Tag Archives: Giant Loop Siskiyou Panniers

Exactly how big is soft baggage?

Updated December 2019

packerI said this already: soft bags may be ancient, pack animal-era technology but they have very much caught on in advworld. Some are little different to the things I was throwing over my bike 40 years ago; one or two feature significant innovations in mounting, fabrics, lockability and more.

Soft Baggage Comparison • 2020 Review

On advrider (as well as in my own review) questions got asked about the volume claims of the GL Siskiyou pannier: 34L said GL, while me and another guy measured l x h x w as near as we could and came up with 24L.

‘Aha!’ the bloke from GL replied – we establish volume by filling out our bags with beans until they bulge out and that way get 35 litres so that’s what we rate them at. It sounded plausible and got me thinking: what is the maximum volume of a shaped, non-elastic but flexible rectilinear container like a motorcycle side pannier? Logic suggests as the box form flexes out sideways under the weight on contents, the shorter side will pull in and the volume will remain constant.

lomoEnvelopeBut intuition (or maybe logic too) suggests capacity ought to increase: the classic Envelope Test performed by an obscure, pre-Cartesian monk, Antoine de Connerie in front of a disbelieving King Philippe V in 1444. An envelope is a flat container with a volume of next to nothing; open it a little and volume increases, open it a lot and volume increases some more up to a point when opening it out too much will reduce volume to near zero again as it folds back in on itself.

Al Jesse [Luggage] and I discussed this: he reckoned volume of a rectilinear vessel is fixed, but I was not convinced and now I have the answer: If the flexible container is a cube (l x h x w all the same) volume when filled (with beans, water, anything non-compacting) will not be altered much. There may be some fabric bulge.

magdimsBut a rectilinear flexible box (‘suitcase’) seeks to attain the geometric nirvana of cubic equilibrium and does deform and expand substantially. L x w x h on my Magadans rolled up and clipped came in at 24L (left). It doesn’t sound so much and would be identical to a 24L metal box.

magwaterBut, fill the Mags with water and you’ll easily get 40 litres in each side, as the pictures right and below show. Seems hard to believe but there are no less than two fills of that 20L white bucket inside the Mag bag, rolled up, clipped down and ready to roll were it not for the fact that it would give me a hernia trying to lift 40kg (88lbs).

magwalterDoes this all really matter? Yes, it does because for a start, the l x w x h method doesn’t truly represent the maximum potential volume (MPV) of a flexible, non-cuboid container, even if the maxed-out 40L capacity demonstrated on the left is unlikely to be achieved in the real world of packing your panniers with normal travel stuff.

It matters all the more when trying to compare stated fabric pannier volumes with rigid metal or plastic boxes as a guide to buying one or the other. My comparisons in the table at the bottom uses the l x w x h method but that only compares like against like. In all cases you can get more in your bags.

monbaguetteEven then, I think the dimension ratios of a flexible container may also have something to do with it. I recall the guy from Enduristan saying something like the reason their Monsoons (right, reviewed here) are wide (closer to a cube form) is that they have/can make more volume (by presumably having less far to go to reach ‘cubic optimisation’).

But on a motorcycle I still believe slimness is a desirable attribute and is something that for example, Jesse Luggage strive to maintain in their mounting systems and cases. Al likes to boast that some of his rack and box setups are narrower than competitors’ racks alone.

So, in summary, think carefully when comparing stated rigid box volumes against fabric panniers. A rigid box’s capacity is immutable but a soft bag may be more than you think.

The Magadan was tested for water volume because it is the pannier I currently own at the time of this experiment, but this test would work and give similar results with any similar product. 

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Giant Loop Siskiyou Panniers – a close look

sysdimsGiant Loop are well known for their innovative ‘horseshoe’ bags which wrap around the back of a dirt bike but which, in my opinion, are not especially easy to use day-in, day-out and have been proven not to be waterproof and have zips which can be weak points. That may not matter for a weekend run with your mates in the hills, but does on the overland.

