I bought my 1998 VFR in 2001 with only 900 miles on the clock. The first weekend I owned the bike, I went on a 1,600 mile tour to Montreal, Canada to see some Formula One action. I purchased some soft sided luggage for the trip and the short version of this story is that even with rain covers, all my gear was soaked! I bought the VFR to do some serious sport touring and I wanted my gear to be safe and dry. I also wanted to keep the sportbike looks and overall clean lines of my VFR.
After some internet browsing, I came across the Corbin web site. I read about the Beetle bags and it seemed like Corbin had the answer to all my problems. The bags looked great, were lockable and water tight. I was all set to buy them, until I spied the price. At $999.00 a set, I decided to try and get by with my soft bags.
As fate would have it, my friend Sean works for Motorcycle.Com and was able to locate a pair for me not too long ago. About two weeks later, two large boxes came in the mail. My initial impression was that the bags had flawless paint. I immediately ran to the garage to see if the paint was going to match and much to my pleasure, it was identical. The overall fit and finish, hinges, locks and the fact that the inside of the bags was lined with industrial carpeting got me soo excited that I wanted to mount the bags that night. I broke out the instructions and started reading. My first problem was a small issue of the exhaust I installed. I mounted a Two Brothers Racing high-mount carbon slip-on system, when I bought the bike. Not a really big deal as I kept the stock exhaust.
The second problem was a bigger issue. When I bought the VFR, I gave it a "fenderectomy", by chopping the stock fender off to give it a cleaner look. However, the way the Corbin bags mount to the bike is from 3 points on each bag. One of the mounting points is to the stock license plate bracket. With a "fenderectomy" the OEM Honda bracket moves 2" higher. I looked at this and thought about inverting the bracket they supplied with the bags. Then I had to weld two new hangers to the Corbin supplied bracket. I could've left the bracket the way it was designed and welded longer tabs, but the bracket would be below the license plate and would've looked out of place. I wanted everything hidden and clean. Inverting the bracket hid it behind the license plate. I don't have a serious workshop, but the job was very easy. I have a buddy that owns a welder. He and I went about making all of the brackets to make it fit. (If you have a stock fender, there is no need to make any brackets.)
Once the bracket problems were solved, I proceeded with the installation. It really takes two people to do this job right, one to hold the luggage and one to mount up all the bolts. All of the Corbin supplied with the luggage were an exact fit. Other than the license plate, my friend and I had no problems with the installation. We double checked all mounting points and even did a small loop around the neighborhood and checked all mounting points again. Being our first time with this type of install, it took us about 2 hours. With some practice, you could have the bags on and off in about an hour.
Post installation thoughts: The fit and finish of the luggage is top notch. The bags were a perfect fit. I had my doubts at first but the end results were spectacular. Corbin really did their homework with the mounting hardware. The bags virtually disappear on the bike. When viewed from the side, you hardly notice they are on the bike. They even look great from the rear. When I was thinking about getting the bags, my idea was to take them off when I wasn't in touring mode. However, I like the look so much, that I now leave them on all the time. I did apply some firm jolts to the bags with my arms to check for integrity of the bags. I didn't put my full weight on the bags due to my 190lbs frame. The bags still flexed very little. I felt comfortable loading them to the hilt with gear. The locking mechanism works great. I do not have to worry about someone stealing all my gear when I park to see a movie or catch a bite to eat. These bags are very secure. Once locked, there is no way of getting them off of the bike. My friend and I then turned our attention to the water resistance of the Corbin bags. We proceeded to spray the bags from all directions with a hose. We even sprayed the underside and backside of the bags for about 5 minutes. I was delighted to find no water intrusion. I know a hose can not compare to a driving rain at 70mph so I had to wait for the right day for a road test.
First ride impressions. The day after the install, I wanted to road test the bags. The weather was calling for a cloudy morning with rain in the afternoon, a perfect road test day. So I packed them up with a bunch of gear to simulate a 3-4 day tour and set off for the mountains. The first thing I noticed was the small top opening. This made it harder than most bags to load. I packed a pair of shoes, clothes for 4 days, rainsuit and some tools. I had plenty of room to spare. Once on the road I went about 30 miles and then stopped to fill up the tank and check the bags to make sure nothing came loose. All was good so off to the mountains I go. The nice thing about the Corbin bags, is the way they hang on the bike. They are very low and close-in to the bike. They have a very low center of gravity, compared to other bags.
All-and-all, I hardly noticed that bike was packed down with 4 days of gear. I could slam the bike from corner to corner without fear of shifting loads. Side-to-side transitions were very easy. I stopped for lunch after another 150 miles and checked the bags again for any loose bits. I found nothing wrong. A steady rain started falling, while I was getting my helmet on for the trip home. I wanted to find out if the bags were waterproof as claimed by Corbin, before I went on a real tour and this was going to be a great test. So as the rain poured down, I rode the 150 miles home. As I pulled into my garage, I had my doubts. Would my gear be dry? After a thorough inspection, the answer is yes! Not a drop of water made it into the Beetle Bags. I am very impressed with the bags to date. So far, they haven't loosened-up nor let any water in.
My overall rating is B-. The fit and finish is second to none and the style matches the VFR very well. I do have a few complaints though. The bags just aren't as practical as most hard bags. The small opening for loading and unloading is a bit of a pain. Other manufactures have bags that attach and detach from the bike, making hotel stays and loading much easier. The Corbin bags force you unload all your gear in the parking lot and walk it all to your room. Another complaint is the $999.00 price. You can buy a really nice set of Givis that detach from the bike, hold more gear and are easier to load for that same price. If Corbin would make the Beetles removable, I would give the bags a solid A. I purchased the Corbin Beetle Bags based mostly on appearance, but thought they would be a bit more touring friendly. If I were to do it again I would buy the GIVI 3 bag system. Even though they look like Samsonite "carry on" luggage to me, they are more touring friendly, practical and hold a lot more gear.