Carrying capacity on a motorcycle is a funny thing. We all want to maximize it, while minimizing weight. We want to maximize convenience and security, while minimizing bulkiness and cost. A dual sport bike is already a compromise, so the luggage options are just more of the same. So I wanted to carry stuff and keep it dry without a whole new set of metal panniers. I wanted to be able to fall over in the dirt without major damage to the luggage. I wanted enough capacity to travel for days. The solution is soft luggage, and there are some impressive options available. I forgot to mention a low budget, which cut down the options considerably. A few weeks of searching and hitting the forums produced an option which seemed to be good quality at a low cost. Nelson Rigg Dry Adventure Bags.
The name sounds impressive, and the reviews compared them favorably with products from Wolfman and Giant Loop and others. Basically, they are a dry bag with some additional features. They have more of a longitudinal shape consistent with saddle bags, and they hold 27.5 liters each. They are constructed from 24oz waterproof PVC with welded seams, and have a reinforced area designed to go against a rack or bodywork. The outside of the bags appear to be durable, and would easily withstand the kind of slow speed falls typical for offroad riding. They have a series of straps and typical plastic buckles designed to let you attach them in a variety of scenarios, including a wide velcro strap to cross the width of your seat or tail area. These are not super heavy duty straps and buckles, so I don't think they would survive very much stress beyond those low speed falls. The bags also have a reinforced area on the bottom of the bags designed to protect against road debris and for sitting on the ground when off the bike. Lastly, they have a reflective strip to the rear to aid visibility. A nice touch.
Now what better way to test an adventure bag, than to go to a suburban supermarket ? I mounted the bags to the XR650L which has side racks, with no problems. In fact I did not even need to use the additional mounting straps provided. I should note that the bags are in fact air tight with the roll top closed. You will want to get the air out before closing if you want them to lay flat or if they are empty as mine were. Otherwise, they make excellent pre-inflated airbags. I rode about 15 miles taking the long way there. I intentionally got some heavy and bulky items including milk, juice bottles, potato chips, etc. The bags swallowed the items no problem. You do have to be sure to use the compression strap D-rings if you have heavier items so that the bags are well supported.
After a quick ride home, some usage comments. First, the bags were perhaps 3-4 inches away from the exhaust, at the rear, and they got hot on the backside where they were mounted to the rack. No harm done, but these bags are PVC, and they need to be protected from extreme heat like an exhaust. Make sure you have plenty of air space, or body work to protect them. Surprisingly, inside the right bag it was not hot, so the reinforced panel did a good job of protecting the contents. Next, one of the half gallon bottles of juice leaked while on its side. This left a nice little puddle of juice in the bottom of the bag, proving again that the seams are sealed and that they would make a good water bladder! With straps undone, the bags were off the bike in seconds. I then mounted them to a much larger and wider R1150GSA, and they were easily secured as well.
55 liters of waterproof storage for $108 delivered is a good deal. When you factor in that they have a lifetime warranty and can be replaced for this low cost, the deal gets even better. We will see how they hold up long term, but compared to the competition, these bags appear to be great value.
The bags were recently used on a 400 mile roundtrip using the R1150GSA and travelling mostly via highways. They proved stable at speeds as high as 93mph (closed course, professional rider, etc ;-). Since there was night riding involved, I tried to get a picture of the bags from the rear to show the reflective strip. What I got was two white lines and not much else, so they work but are not very prominent unless the bags are perfectly arranged.