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Discussion Starter #1
Asking for opinions on hard sided panniers or soft bags for the TW. Need to outfit our two TW's for the wife and I. I was thinking maybe the aluminum panniers would help keep the bike off of her leg if she went over. She thinks they could hurt as much as help. What do fellow T-dubbers think? We would be carrying camping gear, weekends and longer. Was looking at the Happy Trails set up, kinda wide, but that is why I thought it might help prop the bike up.
 

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It depends a bit on if you need to lock things up. In that case hard bags are the way to go. Soft bags do offer some protection especially loaded up.

Regardless the cycle rack is the most ruggedized rack as far as mounting. A member Tinman Tim makes pannier mounts and even boxes made for that rack as well.
 
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Whatever you do, don't use ammo cans! :D



I'm going to invest in some soft bags before my next TW-camping trip, although I don't honestly have enough experience with soft or hard bags to give anything resembling expert advice on which is better. From what I've gathered most folks seem to prefer soft bags for dirt riding.

Check out Tinman Tim's brackets and boxes before you pull the trigger on the Happy Trails set. It's always nice to support a fellow T-dubber.
 

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Tim's stuff rocks, but I don't recomend buying two complete outfits of either soft OR hard luggage.

For two people traveling together my best suggestion is that YOU carry the bulk of the gear if you're the better rider. Then you'll only need one setup. We travel with pretty much everything we need loaded on one bike. I haul the panniers if need be and she generally only needs to carry her own sleeping bag and incidentals, all of which fit just fine on the rear rack. Two complete outfits for only two people would be overkill in our experience and only fosters "kitchen sink" thinking, which often means that you'll carry a lot of junk you won't use.

Hard luggage can be a necessary evil if you need secure storage for handguns, cameras, laptops, etc. But hard luggage is a leg breaker for a newbie. Hell, it's a leg breaker for anyone if you screw up and forget that it's back there. Falling over has nothing to do with this. If you put your foot down at the wrong time you'll run over your own leg. Think ATC.

Soft panniers are better in that regard, but they're still a threat. Keep her stuff behind her if you can.
 

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A pair of $12 dollar Walmart knapsacks (or $2 at the recycling store but you prolly won't find a matched set) held together with a $3 dog collar from the dollar store, slung over the rear seat, works just fine. Carry the heavy stuff, up front, centered, in a big mother knapsack/tank bag.
 

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Two people, two weeks. "Kitchen sink" thinking for us. Easily 1/3 more than we would normally carry but it was our honeymoon, so we carried a couple of sets of "nice" clothes. Oh, and it also snowed on us. In Arizona and New Mexico. In May. But that's a whole nuther story. So a bunch of it was also bulky cold weather gear, so we had to up the size of the panniers:



Top pack on my bike contains:

2 man tent, Tyvek tent footprint.

My tool roll

Crutch jack

Oklahoma Credit Card....

Quart of oil

Small "netbook" computer. Various chargers.

Coleman single burner 400 series stove. Feeds on bike fuel.

Cooking gear.

Chow.

Rain gear

Side panniers contain:

Her clothes.

My clothes.

Her bike:

Her sleeping bag, loosely stuffed in rear pack. She liked it as a back rest. Point being that the bag was mostly air.

Two rolled up "Insulite" type military sleeping pads. Nearly weightless. Mine is shortened a bit and hers is both shortened and narrowd to match her frame, for a little less bulk.

A bit more chow.

Her camera gear and chick stuff.

On this trip we each carried two water bladders with bite valves in Stearns tank panniers. One per side.
 

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Happy Trails SU rack is the toughest and best designed pannier rack made. Having said that I don't recommend hard bags for off road work. If you have to dab occasionally, and you will, a hard bag will likely sooner or later break your lower leg. Ask me how I know that.....The best set up I have found for off road and trail riding is the SU rack and a set of Expedition soft bags from Wolfman bags...totally waterproof and built out of material that you are unlikely to ever puncture.

I just got my TW recently so I'm shopping for a set of used SU racks now. I have them on my DR650 with Wolfman Bags, and on my DL1000 with 20MM ammo boxes attached with the Happy Trails Puck system.....great system for holding hard bags on and making them easily removable. I modified the ammo cans with stainless hasps and locks to ensure security when on the road.

No knock against anyone building their own design, but if you don't have the skills or tools, Happy Trails can't be beat. The SU design even has a brace that goes around the back to strenghten what are normally pretty weak subframes on most bikes......I give the design 5 stars....

Mike
 

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I forgot to mention that her pack also contains our sleeping pads.

Of all our gear I would estimate that the sleeping pads for two are the most problematic in terms of bulk. Regardless of whether you roll with the high rent, self-inflating types or the simple insulite type you're looking at very little weight taking up a totally disproportionate volume. Hardly any way around that. When traveling together having the second bike solves the "bulk" problem. We reserve her bike for the light weight, but bulky overflow items.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Appreciate all the input. What type of bag rack do you have attached to your (looks like) Cycle Rack for the soft panniers? We use the (high rent) Thermarest self inflatables - low weight and small pack size. Just watch for sales at Campmor.
 

