Tag Archives: Touratech Zega Flex

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 2s and used them with a 650 XCountry in Morocco.

Update – May 2013
I finally got a chance to actually use my Magadans for a few weeks’ ride around the Southwest USA. 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 on both trips. 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.

elk05
c3-tpoazing

Mine 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.

doomo12

It 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 compared half a dozen soft bags. Highest score? Magadans.

magabrmag

Adventure Spec Magadans

Bags supplied in exchange for an Adventure Spec advert in my AMH6.

The Mags are based on the proportions on the 36-litre Steel Pony Gascyones Walter C used or my design if you include the pockets and which I feel is near perfect: bigger than the Andyz, narrower than the Monsoons, zip-free closures unlike the Zega Flexes, and with a chunky lift-out liner supplied unlike any of them.

Two layers of regular-looking (PU-coated?) Cordura make up all the panels of the outer bags, joined with a thick edging. Can tell if one is or incorporates the mysterious and slash-proof Twaron, but one has a ‘ripstop’ like appearance in the  weave although it’s possible I may have felt the thin later of Twaron between them. Inside, as with many soft bags, a flexible panel behind a zip slips down the back panel and under the base to give a bit of shape while still retaining two panels facing the bike or the rack. Magadans are designed to be used against racks, as many other soft bag makers are beginning to realise. I made the dimensions about 24 litres rolled up with two folds (left image above) – the regular way of using them. In what I call expanded mode, with just one, less weatherproof fold on the velcro’d top edge of the outers, you can get 32 litres in each side plus 3 litres in the pockets. They weigh 4.7kg (10.3 lbs). The Gascoynes are about the same size but are 23cm wide – an extra two inches giving another six litres in the main bag. However, I’m happy to lose that extra width. The outer rolls up with a velcro closure and two chunky clippy clips incorporating enough slack to still work in expanded mode, or to lash things down on top with the bag fully rolled up in regular mode against the weather.

The two outside pockets are a great idea to keep fluids handy but also out of the main bag. It’s what’s always missing on vinyl Orliebs and something I’ve bodged on myself on other bags using army ammo pouches. Both with velcro flaps, one will take a 1.5 litre water bottle (green bottle) sticking out, or 1 litre flap closed; the back takes 2 litres sticking out with room to spare, or 2 litres closed.

The weight is taken on throw over straps, but as mentioned, with a rack. One bag gets doubled velcro ‘hook’ straps (4), the other gets the double sided ‘loop’ strap. A secure system sandwiching the loop strap from both sides to cope with the large hanging volume and onto which velcro can be re-sewn should it wear out, or a buckle easily fitted. With velcro the less you use it the longer it will last but with a buckle (two types shown right) macro adjustments up or down are much easier to make, especially when the bags are loaded. That’s what I plan to do. The distance on full velcro overlap is 50cm and I’d say you could run them out to 75cm (half overlap) if you’re bike is wide.

I was keen to see how the back of the Mags looked so as to work out how they could mount securely to my planned rack. The Magadans are designed to be merely held against a regular flat ‘hanging’ rack rectangle which most alloy box makers produce for all sorts of bikes. It does this with a horizontal strap which passes through slots behind the side pockets just above the level of the reflective stripe. To me this is not so effective, but is perhaps the best ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for the moment. It’ll stop the bag flapping outwards but, depending on the width of rack verticals, will still allow some forward and (less common) back sliding which could get annoying on the legs, unless you add a retaining strap across the back as the Monsoons had.

The good thing with the fabric outer being separated from the inner (like the Monsoons) is that you can sew or rivet on whatever suits your needs and that’s what I did to mine (right) so there’s a direct attachment point. As it is I plan to use a platform rack so the attachment won’t be so critical and may even work without the throw over straps. If I was to suggest a solution it would be something like two horizontal rows of loops sewn across the back panel, a bit like was on the top back edge of the Monsoons (right – for what reason I was not sure). With two rows of such loops you could even eliminate the throw over element, or reduce its stress loads. But it’s unlikely that Magadans will be modified in this way. A mate asked Adv-Spec and was told:

We have always found that tags sewn onto panniers result in [them being] ripped off panniers as soon as there is any real load applied or a constant tugging or pullingThe Magadan panniers are designed to have a strap tied around the entire pannier and then around the frame. There are slots in the front and rear bottle holders which allow the strap to pass through to help hold everything in place.

