Hard vs. Soft Saddle Bags (Panniers)

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by Jay S., Nov 11, 2011.

  1. Jay S.

    Jay S. 600cc Beast

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    I know this is largely a matter of opinion...

    I've done a few overnight trips and once did a 4 day trip. I'm planning my first 2 week trip for this coming April/May. For those who have done multi-day trips, do you prefer hard or soft luggage? And why or why not? When I did my 4 day trip it seemed like I spent a lot of time getting everything on and off the bike each night and morning. I figure with hard bags I can simply pull off my tank and tail bags and be done in a couple minutes and simply leave the hard bags (lockable) on the bike each night.

    Thoughts? I posted this in road warriors as I don't do any off-road riding...yet. Thanks.

    Jay
    #1
  2. rocker59

    rocker59 diplomatico di moto

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    I use Hepco + Becker Junior hard luggage.

    It locks.
    It's waterproof.
    It removes from the bike easily, if I need it to go inside.
    It's easy to remove contents, carry them inside, and leave the bags on the bike if I want to.

    There are some good drybag solutions for soft luggage, but I just prefer the hard stuff...
    #2
  3. JamesG

    JamesG Rabid Poster

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    I've had both and lockable hard cases win hands down. You can leave them on the bike without worrying about the bags not to mention your stuff disappearing.

    I much prefer top opening because they are much easier to load/unload and they and their hinged lids make great horizontal surfaces for working on.

    The only advantage to soft cases is the lighter weight and usually the lack of having to have hard, bolt-on mountings. .
    #3
  4. Jim K.

    Jim K. Long timer

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    Yep, you put your finger on it, the hard bags have quite a few advantages. They lock to the bike, they are usually waterproof, they can protect expensive bike parts (& human parts) in a tip-over, also, I've had my old Concours hard bags pass muster as "bear resistant" food safes up in northern Quebec. The flip side is that they are more expensive, and it's an expense that usually goes with the bike when you sell it. With rare exceptions, the old bags don't fit to your new bike. Systems vary, but many setups leave fugly bracketry hanging off the bike once you've removed the bags themselves. Lot's of folks don't like the ugly iron bits bolted to their beauty. Soft bags can be built water proof, & they are easy to take off & put on, basically just throw over the seat. When off the bike, they don't leave any brackets. They are lighter, often significantly, than hard bags, something only our track oriented brethren care about.(but we all should).
    Your choice... It's money, aesthetics, convenience, you have to balance it up yourself.
    #4
  5. canadianshark74

    canadianshark74 Adventurer

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    I took soft bags on a 1 week trip this year.

    I hated them. They were more of a pain.

    Like you said, the time spent putting them on and off the bike....

    Spend the money and get hard bags.
    Some companies like sw-motech's racks can also come off the bike for that "clean look" when your beauty isn't wearing hard luggage.

    Sent from my BlackBerry 9700 using Tapatalk
    #5
  6. Cat0020

    Cat0020 El cheapo

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    I have had experience with BMW hard panniers, GIVI hard luggage, aluminum panniers from Happy-Trails & Touratech.

    Soft luggage from Ventura and Giantloop..

    All I have to say is: Soft luggage wins, carries more, cost and weigh less.

    As a motorcyclist, I've never felt the need to lock my luggage... no one ever messes with my stuff.
    #6
  7. Jimmy the Heater

    Jimmy the Heater Dirt Farmer

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    Location:
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    I did a 3000 mile 5 state trip on my Ninja 250 with soft luggage. Here is why I will never do that again.
    Going over Cascade mountain pass- rain cover blew off, soaking my camping gear and sleeping bag. Couldn't get emergency trash bag rain cover to stay on at anything above 30mph.
    Stop at the beach- went down long enough to put my toes in the Pacific Ocean but then back to the bike because I didn't want someone to walk off with my laptop, camera, iPod, etc.
    San Fransisco-Rode through the city and that was it. Didn't want to stop and go to the Rock, see the pier, ride a cablecar because I would come back and find all my stuff gone.
    Yosemite-Wasn't going to miss something I had never seen before so I turned my tank bag into a backpack to carry my most valuable stuff and went on a lil hike. Came back and my stuff had been gone through even though I had parked in a pretty safe spot right next to the ranger station. (Nothing gone thank god)
    Reno-Got a hotel room to stash my luggage in just so I could ride the bike around town and not worry about it.

