Flexible panniers - what's your opinion?

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by randel, Feb 27, 2016.

  1. randel

    randel Been here awhile

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    Yes, not hard panniers and not soft panniers, but something what combines benefits from both. I would like if you take time to read my story and tell me your opinion.

    I got flexible pannier idea some years ago after reading different stories about aluminium panniers breaking legs and soft panniers been uncomfortable to load and most plastic panniers just not made for offroad use. So apparently there was a gap in market for adventure touring solution in my opinion.

    This is my story:
    When I bought myself a KTM 950 Superenduro with limited (or very expensive) options for luggage (at 2008) I started to make my own panniers to test my idea.
    Nylon/PVC combo 2009 - these bags are still in use by my friend, he has travelled more than 30000km with them now.
    [​IMG]
    But they weren't fully waterproof and zippers are not good when panniers are covered with mud.

    For 2010 - soft bags with removable frame. This was big fail, support frame was not working as expected, bags were moving around and influencing bike in curves, bags were not waterproof.
    [​IMG]
    After this trip to Poland, I destroyed them :)

    Second try - saddlebag with HDPE and polyester fabric combination, HDPE shell taped together with duct tape. Tested in Murmansk - http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/beyond-arctic-circle-russian-adventure.614915/
    [​IMG]
    This concept was big step forward and HDPE gave necessary strenght for bag to keep shape while not being too stiff. 99% waterproof, only water leak was through zipper at highway during heavy rain. But I didn't like saddlebag concept which blocked access to tools under seat.

    For 2011, I returned to side panniers + topcase concept. HDPE + cordura, tested in Georgia - http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/beyond-clouds-through-russia-to-georgia.728911/
    [​IMG]
    Great results, I got confirmation my concept is feasible - when hitting rocks with panniers you don't even notice it, and no problems with deformed panniers afterwards like with those made from aluminium.
    But construction needed improvement, using duct tape was not going to work in long term. Also, covering panniers with fabric seemed unnecessary - it made panniers more difficult to clean and it also made them much more expensive. Eventually, cars are painted, not covered with fabric, right?
    So I started to investigate different methods to make satisfactory design.

    For 2013 - new design with vacuum formed and welded HDPE. No fabric anymore, much better shape and weight of single pannier only 2kg (4,5 lbs). It was also much more expensive to produce so I shared costs with my friends and made several sets also for them.
    [​IMG]
    These panniers have now been used for different trips to Armenia, Eastern Russia, Tadzikistan (see above picture) and more. I have highsided at 80km/h with them, crashed several times, thrown out of moving car and abused them every other way I imagined. With great results - you can scratch them and even deform temporarily, but using a heat gun for 30sec and you can simply push dents out. Minor issues - because flexibility, they weren't fully dustproof, and don't crash with fragile stuff inside - flexible panniers (just like soft bags) will not protect them like aluminium panniers.
    Flexible panniers have another great feature - during crash they absorb impact energy and save bike and rider instead bending subframe (tested during my highside crash - bike had only minor scratches and perfectly straight subframe while panniers had several dents) or breaking legs.

    After these experiences, in my ( and my friends) point of view, flexible panniers are really a way to go.

    But before I managed to continue with my panniers project, I got invitation from Austria to start working in KTM R&D as a project manager. I couldn't refuse and that delayed my project for 1 more year.

    Now when I'm independent again I am really thinking about making my panniers available for everybody. But this also involves relatively high costs for making necessary molds etc, so I would like to get opinions from all you fellow Advriders, what is important for you? Is this concept interesting? What options would you like to see?

    I have already prepared 3D models for these panniers and included several design features what I feel are important:
    Flexibility - you can crash with them without worrying about destroying them
    Lockable like aluminium panniers but with single lock
    Waterproof like aluminium panniers
    Easy loading - top loader design
    Easy opening with 1 hand - when you arrive to your bike with a lot of stuff you will appreciate it
    Easily removable lids so you can use them during repairs for storing bolts, nuts, spare parts etc
    LED light mounted in lid and easily removable for using in camp - useful when dark
    Universal mounting for several pannier frame types like Touratech, Givi etc
    Easy mounting to/from bike - no need for separate keys etc
    All parts easily demountable for repairs
    Most parts symmetrical so you can reverse or swap them after crash if needed.
    Symmetrical pannier mounting - you can swap left/right panniers and use exterior canister or drybag bracket fore or aft panniers for better weight distribution or to make room for passenger legs
    Capacity ca 35/45 liters - 2 different widths for different user needs
    Weight with mounting frame ca 2,8kg/6lbs - thicker material than used for prototypes

    Accessories what I have in mind:
    Inner bags - I don't like taking dirty panniers with me to tent or hotel
    External brackets for jerrycans and drybags

    What else could be useful?