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My rear rack is my own creation. It's 27" wide. Not everyone's cup of tea, but I prefer my gear directly behind me when solo.

The side racks are the Happy Trails units that LDR likes so much. I concur that they're stout as hell and their puck system is among the best for retention of hard luggage. They're somewhat heavy and a bit overkill for soft luggage, but will serve for either. Some won't. They also bolster the subframe as mentioned.

Another reason not to rush into making uninformed purchases. No matter what you roll with ALL of the options are various degrees of spendy and some are better values than others. This is just our current "system" and its evolving all the time. The needs and comfort levels of you and your wife may dictate something different. I'm sure that there are enough of the various configurations in use among the collective that if everyone weighs in you can investigate the merits of each. Still, odds are that you won't get it right the first time. Or the 20th. Rollwiddit.

Recognize as I have that you're among the few who have significant other willing to join you in your travels. I've found that most motorcycle guys would kill for that. Whatever is required, if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Equip accordingly, keep her safe and as comfy as you can so it continues..

We've now realized that for our needs we could probably benefit from splitting the load more or less evenly using the Giant Loop stuff. Also spendy, but it eliminates most of the downsides of the others.

But which size? A change in one major item of gear could render the wrong choice an expensive error. Part of the fun of working out your own system are all of the "Beverly Hillbillies" trips with stuff piled all over the bike while you figure out how to do it better next trip. lol.
 

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as much as I'd like to make you up two complete sets, I have to agree with just about everything above. I wouldn't suggest putting hard luggage together with a less experienced rider. At any speed, you won't like it if you forget they're there.


on our last expedition to Tennessee, my brother tried to do something he shouldn't and dropped it. Pretty sure he just got extremely lucky, but the box did save his ankle when the bike came down. (there's a photo on here in the ride report, just after he stood up. Feel free to point and laugh as I did).


all this being said, I can make racks to fit your requirements. All I require is you to tell me what size to make the 'hoops' to fit your needs. There's been a number of sets used with the wolfman bags. The stock size hoops are 9 1/2x12 and there's a crossbar that goes over the fender rather than around the rear of the tire. All you need is the cycleracks and bags


if you are looking to do aluminum panniers, I'm in a bit of a redesign on them. Basic box is the same, but the lids will be hinged and lockable. Still working out the details. (winter project).


lizrdbrth is right, its a learning experience. And you will only learn, as you experience it.

I can't spend your $ for you, but will be happy to make what you need, once you make a decision.

TIM
 
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Discussion Starter #12
I really appreciate everyone's opinions on this. Many options to look at. My wife rides her own HD FatBoy lo and has saved my bacon a few times (I ride behind her) with her observation and hand signals. We learned our riding on the pavement, so we are both newbs to the off road. Not in a hurry, just want to explore and camp areas un-accessible to the street bikes and the masses. We will have to look at one set of lockable, hard bags to be more secure on the $ packed items and when I use my TW around town as I carry some tools.
 

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Interesting, you learned to ride just the oposite of me.....I started back in the 60's riding with a grizzled old guy that maintained that you needed to learn to ride on the dirt.....you would experience everthing you would experience handling wise on the street, but you would do so at a slower speed and were less likely to be hurt. And, less likely to be run over by a car turning left in front of you before you knew that type of hazard and those kinds of dumb asses even existed. His advice has served me well. I did my early riding on an old Honda 250 Scrambler.......

Fast forward 35 years and I was a member of what was called BMWRT.COM, a BMW RT focused forum. Some of these rocket scientists advised that learning on a 105HP BMW twin was just fine, just be careful. Good advice if you live in a state that is looking for organ doners.....

Anyway, I am still a believer in learning in an enviroment where you will get hurt the least....you will fall down early and sometimes throughout your riding career, but in the early months it's best to do so in a nice soft dirt enviroiment.

Mike
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Wish we had started that way as kids, but too poor for the "extras" such as dirt bikes growing up. Fast forward - doing okay $. We got into the street cruiser thing while my wife had her Mom to care for. We were total newbs. We could get away for an hour or three (could not be away any longer) and be back for her Mom and Dad. Really saved the wife's sanity.
We like our cruisers and have made multiple long distance road trips, but there are just so many areas to see that are not compatible with 800 lbs of street bike! So now to learn the nuances of riding the road less traveled: gravel, mud, sand, ruts, water . . . . .
She has had a laydown in wet grass, resulting in a broken brake foot (she did our summer trip wearing a walking foot brace) and has been hit by a piece of flying furniture - I don't know how she kept that bike upright because it was a 3ft square ottoman. Damaged the bike but not her, thank goodness. She knows these things can and will happen, but is a committed rider and believes in ATGATT.
 
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