The Rally Raid comes as standard with luggage – Aprilia badged Hepco & Becker ‘Alu-Exclusive’ luggage to be exact. And pretty good it is too … if a little wide. Each of the panniers – from Aprilia £421.02 each (unbadged – £317.25 each) holds a quoted 41L but in fact holds nearer 28L once you take into account the room lost to the foam lining. In fact that lining is one of the case’s endearing features. It not only provides added rigidity to the case, but also makes it very thermally efficient – excellent for keeping stuff cool on long hot ride-outs.
The lid hinges forward about 120° to a stop – a nice touch that prevents the lids dropping down against the pannier body and stressing the hinge. A single locking latch keeps the lid locked tight against the weather seal which, though not completely waterproof does a damn good job (rain for 1,500 miles/24hrs and only let in an egg-cup full).
So far so good … but now the not so nice bits. Firstly, the pannier is only held in place by one latch. A latch that can be easily broken in a low-speed ‘off’, leaving the pannier to fall away to its lonesome fate bouncing down the carriageway. Secondly, fitting water bottle frames etc. That foam liner now becomes a pain .. you either have to remove it, or drill it to fit screws/bolts through . I used a tool that takes a 10mm ‘core’ out, then re-glued it into place – neat, but fiddly. Lastly, the rigidity the foam provides – it’s deliberate . As the aluminium body is thin, VERY thin .. like 0.5mm thin, it needs the foam to hold its shape. That means that in a spill the cases deform alarmingly easily as the aluminium has no strength of its own – not good at all.
This all leads to the question of upgrading the pannier system. I want to use the original frames and just replace the boxes. I don’t want to compromise on space or water-resistance, but I do want to improve on pannier strength – albeit at a slight weight gain. I want boxes that only scuff, not crush like a bag of crisps when the bike drops on its side …. and are relatively burst-proof when faced with a BIG impact – sadly, the Hepco-Becker has neither of these virtues.
Here are the systems I’ve looked at:-
Hepco & Becker – straight swap, different models but mass produced to a budget. Up to approx. £550 per pair.
Touratech – Easy to fit with provided kit but expensive and living off their name. Up to approx. £600 per pair.
Caja Sahel – Hand made and easy to fit with Touratech mounts. Powder coated with tie-down points provided. €450-550 per pair.
Project VND – Hand made and easy to fit with Touratech mounts. Anodised finish with hinged and removable lid. £500-600 per pair.
Metal Mule – Nice, but expensive and needs dedicated mounting system. System from £1,300!
Or the other option … design and build your own! Well almost. I’m happy to do the designing bit, but manufacturing is a tad more complex, at least to get a ‘factory’ finish …. and frankly, my aluminium welding leaves more holes than welds. So I’ve enlisted the help of a local metal guru to turn my drawings into reality … and when finished, they’ll look something like this.
500mm Long x 430mm Tall x 250mm Wide (using 2mm aluminium) ….. so the same width as the originals but longer and taller, giving a (hopefully) usable volume somewhere around 47L each. They’ll be mounted to the existing 15mm dia. rails with Touratech mount kits (01-053-0010-0 approx. €47).