AMH contributor Nick T dropped by while on tour through the Western Isles on his ’05 Dakar 650 equipped with his new Kriega Overlander baggage system. I saw prototypes at a bike show earlier in the year and had another chance to take a closer look at Nick’s set up and hear his views after a few day’s use.
Kriega’s solution to the soft baggage option is a modular system using up to four of their Overlander 15 roll-top bags (15 litres; left and below) mounted on a ~8mm-thick plastic plate – or as they call it, ‘Adv Platform’, right. This platform in turn screws onto your regular 18mm tube hanging rack (more about racks here) using four clamps with a quick-release cam mechanism like the q/r skewers found on pushbike wheels: you screw up the slack with a knurled knob and then lever over the cam-pivot to clamp the plate securely to the rack. That can be done to the two horizontal bars as Nick did – so allowing some forward and back repositioning of the load – or as the Kriega image of their plate above right suggests, attach one clamp to a vertical element of the rack to eliminate forward and back sliding – something I’d say is unlikely to happen if clamped on correctly, except in a crash.
The ability to slide forward and back even a few inches (Nick-mode) is useful as it means you can position the bags as far forward as possible when not riding two-up. That’s good for CoG and so, handling. One of the Jesse Luggage systems has this feature with their boxes. With a heavy load it can make a big difference to how a bike responds, especially on rough tracks.
You don’t have to use two pairs of Kriega’s 15-litres bags. You could mount an alloy box or any other soft pannier to the plate, providing you have the rack of course. In my opinion, a rack is the way to go for hardcore overlanding with soft baggage, as well as with hard boxes or firm cases.
The Ov-15 bags look like they simply strap to the plate, rather like Wolfman bags do to their racks (right). But Nick explained, five screw-and-lock rivets also fix the bags to the plate and help support the weight. The straps do pass through slots in the plates edges but mainly to compress the bag’s load volume. If I understood him right, Nick also mentioned that the tensioning cam buckles pulling into the gap between the bags was awkward, but perhaps the straps can be easily reversed to pull outwards. The rivets screw through holes in the back of outer bag (right) and require an allen key or similar to tighten into place or release. Once fixed on like this, the bags are not easily removed from the plate should you decide to reconfigure your set up. To remove the baggage you remove the entire plate (see below).
The zipless, roll-top bags themselves use Kriega’s usual 1000D ‘Rhinotek’ Cordura fabric, similar (in appearance at least) to my Magadans. Inside white liners are velcro’d to the top edge of the outer bag. It struck us both that white was a good idea for better visibility when digging around looking for something. And as I mentioned in the Magadan review, removable inner bags are the way to go. The Kriega inner bags are made of something like PU-coated nylon with taped seams, but reassuringly thicker than your average stuff sack and it’s all guaranteed for ten years according to the website. Like I say in the Magadan review, I think PVC- or PU-type fabric with heat- or RF-welded seams (like Ortlieb baggage) would be bomb-proof, high-wear solution for a liner, but it’s less flexible when cold compared to nylon which as a result rolls up tighter and so makes a better seal against water ingress. Nick said he rode through a downpour on the way up which got through his Rukka membrane jacket, but his three Kriega bags survived bone dry.
The Kriega platform can be easily adapted to take accessories, most commonly a pair of tough Rotopax rotomolded fuel or water cans at 3.8 litres (1 US gal) each. They lock on with a rotating clamp mount (Kriega accessory) which presses the cans against the rack. All up that’s a weight of up to 11kg on the one-kilo spindle mount, so you’d hope it’s up to a long session of corrugations (which starts me of again on my platform rack preference: separating the location/mounting from load bearing). I must say I prefer bags for water and fuel: they’re lighter and take up less space when not in use, but a rigid fluid container is so much easier to handle than a floppy bag, especially with water which gets more frequent use. (I use a rigid day bottle and keep the mass of water – when needed – in a bag).