I have to say that from my experience with similar panniers that’s not such a convincing explanation. And even if it was, a tough fabric mount could feature a ‘sacrificial’ ring or loop which could be replaced should the pannier be wrenched away in a heavy fall. But if that’s the Magadans’ biggest flaw then it’s not so bad.

I was pleased to see the inner bags are not some cheap PU-coated drawstring stuff sacks, but full size, roll-top PVC ‘dry bags’ shaped to fit the outers. Sewn seams are taped (right). I suppose I’d have preferred heat welded, like an Ortlieb or Seal Lines. The great thing with separate bags is you can lift them out clean to carry into a tent or hotel room, leaving the mucky outers on the bike if you wish. These are chunky PVC bags that will resist the rubbing against the outers as well as impacts better than most things, and anyway, you can fit a selection of your own in there to compartmentalise better.

As well as the horizontal back strap to locate the bags, the Magadans feature a similar arrangement of loops to take a vertical strap or indeed an adjustable cable lock to wrap around a frame – where used – so securing the bags against opening or removal. Combined with the slash-proof fabric, this ought to make the Mags the most secure soft bags around. It’s hard to know how effective this slash-proof Twaron is without doing the obvious. There are a couple of vids on  youtube citing the wonders of Twaron for offshore and ballistic uses, but if nothing else, if you use a rack you’ll be able to cable the bag on (although you could sort of do that with any soft bag).

All up I’d say the Mags look the business: a great size, good features and modifiable for rack fitment. The quality of manufacture (somewhere in the EU) looks good too. Nice work Walter C and Adv Spec; you’ve save me doing a less good job myself. There’s more on using the Magadans here and here.

With Monsoons costing £220, old Kriega Overlanders from £500 all up, Steel Pony Gascoynes AUD350 and Andyz going for £245 in the UK, at £350 I’d say the Magadans are fairly priced when you think what a key component your luggage is on a genuine overland trip.

BMW F650 GS SE ~ pre-Morocco test run

Morocco trip report here.

I did a bit more work on the GS then loaded it up and took it out into the countryside for a spin. The last-minute jobs included:

  • Sizing up the Enduristan panniers on the Metal Mule rack.
  • Hard wiring in a 3-socket, 12-volt PTO off an accessory plug under the battery cover.
  • Fitting a larger side stand plate.
  • Fitting an Aerostich wool seat pad.
  • Fitting a couple of thick canvas pouches onto the engine bars.

First discovery was that, at around half a metre long, the velcro straps on the Enduristan Monsoons were too short to throw over the back of the GS. They’d have been barely long enough even if the bike had not had a Metal Mule rack and would have flapped around on the offside as the 650 doesn’t have nice slab-sided sides like bikes of old. I believe throwovers are a throwback to simpler biking days when twin shocks kept them in place. These days, for overlanding I’m not convinced it’s a long-term solution to soft baggage – a rack is needed or they’ll melt on modern cat pipes. And if you have a rack you may as well mount them properly. This has always been my plan with the Monsoon’s for my own bike, after the Morocco job is done. I was offered hard panniers by a couple of manufacturers but turned them down.

Anyway, how to get round the strap shortage. In the end I decided on a solution with minimal intervention and easy field repair, and sewed in an extra six-inch loop with a mini snaplink to slip the Monsoon velcro bit back on itself (pictures below).

On the pipe side I hooked on a full-sized carabiner for the bag’s front location strap which clips to the pillion footrest; otherwise the strap would have melted on the nearby pipe for sure. And on the back of the rack I screwed on some hose clips with R clips to help locate the back location straps (see photos below).

Under the tank there are at least two more 12v power take-offs, assuming you have the right BMW lead (the white plug with three yellow wires in the photo). With a bit of experimenting two of the three wires got screwed onto a 3-plug cig lighter socket jammed on the bars with duct tape and a ziptie. As with many jobs here, if this was my bike I’d do a neater, more permanent job. (Or would I…?) I like bodging for the main reason that it’s quick to do and easy to repair and I like to think there is an art to it.

I read on ukgsers that these OE accessory sockets off the wiring loom are controlled by the ECU and disconnect fuselessly under all but the lightest loads (that’s why my heated vest is wired directly to the battery). I tried my mini air compressor in the plug and sure enough, it tripped after a couple of seconds, but worked after switching off and on (to trip again). Good to know, so I changed the leads on the pump to croc clips to wire directly to a lead I made off the heated vest connection.

