At Overland Expo in 2012, I was approached by a guy I had no idea who he was, he introduced himself as Al Jesse, to me he was just another face in the crowd.
He had seen me ride into the event on my XT660Z Yamaha Tenere and told me he was interested in making hard luggage for my motorcycle.
It looks like Yamaha is going to bring this bike to the US so I’d like to get ahead of the curve and be the first to offer hard luggage for it in the US. As we know Yamaha failed to bring the 660 to the US but the luggage and connection to Jesse Luggage started on that day.
I had no idea who Jesse Luggage was at the time, I had literally just ridden from Ushuaia, Argentina on the bike I shipped there and to be honest was in desperate need of new luggage as my stock Yamaha panniers had failed me multiple times and were being held together with straps and wood screws.
My concern was during my time in South and Central America I had met loads of riders from Europe with various brand names, and virtually all had, had issues when their bikes had gone down, boxes became misshapen, not waterproof anymore and to me seemed flimsy and not secure.
Al Jesse listened to my concerns, then showed me his boxes and told me his story, and his time on the road over a number of years and he’d also seen what I saw, and had worked to correct the issues.
Together we wandered around the event and eventually to his booth, and I saw the difference, a more rugged and sturdy design, at the time the innovative ability to also load the lid with gear.
Easy mounting. A very good waterproof lip, and secure locking ability with integrated adjustment.
He asked if he could borrow my bike for a few weeks and I agreed. When we met back up, my new luggage was on and I was ready to go ride.
What I found instantly that this was all the luggage I needed, gone were the days of having to have an additional bag on the back seat, unless I was riding two up. Occasionally I add Rotopax on the back for those times I’m headed to more remote locations when getting fuel might be an issue.
With the ability to pack the lid, I would now be able to see about a quarter of what was in my pannier just by opening it.
I unintentionally crash-tested the Jesse bags multiple times and they always hold their shape and waterproofness 100%
In 2015 I bought a Yamaha Super Tenere to ride some more countries and as I was planning it to be more of a paved ride because of heading to Europe, Jesse Panniers were my obvious choice.
for two-up riding, all that needed to be added was a Mosko 60-liter duffle on the back
Sadly the rain was a constant companion in Europe and never once was anything inside damp in any way, and this included electronics that were inside.
Fast forward to 2019, I was in the Phoenix area, Jesse Luggage had sold to a new manufacturer a couple of years earlier, He had been involved with a number of the manufacturing processes for many, many years so was an obvious buyer who knew the standards, and was a great opportunity for me to do an interview, that was featured on the ADVrider front page – HERE
I spoke with Sean, Jesse Luggage’s new owner and asked about any upgrades or changes for the future.
He pinpointed a few things he was happy to implement and the companies new owner, more detailed installation instruction
A slight change of shape adding more structure to the lip area to improve the already great waterproofing, also it makes the boxes even more structurally sound and new locking latches. and a new name, Challenger
he also told me
One thing we read and heard from current owners via personal interaction, forums and emails was occasional issues with the pannier mounts, so we have decided to systematically go through our setups and change them to Stainless Steel, for added strength and durability.
The new Challenger design was so appealing I ended up walking out with a set of the new panniers and took them for a ride.
I found the combined 93 liters was more than enough space for me riding as a solo rider, I was packed for 4-season riding, cooking, camping and enough tools and spares to fix any issues all fit inside.
I threw a 1.75-gallon rotopax (empty, but just in case) on top and hit the road.
Initial impressions, the quality was as high as expected, the new locking mechanism closed the lids a lot more securely and tighter than before.
I had no need to return in a hurry and ended up riding thru 49 states and 2 provinces in Canada this summer and the new Challengers were great in every situation
From temperatures below freezing to over 115 degrees, in rain, snow, ice, dust storms, sandy tracks, muddy roads.
EVERY. TIME. I opened my panniers it was like an airtight seal was released and all the contents were dry and dust-free
All I can tell you is if you are looking for new panniers, make sure you check the new Jesse Luggage Challenger Series and compare apples to apples yourself.
One friend of mine who owned a Dual Sport shop in Canada would show multiple options from different manufacturers to potential new customers.
His simple demonstration was to lay panniers on their sides, he would then jump up and down on the Jesse with no issues or deformity, the others he refused to becasue would flex with just light pressure from his fingers, this is where the weight of the bike dropped on its side would come from. Some buyers had a tight budget and buy the cheaper option but most times regret it after the first drop, or finding wet gear inside
Consider this when you are looking, as panniers are a huge investment to last you years and years and hundreds of thousands of miles and happy riding