    Now my only problem is that the Ninja 250 and Ninja 500 have no option for hard side cases other than to custom fab something.
    #7
  8. dduelin

    dduelin Prone To Wander, Lord, I Feel It

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    Hard bags...if they are waterproof they are dustproof, they are more secure both in protecting contents and protecting your bike. The attachments don't abrade & scuff paint or get loose and get caught in moving parts when tossing the bike around on the road. It doesn't matter if they are 10% or 100% full they attach and ride the same way. I have to take soft bags on the airhead and wish they were hard and integrated like the ST.
    #8
  9. DynaSport

    DynaSport Been here awhile

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    After owning a bike with hard bags, I won't buy another bike I can't easily put hard bags on again. I don't really like the looks of hard bags, but I really like the convenience and security.

    Oh, I actually prefer the clamshell opening bags, as I can put my full face helmet in one. I can't in top loader bags. If I am on a trip, I put my stuff in bag liners and just load and unload the liner. Works pretty nice.
    #9
  10. chazbird

    chazbird Long timer

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    +1 to the above comments on hard bags. Also I've used my Givi hard bag(s) as travel suitcases. Get to the airport, it clicks off and it can take more airline pummeling than any other luggage systems. I also have a Givi bag that click/locks on that has a travel wheels and an extending handle. It isn't completely hard shell, but close, and it doesn't hold all that much.
    #10
  11. Butters

    Butters Kwyjibo Supporter

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    For my roadbike, I really like the hardbags. On my DS I have Ortleib soft panniers.

    But I don't totally agree with some of the comparisons. I think you need compare specific products, not just hard versus soft bags.

    Waterproofness: My Ortleib drybags on my DS are every bit as water/dustproof as my OEM hardbags.
    Removal: I can actually remove and re-install my soft luggage quicker (Ortleib quick release versus OEM BMW luggage on my K75). This wasn't the case with my prior Wolfman duffel. It is really product specific here.
    Access: I can get stuff in and out of my roll top Ortleib almost as quick as I can out of my hard luggage. But I have had other soft bags that were a royal PITA to get in and out of.
    Appearance: Hardbags generally win hands down here.
    Security: Although hardbags can lock, the only time I see an advantage is for short stops with the bike nearby. If I'm staying overnight in a hotel, I don't think I would trust either. A screwdriver will quickly get into most hardbags.

    I'm not disagreeing that hardbags are better for a roadbike. But they aren't always better in every aspect, especially cost, weight, and the need for additional racks.
    #11
  12. scrannel

    scrannel Scrannel

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    I guess it depends on the bike? The factory hardbags on my K1200R come off easily and can be carried around like luggage. But I've had after-market hardbags on other bikes that were a pain. Still, I'd have to vote with the hard stuff.
    #12
  13. MacNoob

    MacNoob piney fresh

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    My ancient OldWing has the best compromise - built in hard bags with fitted soft liners. So it's easy to haul the stuff off the bike into hotel room (or wherever) - also can pack in the room then just stuff the liners back into the bike.

    [​IMG]
    #13
  14. Steelybeast

    Steelybeast Been here awhile

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    I have traveled with both and prefer the hard bags. It's does depend on the bag though, as a bonus with the St1300, is they are integrated into the bike. They are locked on, waterproof, and we have the removable liners we can just take out & carry with us.

    I have also had Givi on my Versys and liked them better than soft bags. It was more of a commuter bike, yet the ability to lock things up when stopped was a plus compared to soft side.

    One advantage I liked about the soft side though, is take them off when you don't need them. In the case of the St1300 and the Versys, it ruined the looks of the bike when either was removed and you could see the brackets.