Similarly, I didn’t want to be welding bits to BMW’s bike (the voltages could put the ECU in a spin, even with the battery disconnected), so held back from getting a plate welded to the side stand foot. Instead I found a new Touratech screw-on plate on ebay for nearly half price. From my experience in the desert I’d say that this beautifully crafted bit of CNC’d alloy is about half the size it needs to be to support a loaded bike on soft sand. A cynical person could even say it’s a metaphor for the way things are these days: finely made and expensive bling that falls some way short of being functional. Anyway if it’s hopeless or breaks off I’ll remove the stand and get a proper steel plate about the sized of a fag packet welded on by a Moroccan metalbasher for five dirhams.

The Aero sheep’s wool pad went on with a couple of strips of pushbike inner tube (other elastics and hooks were supplied) and it’s certainly soft and furry to stroke; to sit on we’ll find out later. I can see someone nicking it, it looks so nice.

Great thing with engine bars is that you can attach stuff to them. In my case a one-litre, thick canvas army ammo pouch that I think goes back to my very earliest desert bikes. In fact here it is on my Tenere in ’86. This one has a hole in it to take a 1.5 litre water bottle poking out the top. Others use plastic drainpipe with screw on caps, but these pouches made at least 50 years ago if not in WWII) are seriously thick and crash proof and cost next to nothing. I liked mine so much I bought another pair off this guy on ebay for 4 quid each and fitted one on the other side: handy for oil, rags and whatever.

Finally I had a look around the bike to see what extra tools are needed. No great surprise to find that the 4-piece toolkit (right) clipped to the seat base has a limited range – though I’m still not sure what that 17mm is for; certainly not the front or back wheel which needs your own 24- and a 12mm to adjust the chain. There are plenty of those Torx fittings all around. I have to say Torx are probably not just a way to make you buy new sets of tools but better than Allens and of course much better than the mushy cross heads and hex bolts of old.

Shake down
Sunday morning I set out to follow a 33-mile pushbiking exercise loop I occasionally do, from south London out into Kent past Darwin’s house, Biggin Hill aerodrome and along the course of the Pilgrims Way – the ancient route from Winchester to Canterbury which follows the base of the North Downs – and back north into London.

I was trying out a lot of new stuff that had just turned up: a chunky Aerostich Falstaff jacket (like a Darien but in waxed cotton), an X-Lite X402-GT modular helmet (right; I decided the Airoh TR1 was just too noisy). I was also wearing my Kanetsu hot vest (the right way round and inflated this time) and had a Nuvi on the ‘tank’ top under a net to see if it worked there (it didn’t). They’re great in cars but I’m not sure I can see me getting into these satnavs while motorbiking. I could be wrong (I was…) but it takes too much concentration to focus on it, let alone fiddle with it (I have no recall but I suspect this crash 9 years ago was caused by scanning the GPS while riding). Still, at very worst it will be a handy map to whip out of a pocket when needed and perhaps a high bar mount will work better. On this morning’s ride I knew where I was going, and across Spain I’ve managed for 30 years with maps and route details prepared or memorised in advance. We shall see – perhaps I will become a convert (I did).

Does my bum look big in this?
The bike rode fine enough – the K60 tyres are still not as secure as the originals (only 40 miles old) but ought to prove their worth on the piste.
My payload was about 21 kilos including 5kg of food; the departure weight will be a little more (50lbs), plus water. Not too bad, but heavy enough all hung out the back. I tried to set the bags as far forward as possible, but jeez this gear is wide. Probably even a little wider than the Tenere set up on TTech Zegas or a GS12’s barrels. I swear when this job’s over I am going to make a luggage system on a platform rack for my own GS: same roll-top principle with a stiffener inside, but long, set low and slim, not short, high and wide.
I’m sure sticking out stuff influences handling and aerodynamics at high speed. At least it’s soft enough not to damage whatever it knocks into. The huge silencer is partly to blame; Metal Mule (and I bet Jesse Luggage too) sell an alternative pipe that tucks in better and takes a slimmer rack. You do wonder why silencers are round; maybe it’s cheaper that way.

