Pannier Use 101

This Q & A session is taken from an email exchange between Tim and a customer who sent extensive feedback after riding 5,200 miles of dirt roads across America with Happy-Trail panniers.

The customer was happy overall with his panniers. He liked the finished look they gave his bike, found them surprisingly waterproof in the worst of downpours, easy to pack with excellent loading capacity, light ... and great to use as a table when he wanted to stand and eat along the side of the trail!

He also had concerns, and Tim addresses these in this Q & A session.

Q     Pannier shake with the vibration of the bike, a bit too much.

A     This is probably a mounting issue. I like to use Gorilla tape on the back of the pannier. This acts as a vibration isolator and it also improves the clamping.

Q     On even, smooth gravel they were quiet but when the trail became rocky, bumpy or just simply tough, the panniers rattled all the time. I kept looking back and down at them afraid they were coming apart.

A     Check the lower pucks. They are designed to take the sheer force, so check that they are tight. Check the SU Rack to make sure the mounting surface is flat. Check that all welds on the mounting surface are ground flush. Check the pannier to see if it has been damaged. Check that the back of the pannier mounting surface is flat. If it is not flat this needs to be corrected.

Q     It is impossible to oil the drive chain alone: I needed another person because the pannier impeded me from turning the wheel.

A     To lube the chain you might have to remove the pannier. Consider using the pannier as a stand to balance the bike on while doing the chain lube. Some riders disable their side stand switch (do this at your own risk) so lubing the chain can be done by pulling the rear tire off the ground with the bike running and putting the bike in gear. This allows you to spray the chain as it rotates. This style of lubing is very popular among dirt bike riders. Another option is a third leg to balance the bike on. Finally, if available, a center stand is the always the best.

Q     On single tracks the width of the bike with the panniers caused me to hit everything close by.

A.    I talk about this in the KLR650 NO ZONE. The No-Zone is very specific for the intended purpose of the bike. I ride some of the most difficult trail for Dual Sport bikes and I always have to be forward thinking on what width is the best. When we are touring this is a great dilemma. The bottom line is that a loaded Dual Sport does not really belong on a single track, yet even an innocent 2 track can wreak havoc on us with an alligator rock.

Q.    The vibration and shaking sheared off one of the bolts, the one connected to the rear footpeg. I fixed the problem with wire and duck tape.

A.    See previous comment where you hit everything. Vibration was not the culprit. The XR650L is one of the highest rated bikes for its off highway capability. This comes with some sacrifice to make a bike great do all things something has got to give. The sub frame is inherently weak on the XR. We have been building racks and fixing the frames since day one of this bike. We have even worked with Honda employees on this issue of frame flex. While the bike rates high for its handing it rates at the low end for is carrying capacity.

Q.    The dangerous problem: on rocky gardens, thick mud, deep sand, I could not put my feet down because the panniers would hit my calves really hard. I could not "paddle" with my feet. The panniers are too low and far forward for this type of riding.

A.    The panniers can be mounted higher and more to the rear if you choose. Paddling is really not a viable option as a riding style. You must be on the pegs in an attack riding position. While this might seem like an answer of avoidance it is really what we need to do. I take all the riding classes I can and I talk with other riders about riding styles and ergonomics all the time. Do I paddle at times? Absolutely. Do I feel comfortable doing it? Not at all.

Q.    If the panniers were not filled to the top, everything inside shook and bounced around, and ended up smeared with a silver film, if not damaged.  I had to be careful to add more stuff from my riding partners when the panniers were not full.

             A.    Powder coating of panniers is the best way to go. The filthy black oxidation is frustrating and messy. I find that
             using bags to put everything in inside the pannier is the only way to go. I once had a tool get out of a bag and
             rattle. This created so much tension in me it was unbelievable. I stopped and repacked and all was good I thought.
             As I was sitting next to the bike after I repacked I noticed a missing sub-frame bolt. I had had a hard crash earlier
             in the day and did not notice the bolt missing. When I investigated it lead to further problems from the crash. After
             I repaired everything and packed right it was a relaxing ride out.     

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