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Rocket Touring Gear Roundup
Here's the problem: you have two large and very fast motorcycles and need to go very fast to somewhere far away, and you don't know quite where it is. You will need plenty of complex, specialized and expensive equipment, and you'll want to buy it from somebody with good customer service who can get you what you need in record time.
That was just the situation we faced a few months ago when we tested the Kawasaki ZX-14 and the Suzuki Hayabusa in a two-day high-speed hijink. We thought it sounded like a job for Aerostich, so we contacted our friends at the Rider WearHouse, selected some stuff based on our own bulging, greedy eyeballs and their careful recommendations, and the following plethora of items is what we got. We hope you enjoy reading about this gear as much as we enjoyed using it, even though that probably isn't going to happen. But we can hope.
Ortlieb Dry Saddlebags Aerostich.com Direct Retail price: $167.00
If you think the Germans know a thing or two about building motorcycles, wait until you see what they can do with motorcycle luggage. Okay, maybe that statement will generate too much anticipatory excitement; but if you're in the market for waterproof soft luggage you'll still be happy to know that Ortlieb Outdoor Equipment makes a product worthy of consideration. Simple in design and use, Ortlieb's waterproof saddlebags make it easy to keep whatever you stuff in them high and dry. Lacking zippers, snaps or any conventional closure system, the opening of the bags fold or roll down onto themselves (several times depending how full they are) and use a strap and clip to complete the closure to create an impenetrable seal against weather. Helping keep the worst of the weather out is the waterproof material that the bags are constructed from. With little details in the packaging or Ortlieb's website, our best guess is that the entirety of the interior and about two thirds of the exterior is covered in some type of vinyl coating.
Just as simple as the strap and clip closure system is the mounting system. Consisting of nothing other than more straps, clips and two large and robust Velcro pieces, the saddlebags can be attached to most bikes in a heartbeat. But before you set out to conquer the worst that the weather can dish out, you might opt to install the two "polypropylene stiffener panels" to give some shape to the bags. Installation requires a Phillips screwdriver (which you'll supply) and the funny little grabber thingy (included from Ortlieb) to secure the panels. It only took us about 15 minutes. The surface of each bag that faces the precious finish of your bike's bodywork is covered by a durable foam pad. With dimensions of 15"x10"x8", the bags provided plenty of room for a two day trip for one person. As a final touch two, unobtrusive reflective pieces of tape reside on each end of the bag for safety.
Although material, construction and design of the Ortlieb waterproof saddlebags are of high quality, they may be better suited to some bikes than others. As can be the case with many sport or sport-oriented bikes, the tail section bodyworktypically isn't conducive to having anything attached to it other than the smooth, tanned gams of a lovely lady. Such is the case with the ZX-14 that we slung the Ortliebs over. Inevitably, we opted to secure the two large Velcro straps that connect the bags under the saddle rather than over it to help prevent the constant shifting of the bags from side to side. Unless you expect to meticulously measure the weight of the contents of each bag so as to be precisely matched, we didn't immediately see a way to prevent one bag from dominating the other and thereby edging ever closer to the hot surface of the bike's dual exhaust cans. Ortlieb recommends at least 10 centimeters of clearance between the bags and the surface of the exhaust, but we'd say that's a bit too close for comfort. Unless the bags were cinched so closely together by the large straps as to give the visual effect of being a pair of bat wings, we found it very difficult to keep one bag or the other from creeping closer to the exhaust.
In fact, one bag did get close enough to melt the interior stiffener panels, causing it to deform in one small area. Although the bag's contents weren't damaged, we suspect that this could be a problem for some users. So be mindful of this should you choose to install them on a bike with an exhaust that is relatively close to the bodywork.
On a good note, the bags never interfered with turn signal operation and ultimately got the job done even though we never had the chance to test their waterproof abilities.
We suspect that these bags may be better suited to a bike with a more conventional rear seat, like a KLR or something with a similar inclination to venture off the beaten path and into harm's way.
- Pete Brissette