Nothing flapped, melted or fell off and the stiff back shock works a bit better with the weight, so other than trying not to knock off the Sunday morning drop-bar and lycra brigade, I was more pre-occupied with the performance of my cushy new X-Lite and Falstaff jacket which needs a good airing to get the pong of wax out of it. Another re-pack and all is set for the month’s run to Morocco in a couple of days.

I don’t think I can face blogging out there – I like to get away from that stuff once in a while – so the full trip report on the 650 is here.

Honda XR650L – 4000 mile report

XRL Choice • XRL Preparation • Desert Riders

Despite early reservations in Tunisia (it’s always the way on your first ride fully loaded), we agreed the bikes made a good alternative to a KTM 640 Adventure which was our second choice.

What we liked

  • Descent suspension (but see below)
  • Economy (but Andy’s was mysteriously 15% down on ours)
  • Clutch and gearbox took the hammering well
  • Engine never baulked at crap fuel
  • Despite low bhp, it was never lacking
  • Very accurate speedo/odo
  • Anvil-like reliability – worth a lot out in the desert

What we didn’t like

  • Too high and top-heavy with that giant tank (oh really?)
  • ‘Sternwheeler’ steering (due to oversprung front end)
  • Rough riding with alloy panniers – smaller and soft next time
  • Accurately measuring the oil level
  • Skinny rear subframe
  • Accessibility for rear spring adjustment

Worthwhile mods/gear

  • Tough tank and rack fabrication
  • Nifty Petzl Zipka head torches
  • Michelin Desert/T63 knobblies
  • DID gold-plate chains
  • Foam Unifilters
  • Renthal bars and Acerbis Pros
  • My rally screen
  • Andy’s IMO
  • My tank net
  • Our bashplates!
  • Reduced gearing (14/48 – never changed it back after Oued Samene)
  • I liked my Q/D Zega panniers
  • RAM mount
  • My trusty Coleman Dual Fuel 533 stove
  • Backpack hydrators (but my Platypus bladder leaked)
  • My Altberg boots – light enough to swing over and to walk in
  • Aerostich Darien Light jackets
  • Bel Ray synthetic oil – didn’t do the engine any harm
  • Thermorest mats (a three-quarter Ultralite was fine)
  • Hardwiring the GPS

Note: by now some of this gear has become obsolete or a lot better

Sub-functional mods/gear

  • Fitting heavy front springs (without doing the same on the back)
  • My GSX-R seat (barely better than the Honda plank)
  • My RK (Tagasako) chain stretched quicker than the DIDs
  • A few of my rear alt spokes snapped – the others’ OEs were OK
  • Those 10L Ortlieb water bags are hard to use and one leaked from new
  • MSR ‘RBJ’ stoves – both packed up but not designed for regular ‘desert’ fuel anyway
  • My Renthal grips – as bad as Honda (but I used ordinary gloves)
  • Canvas tool bag on my bash plate – nice idea but metal would be better
  • A lower tank with a fuel pump would lower CoG and improve handling
  • My car type oil temp gauge never worked
  • 12v cig lighter PTOs – unreliable contact on the rough terrain – hardwiring or DINs is best
  • Enlarged sidestand foot was not big enough in soft sand

Equipment failures (not including crashes)

  • Some of my rear spokes
  • Andy’s rear T63 (rock damage)
  • Jon’s tank bungs
  • One Orlieb bag
  • MSR stoves
  • Rear subframes found cracked on Jon’s and possibly Andy’s bike.

Other than that, these XRLs came back running much better than my previous Yamaha Teneres, but they were new and run on good oil.

I’ve lately been told that the Desert Riders boots I had custom made by Alt-Berg are now part of their line up.

Touratech Zega Flex review

See also: Soft Baggage Comparison

DESCRIPTION (probably discontinued years ago)
Small, fabric, quickly-detachable (q/d) soft panniers/cases which lock onto a thin alloy TT frame which then bolts on most racks. Includes a capacity-expanding zipped compartment, outside flat zip pocket, an elastic-topped under-pocket and a few mount rings. Converts into a back pack.

WHERE TESTED
Off-road riding in Morocco in November 2008 on a Yamaha 660 Tenere.

IN A LINE
Expensive for what they are and only splash proof.