    Just depends on if any of the above is a concern.
    #14
  15. scorch

    scorch Poser

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    I prefer hard cases. Ive done a few trips with soft cases, and im always worried about going out of sight to look at things for a bit and leavin gthe bike un attended. With hard cases you can leave stuff in and i dont worry quite as much. If you can afford it hard cases are better imo.

    I just installed them on my ninja 250r and im loving it. For commuting its great, and for trips its even better.
    [​IMG]
    #15
  16. Twohondas

    Twohondas Long timer

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    I have been using softbags on my VFR for years.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Frankly they are a very inexpensive option that is more than adequate to do the job. Security has never been an issue for me....yet!

    However after many long tours I upgraded to hardbags with the quick off racks from SW Motech. I have a little more room now too (which means more crap not more room BTW)

    [​IMG]
    #16
  17. Grainbelt

    Grainbelt marginal adventurer Super Moderator

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    Gotta call bullshit on that one. You have to buy new mounting brackets, but the cases get used over and over again. Givi and Hepco & Becker in particular, between their factory mounts and others from the likes of SW Motech you can fit them to many, many bikes.

    OP has a FZ6R. I can attest to the usefulness of the Givi V35 cases on both my Ninja 650R and FZ6. They mount closely to the tail section of the bike, are waterproof and have made it through 40k miles of use between the two bikes.

    They are fairly expensive but I've found them to be well worth it. As always, YMMV.

    [​IMG]
    #17
  18. theWolfTamer

    theWolfTamer Lupie on a Mission

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    ^^^^^^
    This.

    I like the soft bags because when I need them, they're on the bike, when I don't there's no evidence they're on the bike. The cost is also prohibitive for me. I do have a hard top case but I prefer my soft tail bag better because of the pockets and more room. I've never felt the need to lock up anything on the bike so security has never been on the top of my list for luggage needs. My thought is if they want it bad enough, they'll find a way to get it locked or not.

    My saddlebags are expandable and have pockets on the outside for stuff. They're top loading so I can stuff as much as I dare inside and have room in the outside pocket for whatever I need to get at right away. I use a smaller duffle bag that fits into my saddle bag for most things so it's just a matter of stuffing it in and I'm ready to go. It doesn't take me that much longer to put my soft bags on the bike that it's an inconvenience. Additionally I can use them with both of my bikes without needing hardware to adapt them.

    I've done cross country and week long trips with the soft luggage.

    Here's a pic from my May trip up the BRP. We camped along the way:
    [​IMG]

    On the Dragon fully loaded:
    [​IMG]

    It's best feature is leaving it in the hotel/tent when I'm at my destination and riding around without the added weight! For me having expandable bags with pockets is the way to go! Even if I were willing to spend the money for a hard luggage setup, I likely wouldn't because I miss the pockets and expand-ability when I have the hard case on board.

    @ the 2010 FZ1OA Rally when I didn't camp
    [​IMG]
    #18
  19. scrannel

    scrannel Scrannel

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    My BMW hardbags do expand and each can hold a full-coverage helmet. I use a soft bag for the "top case" (not in picture) which (BMW) conforms to the seat or extended rack and comes to the tops of the bags. Plus when the bags are off (simple latch affair) there's nearly nothing left. I have plenty of pockets in my tank bag and soft top bag.

    [​IMG]

    Top Bag (rests on rear seat if solo or small bolt-on rack). :

    [​IMG]
    #19
  20. Jay S.

    Jay S. 600cc Beast

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    I truly appreciate everyone's replies and opinions. I guess what I keep asking myself is it worth the expense for something I may only use a handful of times? Yes I can afford them, however, that does not mean I "want" to spend the money either. Haha! Of course I would love them on this particular trip, but would I love them enought to spend $800? I do like that the Givi's I'm looking at could be used on future bikes as well so the money may be worth it over the long term.

    Here is a pic from my last road trip and I intentionally overpacked just to see how it would be on this 2 week trip I've been planning. It just seemed to be a pain to take everything on and off every day. Or maybe I'm a huge pansy?

    :eek1

    One more thing, I would not want them on all the time either and I would not want to have brackets on my bike all the time. She is much sexier naked...just sayin'.

    Attached Files:

    #20