The choice of panniers can really determine the outcome of your journey. Before you spend your hard earned hundreds of Euros or Dollars you should do some research. What follows is a highly technical analysis so bear with us. Here’s a list of things to look and ask for.

In case of a crash plastic panniers usually shatter into pieces and your trip is over. Aluminium panniers might deform but after some tweaking should allow you to continue the journey.

Wear and tear:
Speaking of durability the standard thickness for aluminium panniers is now 2mm. It’s the best compromise between weight and strength. It is especially important for panniers without extra sheeting between the pannier and the rack. In such cases the hard steel rack scrapes the soft aluminium pannier wall which leads to excessive wear of the pannier.

Extra accessories:
A high quality 2mm thick aluminium pannier is rigid and can support additional accessories such as water or fuel canisters. The lid should have at least four hooks to mount additional luggage.

One pannier without mounting kit should not exceed 5 kg.

The more folds in the body of the pannier the more rigid it is. The standard is two folds per corner which equals to eight folds per pannier. Some cheaper panniers only have four.
What makes the upper part of the pannier stronger is the inner cut. This solution makes the pannier tight even after receiving  a hit from the side. Some panniers where the lid is placed perpendicularly on the pannier can lose tightness even after the smallest hit.
As for the lower part of the pannier the best solution is when the bottom is a separate element. In such case we obtain a 4mm thick wall in the area where the body overlaps the bottom. This extra rigidness allows to attach extra hooks and safely mount heavier luggage underneath the pannier.
The corners of the pannier should be an integral part of the body. The corner protectors should only play an additional role. If they get damaged you can just exchange them after the trip.

Aluminium pannier interior

The pannier should have two buckles. If it only has one and a hinge on the opposite side you will have difficulty accessing your luggage. This is especially important if your bike is loaded with an extra bag or set of tires blocking access from one side.

The buckles should be difficult to tear off. There are many cheap buckles out there which can be taken off with a simple screwdriver.

The buckle should allow you to keep riding without having to lock the lid with a key. If you know that you will be riding in rough terrain like mud or sand it’s better to keep the pannier unlocked so you don’t risk jamming your luggage in the middle of your trip.
It’s convenient when one buckle can serve as a hinge but can also be completely unbuckled when necessary.

Aluminium pannier bolts

Additional features:
You should pay attention to the quality of the parts of the pannier system. Acid resistant, powder coated steel will not get into reaction with the aluminium body.

In our opinion the paint is a decorative feature with no special influence on the performance of the pannier. The paint will eventually get scraped as seen on the picture of a anodised pannier bellow:

anodised pannier

Recently manufacturers started using structural paint which is more resistant than the anodised surface but it has one side effect – the stickers tend to fall off :)

Last but not least the panniers must be water tight. We will elaborate on this topic in detail in a dedicated post.

Here’s our battlefield tested guide on how to keep your bike nice and slim.

Adventure luggage panniers

Pay close attention to the width of your pannier system.
A system with an exhaust cut can save you 8-10cm.
Also it’s better to choose smaller panniers and attach additional bags on top or beneath.
A 38L pannier set with a 10L bag gives you comparable capacity to a 45L pannier set and saves you another 8cm in width. This will pay off when it comes to fuel consumption, bike control, traffic navigation, crossing rivers etc.

We don’t recommend a top-case due to high center on gravity and high wind resistance. Instead we propose a waterproof bag behind the handlebars. If two panniers and bags are not enough go for an additional tank bag.

With this setup you get maximum capacity without losing control of your bike.

Adventure luggage panniers

We’re happy to announce that we got our hands on the new BMW R1200GS LC. We are working hard building a dedicated aluminium pannier set and other accessories, including:

  • Pannier systems, both symmetrical with exhaust cut, as well as asymmetrical
  • Two different models of crashbars
  • Top case plate
  • Two different sizes of luggage racks
  • Headlight protectors
  • Mounting brackets for auxiliary lights (Hella Micro DE)
  • GPS adapter
  • Stock handlebar crossbar
  • Manifold tube cover
  • Oil cooler guard
  • Aluminum cylinder guards
  • Kickstand extension

Some pictures from our workshop, stay tuned for more news on the R1200GS LC.