Tag Archives: Jesse Luggage Systems

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. 

softcomp

Setting up the CRF250L

Original pics for this post sadly lost in the clouds

20130408-025454-PM.jpgIn Phoenix the CRF was waiting for me, as were a dozen boxes of accessories to finish off the job the first owner had started before he flogged it with less than 1000 miles.

As a reminder, he fitted a pipe, plate, EJK fuel controller, tail rack, 13T, Shorei battery and the white plastics. Most of the original bits were there too.

Lying on the floor there on the left I had a set of Aussie Barkbusters with the large Storm handguards, a Spitfire screen, some bar risers, a 12V socket, a couple of RAM mounts and some Double Take mirrors along with lube, filters, a Trail Tech Vapor and some maps.

The cheap risers and 12V socket were clearly sourced from the reject bin in some Guandong factory and needed redrilling to fit right – the 12v even had the blue and brown wires the wrong way round which caused a small bang and some smoke! At least there was enough cable on the Honda to get 2 inches out of the risers. The Barks went on easily enough; I refitted the original 14T, replaced the shift lever with a folder, got an AZ plate and some insurance ($28 for half a year!) and then we set about the shock and the side racks.

crgr-shockloadOn the plane over I had a thought that the shock wouldn’t be up to my weight and the load. The L I’d tested in February had been reassuringly firm but when it came to loading the rear spring on my Phoenix bike the collar adjustment rings were factory-set solid. We unbolted the shock (the usual near blind nuts make it easier with two people and the battery out) and Al whacked the collar rings apart. He pointed out a useful trick in turning the loose top sleeve out of it’s notch to give another 5mm of tension, but on bounce testing we decided to go all the way and fabricate an additional half-inch sleeve, splitting a right-diametre tube, fitting it and tacking it in place to rack the preload right up and have a bit more to spare. That required compressing the spring in a press but the shock is otherwise unmodifiable and a decent compression damped unit starts at $600.

Al Jesse was also using my bike to try out the prototype of  the new MonoArm rack he’s designed. Jesse mount systems are typically cunning affairs with minimal metal; my version is a bit heftier until the final form is pinned down.

I didn’t know what to expect but what we have here is a q/d platform rack no less (he must have read my mind) onto which I’ve chosen to semi-permanently attach my Magadans (I could as easily remove the pans from the plate, but the whole point is the rack itself is q/d). Each side plate locates into corresponding slots and the mounting system’s special feature you’ll learn about later makes it particularly well suited to slinky sub-framed dual sporters like the L. Removal of the platform with bags attached is with a nut and spacers, but production versions will use the tamper-proof QRDP lock by the time it’s all out.

Sunday Al put a cooler full of water in his KLX 250 S’s top box and we went for a ride up in the Weaver Mountains around Castle Hot Springs to see how my adaptions weighed up and pull off an mpg test. I was concerned the EJK black box might might have affected this as the original owner had intimated. Even then, with the Honda’s tiny tank (I’ll have a 5-litre fuel bag and may need another) it’s going to be stops every two hours to pay out for 8 bucks of fuel at a time.

First impression was a lot of noise and no jaw-dropping gobs of extra power over the Honda test bike I road in February (I do wonder if that press bike had been fine tuned…). With pipe and airbox and EJK, power should have been up some 30% (18 to 24hp supposedly) but the Kawasaki was having no difficultly keeping ahead. We’d already tried to quieten the FMF ‘Q-Pipe’ by fitting a restricting washer up it’s spout and though it cc-airboxmade a small difference in the garage, once on the road I couldn’t see myself living with that racket. Acceleration was especially noisy; we hoped the holes that had got drilled into the airbox side might address that but back at Al’s, tapping them up made no difference. Luckily the stock pipe was at hand and easy to refit.

32-screenOther than that all was well. By the end of four hour’s riding the old backside was getting warm; that shock is pretty firm now and chattered into bends, but should be on form with a load. Standing up the bars were still two inches too low – Al’s KLX by comparison was just right. Not sure how to get around that without cable issues. Tyres at street pressures were OK and the brakes a bit touchy on the loose gravel inclines, but that will just be me getting used to the bike. The Slipstreamer Spitfire screen too felt a bit close to my face when bashing over ruts but the ‘pressure balancing’ gap at the base caused no turbulence on the highway. I did think it could pull still more gearing but there’s no room in there for a 14T so it will have to be 3 or 4 teeth off the back end. Unfortunately it was the din that left the biggest mark.

As for mpg. Al’s KLX recorded 96 miles on the loop; the Honda 83.5 – an unlikely 15% discrepancy so one odometre was out; tyres and gearing were standard on both our bikes. Assuming the Kawa’s distance reading was correct then the Honda was doing an impressive 62.3 US or 75UK mpg. If the Honda’s 83.5 miles is in the ballpark it’s more like 54.2 US but still 65UK mpg, what I recorded last March on the stock press bike. We were going pretty slowly (no more than 55mph on the KLX or 50 on mine) so I suspect somewhere in between is right.

Back at base I checked the speedo against a Nuvi satnav and up to 30mph it seemed spot on for speed  though over a mile the odo was 10% under. A closer test with my Garmin 62 or even the Trail Tech Vapor unit will get to the bottom of it. And it sure was nice to ride the back streets with that quiet stock pipe back on, even if at 12lbs it’s double the weight of the Q Pipe.

Unfortunately the proto side rack doesn’t fit round the fat OE can and needs to be modified a bit. That and the fact that my  ‘two-day’ helmet delivery is still with UPS meant I was running out of time to get to South Sound BMW for Saturday. We talked about good routes on the weekend but a 250 is not the best machine when you need to cross a continent in a hurry.
The northwest was never my plan on this trip and my decision to fly up north (about the same price when you add it up) was made easier by today’s weather warnings across the Southwest. Here in Phoenix it’s been baking at over 30 Celcius last few days but today in Flagstaff it was snow and 60mph gusts –  undesirable conditions aboard a skimpy 250.

It all gives me more time to get the Honda in shape for a shorter ride for a presentation at Roseville, CA before swing back through Utah’s Canyonlands.

Next instalment here.

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.

magabrmag

Continue reading