BMW or to Touratech? ...
That is the question.
So I have been riding my F650GS for a while, without any saddles bags
and only crash bars. For some strange reason, I always have this
strange idea in my head that I have saddle bags on. I know I'm
only going insane but my shadow was
telling me something. So I decided ... "WTF, might
as well get them since I will probably need the storage anyway."
It came time at
last. What to buy? The BMW saddle bags or the Touratech
Panniers? Which one would be better? BMW is a known name...
I don't know Touratech... Plus, the BMW ones are sizable and the
Touratech ones are rigid. The BMW ones are less expensive and
the Touratech ones are more expensive (you'd figure that a nerd like me
would notice the difference between plastic and aluminum, but NO!! ).
Ok, so I'm a beginner and don't know any better. Yes I should
have checked the forums on the net but I declare momentary
stupidity (That happens a lot lately ).
retrospect I should have gotten the Touratech Panniers. Below is
an experience I had with the BMW saddle bags while trying to go
off-road. One thing is for sure, I never went off-road again with
my F650GS because of the BMW bags. I don't have a bottomless
keep on fixing those bags every time I drop the bike.
Yes the expandability of the BMW bags are cool (going from 20 liter to
30+ liter) but the bags are really flimsy. They're great for
around town and carrying your take-out lunches and diners but they're
really not meant for any type of off-roading. I would have gone
of road more often if I had the Touratech panniers because of their
So one day, after a weeks worth of rain and a weeks worth of drying off
the landscape, I decided to take my F650GS out for an off-road
This is on the 395 heading North to the Mojave desert
I have just broken in my Gaerne motocross boots (SG10) and I'm looking
to hitting the dirt.
What I didn't know was, I had horrible tires for off-roading. I
later read on some F650 forums and found out why they
call the Bridgestone Trailwings .... DEATHWINGS.
because they are so
incapable of any off-road traversals.
trail I took was a known trail that I have been on for years in the
Mojave desert. It's BLM land so nobody was going to chew my fat
for trespassing. I also know the terrain very well,
plenty of sand and gravel. At first I thought of blazing a trail
like a motocross but I quickly realize, the F650GS is really not meant
to take that level of punishment. The bike is more aligned with
riding on packed dirt. Access roads, jeep trails, or
mild gravel roads. I know somebody out there is going to say...
"Oh... You just don't know how to ride."
alright, I'll just ride the way I know best and within my means.
Plus I had
So here I am, out in the middle of nowhere plodding along this very
dirt road. I find that the front wheel keeps on wanting to drop
out from underneath me (e.g. low-side). I know this would be bad
because even though
I'm glad to be on "TERRA-FIRMA", I generally don't like the kick backs
that she can dish out. For me that equates that to .... OUCH!!!
and money spent on fixing equipment. So I pick my lines
switching back and fourth from side to side finding the best route
possible. The entire time the bike is squirly and is drifting
back and forth in the deep sand. The Gaerne
boots are heavy so they are great as counter weights to keep the bike
in check when it wants to fall.
As you might guess, lady luck pimpslaps me and says ... "nice
try.". I hit a really deep patch of sand and immediately
low-side. Within a millisecond or less (at least it felt
that way), I was on my side looking at the beautiful blue sky thinking
... "WOW!!! that
was fast!" The bike is also pinning my left heal down.
Fortunately the Gaerne boots did what they were suppose to do (I
thanked the almighty buddah for giving some bright engineer somewhere
the idea of steel toe boots with hard plastic
shells ) I managed to free myself
and crawled out from underneath
the bike and noticed something most uncool. My left BMW saddle
bag was about 6-10 feet behind me. ....
Not cool at all!" I then picked up the bike (it was easier and
lighter than I
had thought) and put it on it's kickstand. I then pickup the
fallen bag and tried to see what happened to it. After a quick
moment I noticed the top mounting bracket had half sheered off.
At that moment it finally dawned on me
... "I forgot to bring rope,
zip-ties, and duct tape!!!" ... it was a major... !!!!
I have learned a long time ago... never leave home without rope.
At a minimum have nothing else but just rope. This is from all my
experiences back-country backpacking and camping. You leave home
without rope and you'll be in the a world of hurt. Especially
when you need it.
Fortunately for me, the path I took is the one not least
traveled. Soon enough a camper came up behind me. The
person noticed I was on the side of the trail tinkering with my left
saddle bag. What I was really trying to do is tie the saddle bag
back onto the saddle bag mount with the rope (tie cord) from the top
soft case bag. Calling it rope is a stretch. It's more
like a flimsy twine.
Not pretty but it did the job.
The person in the camper was
gracious enough to ask me if everything was OK. What do you think
my first question was? .... "Do you have any duct-tape?"
He then went to the back of his camper and looked about. He
didn't find any Duct-tape but did manage to find a bungee cord. I
offered him thanks and took the cord anyway. I figure I'd find a
way to make this thing work. I thanked him again and then he rode
off into the sunset like the Duke. well, not really. He
kept on going down the trail.
As you might notice,
I also broke the left signal light housing. Look at the kickstand
see how deep it is in the dirt. That was on
thepacked side of the trail.
So when I finished, I decided to enjoy a bit of the scenery before
heading back out. This was the only rope and bungee I had so I
didn't want to chance smashing up the right side saddle bag too and
causing more problems for myself. Sadly enough, I had to turn
around. I wanted to
continue on but couldn't.
Nothing like beautiful scenery to get
my mind off of busted saddle bags.
The trip back home was quite uneventful. 120 miles later I was
back in Arcadia. I took the broken bag in and examined it a
Suffice to say, $60+ later, the bag was repaired. Knowing how
flimsy the bag was, I went ahead and order an extra top mounting
bracket in the event one of the two bags broke off again.
Bottom line, go Touratech or something more sturdy if you plan on going
off road. BMW's bags just don't cut it.
Written on: October 1, 2005
Last modified: September 3, 2007