use roll top stuff bags for clothing and other essentials and these just slip into the panniers and thus easy to grab out and and haul into the motel without removing the boxes. Our wet weather gear all goes into one stuff bag and gets lashed to the lid of one of the panniers for quick retrieval. The more we travel by bike the less we take and now have our luggage requirements down to a bare minimum science. We have gone away for a month at a time and never wanted for more room from our luggage containers.

    Just quick word on the vario boxes. Yes they look good and have the "BMW Motorrad" written across them and have a cool handle and expand to fit half of Africa all that jazz. All this doesn't mean squat if they don't work really well. Take what you have read from these replies and don't waste your hard earned money. Get something that will work and continue to work for months and years to come.

    I hope this helps. If you like, I'll post a very funny photo of yours truly, and my trusty steed, covered head to toe in mud and a vario pannier lashed to the pillion seat. :rofl:rofl:rofl:lol3

    All the best,

    Dave
    New Zealand
    #20