Review: Happy Trails Teton 9” Aluminum Panniers for Kawasaki KLR 650

Dec 18, 2014 View Comments by

 Review: Happy Trails Teton 9” Aluminum Panniers for Kawasaki KLR 650Rugged simplicity is what sets the Kawasaki KLR 650 apart from its fuel-injected, sensor-laden adventure bike brethren. When selecting luggage for my KLR, it only made sense to outfit the bike with luggage that followed the same design principles. The Happy Trails Teton series of panniers does just that. The KLR 650 panniers are constructed of .080” thick TIG welded aluminum, and are available in 7.5 and 9-inch widths, with corresponding capacities of 33 and 38 liters. The panniers are available in Hammertone Black powder coat finish only.

 Review: Happy Trails Teton 9” Aluminum Panniers for Kawasaki KLR 650Though the panniers look basic, their design incorporates many features that enhance durability and function. The bottom outside edge of each pannier is built with a 45-degree cut (Happy Trails calls this a Canyon Cut) so that the pannier will slide on pavement easier if the bike goes down. The panniers are top-load, and the lids come with cam-type latches that draw the tops down securely onto a weather strip that runs around the top edge of the pannier. Each lid is equipped with a keyed lock protected by a rubber cover as well as four metal footman loops that offer a means to secure cargo onto the top of the pannier. If additional security is wanted, the latches can also be locked with padlocks (not included). The pannier lids are furnished with slotted hinges on the outside of the lid, and removal of the screw-type hinge pins (two per lid) converts the lids to lift-off if desired.

The panniers are mounted onto an equally stout rack constructed from 5/8” round and 3/4” square tubing. The racks have a three-point mounting system and a bumper support bracket that connects the two racks together at the rear of the bike. The panniers can be “permanently” mounted to the racks with supplied bolts and washers or temporarily mounted to the bike with hand-tightened knobs (two per pannier). Once mounted, the pannier system is extremely solid and is designed to distribute and transfer load stresses in case of an impact and limit damage to the panniers or mounts. The panniers can be ordered with mounting holes pre-drilled in a neutral (two-up) position or undrilled if the customer needs a customized mounting position.

Although the pannier kit comes with detailed instructions, mounting requires re-location of the rear turn signals onto provided brackets and wiring extensions. Like many accessory mounting kits, the hardware packages can look a bit intimidating to those with limited mechanical ability and patience. Internet research revealed that installation generally took a few hours when performed by the purchaser, so I decided to have a local mechanic install mine. I consider it $72 dollars well spent, as I was informed that the installation was slightly difficult. With my bike, a different spacer was needed due to an aftermarket centerstand lift handle that was bolted at one of the rack mounting points.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the KLR’s side covers can be removed from the bike for battery and air cleaner servicing without removing the racks from the bike. It’s a tight fit, but the side covers can be removed without risk of damage fairly easily. To mount the panniers to the racks, simply open the panniers and secure them to the racks with either the hand-tightened knobs or the bolts. Large fender washers are supplied as well, and I glued mine to the knobs with silicone adhesive so they wouldn’t get lost. The panniers are nicely proportioned and look good on the KLR. I’ll probably opt to leave mine on most of the time to increase the functionality of the bike.
As for nitpicks, the mounting knobs protrude quite a ways into the pannier’s interior (mounting with the bolts solves this issue) and could make it difficult to load or unload big items stored below the level of the knobs. Also, the sharp corners of the pannier tops are capable of exerting a lot of pressure to a very small area in case of a crash or even when swinging a leg over the bike. It hasn’t happened yet, but catching a corner squarely on the kneecap could be painful.

Overall, the Happy Trails Teton panniers for the KLR 650 are rugged, low-frills panniers designed and constructed to withstand the rigors of adventure riding. The panniers, as well as the mounting racks, appear able to withstand impacts that would destroy typical motorcycle luggage, and should provide years of service even in less than optimal conditions. For complete information on Happy Trails extensive product lineup, visit

Color: Hammertone Black
Price: $935


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