PRO
Lockable quick detach system
Rack mount: no more melting throwovers
Inner plastic box liner gives shape when not expanded
Look good
Well made

CON
Absurdly tiny advisory maximum payload? (‘5kg’ says the catalog – is it a misprint?)
A bit small, but sag in expanded mode.
Flimsy alloy mounting frame on my version; others on the TT sites look notably tougher.
Backpack idea unnecessary

These bags were supplied free to me in exchange for a Touratech advert in my Morocco book.

REVIEW
Touratech’s Zega Flex soft bags match the q/d element of some touring hard cases with the lightness of fabric. With a high-pipe bike like a Tenere, I believe soft luggage on a hard frame is the way to ensure a secure mount and avoid that melting feeling you get with throwovers like Ortliebs, Andy Strapz and all the rest. The q/d is neat and quick, handy for wheeling a bike into a hotel and a nice touch for a road tourer.

Compared to alloy boxes, Zega Flexs are small: about 46cm long by 25cm high by 18cm deep (unexpanded) which works out a tad over 20 litres; the volume of a jerrican. Unzipped and expanded, the middle pocket adds another 8 litres or so. I’d have preferred something a bit longer and taller, but I suppose passenger legs and low pipe bikes become an issue; the slim width is good. They claim only 5kg max payload.

The q/d mounting with ‘claws’ on the back of the pannier hooking onto four pegs on the thin alloy frame which you mount permanently to a proper rack, is pretty clever (you acquire the technique), but the claws sometimes jammed and needed to be kicked off (oiling would have helped for sure, as it did when the lock jammed with dust). The ‘lock’ is more to stop the bags jumping off over a bump than an anti-theft measure. For the whole trip I supported the bags with extra straps through the main rack to save stress on the frame/claws and because I was typically running 10kg in each bag and didn’t think the mounts would have been up to it. One mount peg on the frame fell off, but I’m sure using the straps paid off. Without them the claws would have bent out on the dirt for sure.

They don’t claim the bags to be waterproof and it didn’t rain enough on me to find out though I didn’t use the liners that TT offer. I liked the outer zip pocket for quick access and the expansion zip/pocket. I added my own exterior 1.5L bottle pocket but the whole backpack conversion idea (see the TT websites) is a bit of a gimmick IMHO. I cut off the backpack straps as soon as I got them and then made my own top handles from the straps left over (the chunky, molded back handle is not so usefully positioned and with new holdall handles it becomes redundant). There is a neat ‘underpocket’ which is good for stuffing in rags or wet gloves.

Of course a hard crash with a long slide down the blacktop would do some damage and I do wonder how long the zips will last when they get dirty and you’re too tired to be careful. Overall I think they’re more designed for light road touring than sustained off-road use, but I’m glad I tried them. I sold the little-used Zega Flexes in early 2012 and got given some Enduristan Monsoon throwovers. I was then thinking of making my own roll-top soft panniers to sit on an platform rack and then Adventure Spec Magadans came along.

FEEDBACK & COMMENTS
The HU thread I started some time ago is here.

My bags mounted with backpack straps removed, but the relatively redundant rear handle (left) left on.
Inside: location straps stop all your stuff falling out when you open them mounted and a thin liner unzips…
… to reveal the plastic ‘support’ box on which the ‘claw frame’ mounts. It also adds a measure of waterproofing from wheel spray and has a certain ‘hidden compartment’ utility.
Zips, smooth but not too chunky. When they break or jam, it could all be over. This is one advantage of a canoe bag-style roll top closure.
I added pink tape to the main zip tabs to make them easier to distinguish from the expander pocket zips.
I saw some display Zegaflexs on a KTM 950 in the TT UK shop with a hole worn through the fabric by the top edge of the inner plastic box. To avoid this happening to mine I filed the corners down a bit.
I cut off the relatively useless backpack straps and bodged on my own holdall handles. Much more useful and conventional.
The alloy frame mounted OK onto my non-Touratech OTR rack. I needed one bracket from a hardware store to finish the job. The 4 mount pegs on which the claws hook are visible. One unscrewed itself and fell off.
The back plate and claws on the wheel side of the bag.
The claws showed some signs of wear and bending and sometimes jammed, even with the support straps which helped take the weight. All fittings are easily re-rivetable though.
Underpocket: useful for stuffing stuff.
I added my own exterior bottle bag. Mount rings here would have made this easier.
In expanded mode, about 28 litres…
… I believe the support straps are even more important to spare the mounts, especially off road.
Expanded, back view