Touratech panniers: two thumbs up; forget H&B
For my new Wee, I wanted a set of asymmetrical mounts and bags, to minimize wasted space due to the absence of a muffler on the left. I only found two options: Hepco and Becker, and Touratech. The H&B bags look nice, weigh less, and are quite a bit less expensive than the Touratechs. Further, the Touratech mounting system for the DL650 was backordered with no delivery estimate available. Since I had a trip coming up, it was a no-brainer; I ordered the H&B kit and bags.
The H&B mounts not only did not fit (substantial bending of the left mount would have been required to make everything line up), but they actually required me to cut metal on my bike to mount them, and even then would have left my rear rack improperly aligned.
H&B specifies placing their bracket under the rear mounting bosses of the rear rack, which raises the rack out of its securely nestled location and perches it at an angle so steep that the bolts will not line up. H&B anticipates this, and specifies a solution: hack off the 1/8" shoulder on the rear rack mounts to lower it just enough that the bolt holes will line up. This will still leave the rack at such an angle that the bolt head bearing surfaces are not in proper contact, and irreversibly damages the fit and finish of the bike.
What is most irritating is that H&B could themselves have trivially solved that particular problem by simply drilling a larger hole in their bracket, so that the rack mount shoulder can drop into it. That, ultimately, is what I did; however, that didn't solve the alignment problem with the left bag, and still left me very unhappy with the improper fit of my rear rack.
I RMA'd the set because of the bent left mount and the attendant alignment problem, which thankfully spared me from being stuck with the unacceptable installation method. I went crawling back to Touratech and ordered their panniers. Meanwhile, I lashed two bags of gear to the pillion seat for my trip, and headed out. Shortly after my return, the Touratech kit was ready for me to pick up, about 5 weeks after I placed the order.
It was well worth the wait and the extra money. The bag mounts fit perfectly, formed around the existing rack mounts, and using the existing bolts, all aligned correctly, and installation was very quick. The weight of each pannier mount is supported at 3 points, taking advantage of all four of the rear rack mounting points as well as using the footpeg bracket. Two of the three mount points are forward of the rear axle; contrast with H&B, which was supported at only two points, one of which was well behind the rear axle. As an added bonus, the use of the forward rack mounts, which are under the seat, means that the rack cannot be removed without the bike key, making the panniers a little more secure.
Touratech even thoughtfully supplied rubber cushions for the contact surface between the upper-front mount and the body panel on which it rests. The only fit problem I found was that the tab that connects the right bag to the rear crossbar was at a slightly incorrect angle, but the holes did line up and it was easy to force into place with only bolt torque. The bag fit is snug and secure, and there are no rattles. I could remove the entire system and leave no evidence that it was ever there.
The mounting hardware on the panniers themselves is symmetrical, so I can mount either one on either side. This means that if I ever want to upgrade to the larger 41/35L system, I only need to replace the 29L bag with a 41L and can reuse the 35L bag.
There is one gotcha, though: the bags do not come with locks. I didn't realize that, and will have to order the lock set for them ($50-ish). You can simply use the screw-latch to secure them, or you can easily padlock them, but I want more security than the screw-latch, and padlocks would be bang around and be annoying on the road.
The Touratech kit is engineered around the bike, with no modification required, and with respect to the bike's own fit and finish. It is not inexpensive, but in this case, it is easy to see what the extra dollars get you. I wish I had bought them in the first place and saved the time, frustration, and shipping that my trial of the H&B set cost me.
Last edited by dtalk; 07-26-2008 at 12:00 AM.