gear104aby Victor Wanchena


Custom aluminum boxes have always represented the finest in rugged motorcycle luggage. The large, chunky silhouette of large aluminum luggage spoke of the rider’s good planning and large bank account. Being weatherproof, theft-proof, and for the most part, bombproof made aluminum bags the choice of hardcore adventure tourists. The problem with them was it seemed they were only available for odd, European only bikes that we never see, and those available were priced in the “For Jay Leno” range.

I was in need of a box for my DR650. I was using it mainly for commuting to work, but also liked wandering out on fire roads and trails when time allowed. Because most of its use was commuting I decided to look for an aluminum top box for the DR, as saddle bags added unneeded width in traffic and when parked. I wanted aluminum because I needed the security of a lockable bag. My search of the boxes available for the DR was limited. Luckily, a friend suggested Happy Trail; they build rough and tumble aluminum luggage at an affordable price.

Happy Trail offers a wide range of aluminum bags for an equally large range of motorcycles. Their specialty is dual sport bikes, of course, but they do offer mounts for such venerable street bikes like the Kawasaki Concours, Suzuki V-Strom, or BMW’s R1150R, to name a few. The boxes are completely welded together; something I assumed all other aluminum box makers were doing. Not true. Some makers rivet, or even glue their panels together. The Happy Trail welds the heavy gauge (.080”) aluminum panels together with beautiful smooth welds. Their care and attention to detail is evident in quality of the welding.

The boxes also feature their patented Slot Hinge Lid. This inventive design has two benefits. First, the Shot Hinge doesn’t use a conventional hinge mechanism. The simple design is made from common and easily repairable parts. Second, the Slot Hinge allows you to have a hinged lid or a lift off lid with the same lid top, an important detail because of the top loading design. Top loading bags offer strength and weather resistance, but the hinged lids can have clearance problems. The versatility of the Slot Hinge gives owners the best of both worlds.

gear104bInstallation of the box was straightforward and simple. I removed the stock rear luggage rack from the DR and drilled four holes through the rack, the backing plate, and the box. Reassemble and you’re done. If you are not mechanically inclined or need installation on par with putting on Velcro shoes, you should talk to your mechanic. The box being undrilled allowed flexibility to mount the box where I wanted it.

In regular use, I couldn’t be happier with the box. It is completely waterproof thanks to the cam style latches, which seal the lid tightly down. The box I purchased was 33 liters in capacity; roughly equivalent to two grocery bags. For me, that equals enough room for everything I need when commuting. There are also tie down loops across the top of the box, which are perfect for lashing down bulky items like a tent or sleeping bag. The base price for the top box is $265. Add $90 for the mounting plate needed to support the box, and $45 for a powder coated finish. I prefer the raw look of unfinished aluminum. For a full listing of their products visit or call 800-444-8770.


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