Now Giant Loop have joined the likes of Enduristan, Adventure Spec and a few others in producing a conventional throwover pannier, the Siskiyou, named after a mountain range in southern Oregon. These types of panniers are just about as old as bonningtonmotorcycling of course, up till a few years ago Ortliebs were widely used by moto travellers. I recall my first pair of ‘soft bags’ in the late 70s, elegant lightweight cases (left) crafted from a lustrous space-age combination of vinyl-coated cardboard. But this was the advent of the monoshock era where soon they’d be no more twin shocks to arlitkeep the swinging pannier backs out of the rear wheel or final drive. As I say elsewhere, over the years I’ve melted my fair share of soft panniers and even dealt with small luggage fires (right). Nevertheless, I still prefer soft luggage for overland or adventure travel despite the drawbacks of security, perhaps combined with one small detachable hard case for valuables.

These panniers were sent to me for a day’s assessment by UK importers Adv Spec.

WHAT GIANT LOOP SAY
glsys… A ‘round-the-world contender, Giant Loop’s Siskiyou Panniers™ combine the convenience of hard panniers with all of Giant Loop’s performance advantages. Rugged, rackless, lightweight — and damn sexy…. Backed by a Limited Lifetime Warranty…

The GL website specs shown above left also claim each pannier has a volume of ’35 litres’. I’m not the first person to question how they arrived at this figure; my calcs put it at more like 24 litres. We’re all used to exaggerated claims, but that was quite a discrepancy. I read that they measure their luggage products by filling them with beans and doing so I suppose it’s possible that a soft fabric pannier would bulge out. In fact I’ve since found that that is exactly the case so Giant Loop’s estimate of 35 litres is right in the ball park.

GL are fairly ambiguous about what they’re made from other than ‘military-spec materials and construction‘, but it looks like the well-proven and widely used combination of a Cordura shell with a vinyl back, interior and lid. Unusually, sandwiched inside this thick shell is an unseen additional layer of closed cell foam, or something similar. It helps shape the bags and also reduce damage by padding the contents when you crash. GL wisely suggest that any hard-edged items in the baggage are well wrapped for such an eventuality: it’s standard practice in packing soft baggage.

P1030901Rather like the Monsoons, the top edge of the Siksiyou’s shell has a sewn-on sleeve of coated nylon with a thin zip and roll-up clips, similar to a dry bag. Inside you get a separate yellow nylon liner (below right) cut more or less to fit in the panniers, with well-taped seams, a thick layer of TPU coating on one side, plus another thin zip and roll-top clips. P1030898Over the top of this drops the thick PVC lid which clips down on straps, with additional separate straps for attaching stuff to the top of the lid rather than tucking it under the lid straps – another nice touch. Inside the lid is a flat zipped mesh map pocket.

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Click table for full size

P1030887tbottleThere’s also a small cinch-cord pocket on the front of each pannier, but although they describe it as ‘bellowed’ it’s actually a simple wedge that’s nowhere near as big nor usefully box-shaped as the four pockets you get on Magadans although it’s said they’ve been designed to take 2-litre Touratech cans, as pictured left. On the right, a 1.5 litre water bottle in the pannier’s pocket.

P1030909The two bags join together using broad vinyl velcro pads. These pads feature additional lashing rings to secure other luggage or to fix it all to your bike. The Magadans use the same system, but  with a pair of wide velcro straps rather than full-width pads which seems bit OTT. Me, I’d prefer buckles and straps over velcro anyway, because as the P1030886volume of your load changes or rough roads take their toll, fine tuning the tension may be required – and that’s much more easily done with adjustable buckles that super sticky velcro, be it strap or pad. On the Mags such a buckle mod is easy to do – with the Siskies you’re stuck with the pad which I’m also not sure would be great to sit on on a hot day. The GL installation page suggests: “For 2-up riding, affix a small seat cushion to the top of the Siskiyou Panniers“.

P1030906To stop the bags sliding back you get a strap to attach to the pillion footrest or thereabouts (left), as on the Monsoons but something that was missing from the Magadans’ first version. Subsequent versions low have a tie-off D-ring.

