It continues to surprise me how many inmates have either been to Australia or to New Zealand, and how many others have us on their bucket list. A lot of the familiarity used to go back to the Vietnam War, when Sydney was a prime R&R spot for American service personnel. Apart from discovering that beer could taste this good, and steaks could be this big, many of the soldiers also discovered a motorcycle country like their own, and yet unlike it.
Australia was a lot rougher than the States in many ways, especially when you got off the main roads. Distances were long, services were few but adventures were everywhere. As tourism Down Under began to take off, riders began to discover New Zealand where distances were shorter but scenery was even more spectacular. Motorcycle holidays in both countries beckoned, and many Americans and Canadians came.
We hope you come back when the Covid madness is over.
But you can take advantage of some things from Down Under even in lockdown. Motorcycle luggage created here benefits from the meticulous care with which Kiwis do just about everything as well as the attention to rugged strength here in Australia. Add the cosmopolitan attention to style that has become a hallmark of Australian design, and you have an attractive offer or, in this case, three.
Paul Dold and the crew at Dold Industries Ltd in Hamilton, NZ have been making Ventura motorcycle luggage systems since the 1970s. Their products are sold world-wide (US/Canadian distributor is Pacific Powersports in Ontario, Oregon) and are respected by motorcyclists everywhere, including me.
“The Ventura Bike-Pack System, our first product, was first designed and built in the seventies to give motorcyclists the opportunity of having a luggage system that was individually designed and custom-made for their bike,” says Paul. “Since then, motorcycles have gone through some radical and dramatic changes.” Ventura products have changed with the bikes, and I have fitted the Aero system, Ventura’s latest, to my Triumph Street Twin.
“We continue to produce custom-made accessories that suit, fit and greatly enhance the functionality of your particular model bike,” says Paul. What he’s talking about here is Ventura’s unique L-Brackets, which are made specifically for each model of bike. That means there is no fuss or hassle about fitting Ventura luggage to your motorcycle.
Andy Strapz, https://www.andystrapz.com/
More than two decades ago, Andy “Strapz” White was sitting in his shed cursing a second-hand sewing machine as he learnt to use it. A few weeks later he stood at a swap meet next to a few packs of “Andy Strapz” on display. He never dreamed that he would be a major player in the motorcycle accessory business today. His unique (yes, really) flat Andy Strapz were only the beginning.
The original Andy Strapz continue to be manufactured in Australia and are used in applications as diverse as motorcycles, 4×4 vehicles, trade, travel and ambulances. They not only remove the danger posed by those metal hooks on the ends of bungee straps but also hold luggage more securely.
“Part of the evolution of the travelling motorcyclist in Australia as elsewhere during this time was the advent of Adventure Riding, but I couldn’t find the sort of simple robust bags I was looking for.” So he designed and made his own. Andy’s Avduro Panniers have evolved to become a highly respected and trusted, lightweight yet tough canvas saddle bag system for the serious dirt road traveller.
I can vouch for his other products, too, having used his gear extensively. One trip was a journey through the US west on a Honda Fury, and if you don’t think that was a challenge for luggage and an adventure for me, you haven’t ridden a Fury for 6000 miles. American customers can buy Strapz gear from https://andy-strapz-usa.myshopify.com/ .
Flying Solo Gear Co, https://flyingsologear.com/
Amanda Phoenix was born in Vancouver, Canada but she saved her first serious motorcycle crash for Melbourne, Australia when a hit-and-run driver totalled her 28-day old Kawasaki Ninja 250. The visit to Melbourne was supposed to be a one-year trip, but that was more than six years ago.
“I had enough of my boring, cyclical life in Vancouver where every day started to feel the same. But once in Australia, I wasn’t sure if I could get my Permanent Residency,” she says, “and I hadn’t really left Melbourne because I was trying to establish my life here. I couldn’t imagine leaving Australia without seeing the place properly, so I packed a few spare changes of clothes, some camping gear, and 2x 5L jerry cans on my 2007 Suzuki GSXR and kept the coast on the left hand side all the way around (stopping at Uluru too of course).”
She had another crash and the phone in her jacket pocket bruised a kidney so much she was sent to hospital. “Less than a month later, I designed a flat bumbag (fanny pack, is it, in the US?) that would be worn behind the rider to keep phones and other hard objects away from the soft parts of your body,” she says.
“I sewed a prototype using a borrowed sewing machine and a polkadot tablecloth from Spotlight. At the time, I was a backpacker and didn’t have any furniture other than a night stand, which is what I used to do my sewing. All up, I spent about $20 on the first prototype.”
That bag, called the “Killswitch”, has led to other products including the “Ashvault” backpack and “Tully” waterproof tailbags. I have used them all, and have been seriously impressed by their strength and elegance. “A leg bag is in testing now,” she says, “with 25 volunteer riders working together to perfect the design. There’s also some adventure gear coming.”
And just remember, we still have good beer and big steaks as well.
(Photos The Bear unless otherwise indicated; all equipment was supplied FOC for testing)