Monday, April 27, 2015

Wolfman Expedition Dry Saddle Bags & Rally Raid luggage racks

Wolfman Expedition Dry saddle bags mounted on Rally Raid luggage racks
Wolfman Expedition Dry saddle bags mounted on Rally Raid luggage racks

Based on my own experiences on mounting travel gear solely on the rear/top rack I came to the conclusion that I needed rear/pannier racks and some sort of saddle bags. My goal was to get the weight of the gear lower on the bike and keep the gas cap clear from luggage so I could refill with minimum hassle.

My first instinct was to get 2 waterproof roll bags and simply strap the to the racks and be done with it.

Couple of things had me reconsidering this option.
1. getting to gear inside the back would not be ideal as the bag would be sort of sideways.
2 all the weight of the bags would be on the racks unless I came up with some sort of strapping system to distribute some of the weight of the rack.

Number 2 could be solved easily enough, but why go through the trouble when better commercial options are available. Plan A was then dismissed.

Renegade roll bag by Wolfman

I then started going through bag options designed for enduro type bikes. Options are plentiful and companies like Wolfman and Giant Loop come up often.

Basically there are two approaches to the rear bags dilemma. There are the horseshoe shaped bags that can be mounted without racks if so desired and the more traditional two separate bags approach.

I found good alternatives for the horse shoe bag from Mosko, Altrider and Giant Loop but I decided I didn't want any gear on top of the saddle or rear rack. I didn't want to end up back in square one with the fill up problem.
Mosko horseshoe style saddle bags

One thing I am adamant about is that the bags must be waterproof. Rain covers never really work in real life. I found several viable options for the bags, but once I found out that my friend had a pair of Wolfman Expedition Dry Saddle Bags laying around I decided to look no further.

Once I got the bags in my hands it was mounting time. There were straps and loops everywhere and if there is a "proper way" of mounting the bags to the racks with the provided loops I sure could not figure it out. Yes, the bags can be attached securely to the racks with the provided hardware, but I would need to get the bags on and off the bike with relative ease and speed. That didn't seem a possible combination. If I had the Wolfman racks, the provided hardware would work beautifully, but since the RR racks really don't seem to be designed for the Wolfman hardware I needed to come up with something better.

I decided to remove almost all the straps from the bags leaving only the wide top ones that come across the saddle and the ones that actually keep the rolled bag mouths shut.

removed straps on the left vs. the 4 replacements on the right

Instead of a small bag worth of straps I now have 4 compression straps with metal buckles that keep the bags in place. The setup is easy enough for me to figure out / remember even if I'm not using the bags frequently. I hate to those how-the-hell-did.this-work-again moments. using existing loops on the bags the end result looks clean enough and I have a place to store excess strap if the bags are not full.

Metal buckles on the straps

backside of the rack


Wolfman Expedition Dry saddle bags mounted on Rally Raid luggage racks


Quickly after I got this stuff posted I got a heads up from Poland about my mounting method. It seems that the Rolling Hobo had done something similar with his bags and ran into problems when vibrations ate through the straps. The straps are now going through the rectangular cuts on the racks and while they are not very sharp edged I fully believe that this issue needs sorting. I'm certain it can be solved, it's just a matter of how. Gotta put on the thinking cap. UPDATE -> in here 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

1:2 crash ratio

Windy as **** today. Battled the hard winds and a GPS gone insane all day. The TomTom was having a really bad day and for some reason was constantly pointing us to the wrong roads. Probably user error, but I still cant figure out what was the cause since I had not changed any settings since the last outing. While warming up my hands on the thumping exhaust I made a decision to refrain from riding until it gets at least above 10 C.

On a positive note, we did find some interesting spots on the route and we will be checking them out again later.

While dodging (or more accurately just giving way) an oncoming tractor on a forest road I inexplicably lost the front end and went down. At first it seemed nothing had broken, but I later discovered that I was about to need rear turn signal number 3...

The crash ratio for rides this year is 1:2. I'm seriously hoping to improve it.