Nick demo’d the removal of one side from the rack and I have to say that it still looks a fiddly procedure, just as it did when I saw it done at a bike show a while back. We’re talking a minute or two, but it’s quite tight in there between the back of the plate and the rack (possibly near a hot pipe, too). You need to loosen the four knurled base wheels and then swivel all the cam levers to get enough slack to lift the plate clear of the rack tubes, but not so much slack so the cam spindles unscrew completely and fall out. You’d soon learn just how many turns are needed. I was just pushbike touring for a few days, using my Ortlieb Classic QL1 bags and as I’ve said elsewhere, it feels great to effortlessly lift the bag off or clip it on, especially when you’re shagged out or distracted. Whether you’re camping or lodging with the Overlanders, you’d probably need to remove them daily (unless you lift out the inner bags) which could get a pain. Removal could be speeded up with only a little loss in solid mounting by replacing the lower lever clamps with fixed, weight-bearing slot-in U-mounts as found on many metal boxes. The use of four fiddly q/r clamps does seem OTT to me** and they’re not actually theft proof either (though that could easily be done by drilling the cam levers to take a thin cable lock). And if you’re removing the plates frequently then a handle across the top cut out (strap or part of the plate) was something they may have missed.
**Oct 2012: I’m told the lower mounts are to be redesigned, possibly along the lines I mention.
I believe a simple and foolproof but solid mounting system for anything regularly removed from a moving object – moto baggage; crash helmet; running shoes – is important because with anything repetitive you can get both blasé or distracted midway if it takes a while. All the more when it’s not a simple ‘clip on’ procedure when half awake in the morning surrounded by two-dozen spear-wielding tribesmen or a pilfer-prone crowd. While at the other end of the day, when worn out after a tough ride, irrational levels of frustration can be focussed on uncooperative inanimate objects like your baggage, when all you want to do is get inside, fed and rested. Meanwhile, a slick system like Ortlieb’s QL (admittedly not perfect or robust enough for overland moto use) can be a pleasure to use. If it’s also field repairable and secure against opportunist theft, so much the better.
As for modularity, for overland use, I feel that’s not so useful. You set off for months with what you have: a pair of big bags like Magadans, Gascoynes, or metal boxes. That suits me more than three or four small bags to deal with. The necessary and useful compartmentalisation of your stuff is of course addressed inside the bags, along with something mounted on the back, on the tank and elsewhere round the bike. It’s possible Kriega may bring out a bigger, 30-litre+ side bag (or, as said, you could mount your own), but having looked again, I still feel the removal system (perhaps intended as a one-size-fits-all solution) could be refined [and is being so – see **].
The cost of a plate with clamps is £139 while weighing 1.2kg. Each Ov15 bag is £59 (600g) with the five rivets. The Rotopax mount kit (1kg) is £59. Their fuel can is £55 and water can £32 (both are listed at 2.3kg). So at a guess Nick’s set up would have cost £600 or $976 in the US if you add up the online prices and it would weigh in at 7.7kg (17lbs) empty, according the Kriega/Rotopax online figures. I didn’t get a chance to measure the bags, but the 15-litre volume looks about right. For a four-bag set up I’ve seen an advert in ABR quoting £489.
Tough build quality with some clever features, but in places over-designed, that’s been my opinion of some of Kriega’s moto baggage products over the years. To be fair the company produces load-carrying solutions for the much larger mainstream motorcycling market where I believe it goes down very well, rather than specialising in overlanding like say, Touratech. Stuff like their tool kit or the R3 Waist Pack are great, but for my sort of riding I’d take a full-size pair of roll-tops like the Magadans – easily [de-]mounted and ideally locked onto a platform rack.
The fact is though, there are nearly as many ways of equipping your bike and carrying your gear as there are places to take it. The Kriega Overlander system offers very secure mounting for gear, fuel and water making it well suited to recreational rough riding in wilderness areas such as deserts outside the AMZ on your small-tanked enduro bike (as the imagery on their website suggests). In this scenario you mount your bags once off the pickup/leaving home and may not need to remove them against theft or downpours each night – something which you do when riding most of the time from town to town in the AMZ.