With motorcycle luggage, lighter is better for so many reasons: easier handling, less exhaustion, confidence on the more tricky sections… And if, like me, you ride a smaller bike, the engine is going to appreciate having to lug less weight around.
All these reasons had me try out the Adventure Spec Magadan MK3 panniers.
The Magadans are designed to be fitted with a frame. However, the main weight is held by two velcro straps over the backseat that can be adjusted for the width of the bike. This throw-over strap option leaves space for a lockable top box on the rear rack.
The panniers work with any small frame that keeps them clear of the exhaust and the rear wheel. In fact, I have built my own frame that doubles as a tool roll and a paddock stand for tire changes.
Adventure Spec sells cinch straps with G clips to secure the bags, but I still had some straps with buckles. All I have to do is to unclip them and lift the bags off the seat at the end of the day.
I haven’t found it necessary to separate the two bags in order to carry them, but I could imagine that doing so repeatedly might weaken the velcro over time.
Strength in Numbers
In my unfortunate experience, waterproof soft luggage tears in a tumble, no matter how tough the material. Not so in this case.
I love the MK3s layer system, where the 1000D Cordura outer protects the waterproof inner rolltop bag. The Adventure Spec rolltop bag is made from heavy-duty fabric with welded seams and is sold as a separate option—which means you can also use your own, if you prefer.
If the outer does tear in an accident, it is super simple to sew back up. And should the inner bag ever need to be patched up, the weakened spot will be protected by the Cordura going forward.
To me, at least, these are the criteria for a pannier that survives any adventure I throw at it.
With 32 liters of storage capacity on each side, the bags can easily fit all my clothes, gear, and spare parts for long-term travel. Adventure Spec also offers various pouches that attach to the front and back of the panniers via the MOLLE system.
I opted for two Adventure Spec layer pouches to hold my rain gear and bike cover, both of which have to be packed away wet at times. It’s a tight fit and I almost wish they were a bit bigger.
On my small Honda NX250, attaching anything to the front of the saddlebags is impractical, as I find it gets in the way of my legs when actively riding off-road, so I love that you can customize the bags to suit your bike and needs.
How pleasant are they to use?
One annoying downside of soft luggage is that it tends to fold shut as you are trying to find something. The Magadan MK3s address this with a hard plastic panel at the front and back that help the bags keep their shape—although I would like them to be a little stiffer.
Luckily, the thick dry bags keep the top open for packing. Their light gray color also makes it easier to find my contrasting black or colorful things inside the bags.
Once packed and closed with the large buckles (easy to use with bike gloves on), the Magadans hold their shape well. That, and the low weight distribution, make for excellent handling on the road.
It is important to distribute the load evenly between the two bags to keep them from wanting to slip over to either side. By securing them properly at various points, such as frame and pillion pegs, I managed to achieve comparable stability to hard luggage.
The Adventure Spec Magadan MK3 saddlebags satisfy my demanding needs, are a pleasure to use and, most importantly, have vastly improved my riding experience by being so light.