    Currently I am taking quotes from potential suppliers, when I'm ready for producing them I will open Vendor thread, until then - please share your opinions and ideas with me so I can provide you a product most suitable for adventure touring.

    Pictures from 3D model
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #1
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  2. Jim K.

    Jim K. Long timer

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    Now this sounds like a some real innovative thinking! I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes. It won't be for me, since I'm a sport bike guy who's looking for bags that don't require racks, as I'm guessing these do. Still, I think you're on to something with a modern material that can split the difference between soft luggage & rigid aluminum or plastic. Have you had any thoughts about using HDPE in "throw-over" type bags (sans racks)? Keep us all informed as your project progresses & Gut Gluck.

    (I've done some touring in the Tyrol...you come from a great place for two wheeled inspiration)
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  3. dragos

    dragos Master of disaster.

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    This would be probably the first non soft luggage that I'd actually consider. Great idea!

    The only thing I don't like is the symmetrical mounting.

    Most of the current hard cases are awful in that regard, because almost all current big adv bikes (GS LC, KTM 1*90, Tigers, V-Strom, new AT) have a right side assymetrical exhaust. So boxes are wide and look awful.

    Since all those bikes are mostly identical in this respect, maybe you can make a smaller right side bag that sits in the space above the exhaust.

    And since the boxes would be so light and also flexible, might it be interesting to explore a strap mounting system (like soft saddle bags over the passenger seat) that doesn't involve racks.
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  4. Camarodude

    Camarodude Been here awhile

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    :DI like, and I need bags....
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  5. Mastery

    Mastery Mr. Funny Man

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    Some people like symmetrical mounting, others don't. Even on bikes with one exhaust, I'm not really a fan of the design of having a smaller case on that side. On my Vstrom, a smaller case on the muffler side looks worse than having two same sized bags. Again, that's my personal choice, while others don't like that look. So perhaps having the ability to choose the sizes would work best to get more sales.

    Are you estimating these to be $500 a set, $1000 a set, or some other number?

    Personally, I think it's a great idea and you are onto something here.
    #5
  6. jml141

    jml141 Been here awhile

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    my experience is limited to say the least, but I Like the idea. However, I would like some sort of quick release mounting system that would be compatible with luggage racks. I think a mechanism that would allow the rider to quickly take the panniers off the bike (maybe with a rigid backing that would mount against the racks) would be a huge plus for the design. Is that part of the current design?
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  7. randel

    randel Been here awhile

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    Thanks for feedback! I see I have to clarify some aspects about symmetrical mounting idea and mounting concept overall.
    In my concept you can use pannier racks you like most (or already have) - is it Touratech, Givi or other. This defines also, are left and right pannier mounted in identical distance from bike centerline or asymmetrically. It depends from rack manufacturer.
    I should have said "adapter plate" in my mounting system description because it uses additional adapters (blue) which are mounted to pannier racks (yellow) with 4 tube adapters (red) and stay with racks permanently.
    Symmetrical adapter plate just allows you to mount same pannier left or right if you like. With different width panniers for asymmetrical systems you definitely are not going to swap them, it will look very strange then. But you can.
    I have planned to make narrow and wide pannier versions especially for those asymmetrical racks.
    Narrow version is about 180mm (7") wide while wide version is 230mm (9") wide. Lids are 40mm wider to give more space for mounting additional bags to them and also make room for lid locking mechanism without making pannier opening narrower.

    Panniers are mounted to adapters using "perimeter mount" - pannier has cutout same size as adapter plate and pannier movement in every direction is so effectively cancelled and all applying forces divided to maximum area. Panniers are locked to adapters with 2 white hooks visible in the picture. When you want to remove panniers from bike you just have to open lid, pull locking hooks up, close the lid and you are ready to go. Lids are locked with plunger locks, so keys are needed only for unlocking. Locking is also optional, when traveling outside cities, it's not necessary to lock them to stay closed.

    Pricing is still open but it should be around 500-600USD/€ for set.

    Saddlebags or other rackless system is high in priority list, but has to wait until I finish this design. Must be ready for 2017 season if everything goes as planned!

    [​IMG]
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  8. dragos

    dragos Master of disaster.

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  9. randel

    randel Been here awhile

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    Thanks dragos! I haven't seen Andystrapz solution, but it's really a clever one. I'm afraid my panniers are to tall to fit above exhaust like this, but otherwise very good point. Not many racks are made this way though, I am aware of BMW original frames and there are some others in market, but most are still flat.
    I have thought about cutout panniers and I already got an idea how to make my adapter plates to fit such pannier frames. Making a cutout pannier means additional mold for inner shell, but that's doable if there is an interest in market.
    #9
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  10. rsl47m

    rsl47m Been here awhile Supporter

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    I really like where this is going. Great idea! Good luck with production.
    #10