P1030893Included with the Siskiyou bags are a pair of alloy exhaust guards (rather like I bodged on my Suzuki – I got the idea from GL). You also get two hose clips, some instructions and a sticker and to stop your sidepanels getting scuffed GL can also supply some protective vinyl film. The exhaust guards are an admission that many a soft pannier has melted like a Cornetto when it shifted or otherwise got too close to the pipe. Modern efi bikes with catalysers run especially hot and indeed the Siskiyou panniers tested on a Husky Terra by Cycle World magazine (April 2013) melted. So like GL say, additional guards may be neededOn any bike you need to think carefully how loaded throwovers will react when they shift on rough roads against a hot pipe. This need avoid or deal with meltdowns with soft bags is why some riders understandably prefer hard alloy or firm resin boxes, although in my opinion mounting soft bags on some sort of rack is the way round this flaw.

P1030902ox60The Siskiyous have a sporty cutback base which makes them more suitable for regular bikes with low, upswept pipes. The Oxford X60s (above left) are similarly profiled but sell for as little as £130 (they’ll need a waterproof liner for sure). Whatever, this shape will greatly increase the Siskiyou’s fitting options to many more bikes than the usual adv suspects. The GL logo is emblazoned on the sides, but in a pleasingly understated way. Unless that ‘GL’ logo glows, I’m not sure there any reflective surfaces as found on the Mags and Monsoons – possibly the thin edge of the lid?

I did also wonder if access would be a bit of a faff. If they’re fully locked down you unclip the two lid straps, unclip and unroll the outer bag and unzip it, then unclip and unroll the inner bag and unzip that – and you’re in! Of course you don’t need to use those zips; their protection against waterproofing is minimal and zips can jam or break when dirty or used carelessly. In this respect I prefer the bomb-proof, roll-top simplicity of the Magadans and the Monsoons.

P1030882So all up you’re getting a good sized touring pannier that looks well made and is usefully featured. The foam protection sandwich is a nice touch, as is including exhaust guards and several lashing points on under and behind the bags; you get a feeling they took a lead from Enduristan here. But – is this £475 ($700) worth of pannier when in the UK Magadans go for £350 and Monsoons for just £230? I wondered that perhaps if you’re paying for the ‘limited lifetime warranty‘ but that only covers the “original purchaser… against … defective materials and craftsmanship only, and does not include damage due to normal wear and tear or misuse“, so no big deal there; after a year they could just put any failure down to wear or misuse.

sisky

Siskiyous look like they were designed for on a Honda CB550X Rally Raid

The Siskiyou panniers certainly feel like they’re up to the rigours of overland travel and design and features fit the bill without any radical innovation. You just need to ask yourself in turn whether the bill for a set lives up to your expectations.

Adventure Spec Magadan Bags review

Soft Baggage Comparison • 2020

Update – autumn 2015
Had a pair ready for my next Morocco trip but sadly they didn’t fit the rack/pipe combination. So back under the bed, ready for next time.

Update – summer 2014
I bought a pair of Mag IIs and used them in Morocco (left).

Update – May 2013
I finally got a chance to actually use my Magadans for a few weeks’ ride around the Southwest USA recently. Admittedly it was only America and I was mostly moteling, but I did enough off-roading to put them to the test. Full story on that ride here.

I am pleased to say – but not surprised to learn – that the Mags lived up to expectations. It’s only a bag, but the no-nonsense design is simply functional and effective – like the Steel Ponys below but much better construction and materials; there’s nothing there you don’t need – other manufactures take note.

elk05c3-tpoazingMine were actually semi-permanently mounted on prototype Al Jesse platform racks – with each siderack removable, so I either pulled out the liner to take inside – or removed each side rack where that felt a better idea – or for day rides. More news of the Jesse MonoArm racks in a few weeks.

doomo12It never poured with rain but it did when I used them last year so I have no reservations about that aspect. The corner tabs I added on not so elegantly (see below) may become a feature on future versions. For my sort of riding prefs they’re the best thing out there.

ABR magazine recently compared half a dozen soft bags. Highest score? Magadans.

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