Friday, April 17, 2015

First proper ride of the spring

Cold, damp and downright miserable weather during our ride. What started out as a chilly barely bearable ride quickly escalated into a mini adventure as the GPS pointed us to roads that hadn't really been roads in recent memory. We pussied out on some parts and walked the bikes over the worst ruts as we didn't want to risk braking stuff on the first ride. Not that I have any delusions of even being capable of staying upright on those parts anyway. All in all a fantastic little trip that yet again reminded me why owning a dual sport is so much fun.

I rode the Honda 250L again for a little while and I'm growing worryingly fond of the bike. It feels so much easier to handle when things get a bit challenging and despite the engine size it doesn't seem to lack any power outside the highways. In fact it feels that I need to go over the gears less with the Honda than with the 690. Maybe I'm just doing it wrong.

This is where we gave up this time.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Checking out the competition, part II - Ducati Scrambler Urban Enduro & Ducati Hyperstrada

Ducati test riding tour was in town and we decided to take the Scrambler Urban Enduro and Hyperstrada for a spin. The Ducati lineup doesn't really have anything that would be directly comparable to the 690 E, but the Urban Enduro is probably their most offroady model and the Hypermotard derived Hyperstrada could be a very enjoyable gravel road machine with the right tires. I was fully expecting to fall in love with the Scrambler and I was already fond of the looks before ever seeing the bike in the flesh. The Hyperstrada hasn't really popped up on my radar and I've always considered it as a ruined Hypermotard. There was also a Multistrada available, but I felt that the Hyper would be a closer rival (eventhough a bit far off) to the 690 E.


The engine is is surprisingly peppy and alive. Having previously owned a 696 Monster and a Triumph Scrambler I felt that the engine was far better than the one on the Triumph and somewhat nicer than on the 696. The genes are most likely very similar though. For this type of bike, I didn't feel any need for more power, but then again I rarely do.

There are three modes, Sport, Touring and Urban. I pretty much went straight for the sport mode and stayed there. There roads I rode didn't really give the Hyper a proper chance to show it's full potential, but the engine was rather brilliant. Just nothing bad to say about it.


The ergos were both weird and wonderfull. The Urban Enduro has rather high bars which gave it a sort of ape hanger vibe. Then again riding standing up was an absolute joy and I could swear the ergos were better than on the 690 standing up!! That was very very surprising to me. After the ride we noticed that the bars were installed a bit off and were a  too far forward and up. The dealer fixed the angle and the bars felt immediately more natural, but since we didn't take another ride I don't know how much the standing up ergos were affected.

Like a glove! Everything felt just about perfect for me. Riding from the pegs didn't feel too good at all, but sitting down was sublime.

Highway speeds

Nothing much to say. Pretty much as expected as far as wind protection and ride comfort. The Hyper is obviously the one to choose for longer highway stretches.


Not in any way uncomfortable, but nothing special in any way. Can't say anything about the seat because of the relatively short ride, but I don't suspect that it would cause any issues.

Very comfy and supportive seat. The seat sort of cups your cheeks and keeps you nicely in place even at hard accelerations. Then again, if your but doesn't "fit", it could be an issue. Not a lot of room to move or change positions. The seat feels very different than it looks.


It is nimble, agile and feels light without truly being extremely light. Brakes are good. Suspension is a sensible compromise given what it's "tasked" to do. No negatives from me.

It has a supermoto feel to it (obviously) with a touch of refinement and travel worthiness. Everything works beautifully together. I would like to take it to the track to learn more about it's character. I feel that I didn't really get to know at all what it can REALLY do.

In general

Both good likeable bikes. I expected to fall for the Scrambler, but the Hyper made much more of an impression. The price difference between the two is such that I just could not justify the Scrambler over the Hyper. The basic Scrambler is cheaper, but for a 690 E replacement bike you would want the extras of the Urban Enduro model. The Scrambler would be the better replacement for the 690 E given it's nimble character and ergos, but it sort of doesn't make sense to me.

Would I trade the 690 to either one? No, still feeling it for the 690.