For almost a decade I’ve been using hard panniers on different adventure motorcycles. They provided a secure storage space that was easy and quick to mount and dismount. As I moved deeper into the world of off-road adventures and eventually dual sport, I added a Husqvarna 701 Enduro to the stable. A very troubling and realistic concern then became quite evident: If I drop the bike, then the rigid metal boxes may crash on me and possibly break something in my body. This is where soft panniers came in.
Giant Loop’s MotoTrekk is a modular soft panniers system. The basic product is composed of two 100% waterproof and dustproof bags, each 25 liters, that are made of extremely durable yet flexible 500D PVC tarpaulin. Access to the luggage is through a wide roll-top opening. When rolled down, the bag provides the much sought-after complete weatherproofing that cannot be achieved with hard panniers.
With their simple design, the MotoTrekk panniers can mount to virtually any side rack using only straps; no tools are needed. After the bag is loosely buckled to the side rack with the built-in aluminum hooks, it needs to be tightened with the front and top straps.
On the back of the panniers there is a vertical strap with a magnetic buckle that is meant for the initial hanging and positioning on the rack. The left side strap was dangerously close to my exhaust, so I removed it. On the right side, I did not find it useful, and it was even a bit annoying to handle. It’s a nice idea on paper, but the implementation could be improved.
On the other hand, a great tip that I got from Giant Loop’s technical support department was to wrap the top straps around the top of the racks, instead of directly to the bottom buckles, and this gave two additional mounting points—a total of six instead of four—to ensure the bags were vertically secure and not going anywhere.
I attached four Giant Loop Possibles 3.5-liter pouches, optional add-ons for an additional cost, to the front and back of the panniers using specifically designated straps; that provided an extra 14 liters of volume, for an impressive total of 64 liters!
Two SW-MOTECH Auxiliary Fluid bottles, each holding 2 liters, were inserted into the rear pouches. The gasoline containers somehow precisely fitted the pouches’ inner dimensions and therefore added 4 liters, which translated into 50 more miles on my 701 Enduro—a huge and welcome benefit on a dual sport motorcycle with a somewhat limited range.
Giant Loop also offers the GL Pannier mounting plates as an additional option. The plates enable a quick disconnect to a side rack and therefore require the rider to strap in the panniers just once, which can be very convenient. But they do add weight and cost. The plates need adapters to be bolted to the side rack.
On the Road
I tested the system on a 1,000-mile adventure trip, of which 450 miles were off-road. MotoTrekk performed flawlessly and gave me the assurance that my gear is always protected from the elements. The bags are only 6 pounds when empty, and they’re also slim, so I didn’t have the wide and heavy feeling I’m used to with hard panniers.
Most importantly, I had peace of mind that even if I dropped the bike, those panniers were going to absorb most of the impact due to their soft construction as well as the clothes and other gear stored inside them that function as a cushion.
Mounting and dismounting needed some getting used to but after two days it became a nonissue. The top roll is not so convenient for quick access, unlike hard panniers, because the luggage is tightened strongly by straps that pack and compact it. But that too is a habit that takes time to adjust to. I shifted to store immediate access items in the tankbag, tailbag, and the center duffel bag. Soft panniers excel at storing things between one camp in the morning to the next camp in the evening; don’t expect them to do what they’re not designed for, and you won’t be disappointed.
I’m very happy with the solution and highly recommend it to any adventure rider who goes off-road, but in fact it has a lot of value for road touring due to its low weight and narrow profile.