February 3, 2014
This has been a really fast-moving trip. 4 countries in three weeks. The bags are getting a solid thrashing. I’ve had several 10-12 hours days of all-dirt riding, fast over deep ruts and washboard, exactly the kind of stuff that’s going to highlight problems if they exist. A proper crash test, however, continues to evade me. But I am not complaining. Andrew and I are thinking we’ll attach the bags to a junker bike and push it out of my truck a few times at speed when I get home.
The bike and bags get lots of attention and questions everywhere I stop. For inconspicuous travel, orange is not the color (ha!):
A recurring issue I’ve had is that my wolfman rack bolts keep jiggling loose. I had this problem with other bags too. Tried loctite. Tried duct tape on the threads. Tried ductape over the heads. Tried JB Weld over the top of the bolts. Nothing held. What does seem to work is putting JB Weld in the threads themselves.
I attribute this issue to the lack of a rear crossbar on wolfman racks. Wondering if anyone else has experienced this issue? When I get home I’ll tack-weld the bolts in place with a tiny bead that I can grind off if I ever need to replace them.
The bags themselves are doing great. I’m compiling a list of edits, things like making roll-tops longer and rearranging the molle. The list is getting long.
One feature I really love is the rear duffle beavertail. The weather here seems to be either a) sunny and hot or b) intense downpour. I keep my rain jacket in the rear beavertail where it’s available on quick-draw without having to open my bags in the rain. Here’s what it looks like open:
And closed. This system really works well:
I also love the rear beavertail when I need to take my gear off but still ride. Like at the Costa Rica/Panama border yesterday it was hot as hell and I was at the border for maybe 1.5 hours getting entry/exit stamps and vehicle permisos and insurance and customs inspections and fumigation etc etc etc. I was sweating balls so I took my pressure suit and jersey off and tucked them in the beavertail while I shuttled around.
The external tool pocket is great. Every day I need my tools at some point. Getting to them without pulling all my crap out of the bags? Priceless.
I’m using the bottle holder we created right before I left. We designed it thinking of medium and smaller bikes that need to carry fuel bottles to extend their range for touring. My SE has an aftermarket 8 gallon tank, so range is not an issue for me, but the bottle holder also works great for carrying booze. A 750ml flask fits perfect. When I stop for the night the first thing I do is break out the flask (survived another day!), and I appreciate the easy access.
Love that I can get in/out of both panniers and both ends of the duffle without having to unstrap anything from the bike. The double-ended duffle can be a a PITA once I’m stopped for the night, because unlike a top-down duffle I can’t immediately see where everything is located in the bag, but it’s worth it to be able to get at stuff while I’m riding. For example, I leave my ipad near the opening because it has a bunch of maps on it. Also my swim trunks, because if I see water during the day I usually want to get in. Wet trunks go under the beavertail until I park for the night.
Quick on/off continues to be one of my favorite things. The mounting system is really working well. I noted today that one of the HDPE mounting frames has warped slightly. I attribute this to muffler heat: the SE runs really hot. The warping doesn’t seem affect the wedge mount or the connection between the frame and the wedge so I’m not too worried about it. But I do want to look into this more when I get home.
It has rained a lot, pretty much every day, and not one single drop of water has gotten into the bags. Pretty stoked about that since these prototypes don’t even have welded seams. With welded seams they’ll be completely impervious to water.
In other news: I’m having a blast on this ride! Here’s a few more shots of the bags in context:
I could travel like this forever! No joke. I love this shit.