by Victor Wanchena
This spring, I took a nice, long dual sport ride. The route was 1400 miles from Jellico, TN to Bartlesville, OK following the first segment of the Trans-America Trail (you can read more about the TAT in the next issue of MMM). As I was equipping my DR650 for the trip, it came time to choose bags. I had run hard bags on my DR in the past, but being weight conscious, I had removed them. Soft bags were my best option for lightweight storage, but the up and down pounding of rough roads is always a concern as well as finding good tie down points. I waded through the myriad of soft bag options and frankly was daunted by the choices. It’s difficult to really know what works until you try it.
I ended up selecting a new style of saddlebag from Giant Loop. The GL bag resembles a large inverted “V”. It vaguely reminded me of a horse collar. This inverted “V” is attached to your bike, behind the passenger seat, with legs of the “V” extending down and forward. The idea is, you keep the weight of your gear low and forward, compared with conventional saddle bags; directly helping the handling. I was very intrigued by the concept and the style of the bag. The GL bag is made of heavyweight Cordura nylon and bolts directly to the bike; there is no lashing the bag down or straps to come loose.
Mounting was simple. Stuff the bag with a sleeping bag to fill it to capacity. Position it on the bike and mark the mounting points. There are up to eight mounting points that can be used. I ended up using six. Once positioned, mark and drill holes for the supplied bolts. Bolt the bag down and you’re ready to go. From start to finish it only took 30 minutes to mount the bag. A heat shield is supplied, if needed, to hold the bag away from the muffler. On the DR it wasn’t necessary.
On the trail I was very happy with the GL bag. At 30 liters of volume, it held all the essentials for an all-day ride and then some. I kept all the heavier items like tools and a spare fuel can in the lower sections and lighter items, like a jacket liner, in the upper section. It held all the items securely, thanks to the four compression straps. I found none of the expected wear marks on items doing the conga together for 1400 miles in the bag.
I was also impressed with the construction of the GL. The stitching was very strong; no bulges or loose threads. And all the hardware, like the zippers and strap buckles, is high quality, holding up to all the abuse I threw at it. And, in typical MMM fashion, I tested the bullet-proof design by crashing in a gnarly, muddy section. The GL ate up the abuse without any visible wear. This is one tough bag.
My only criticism of the GL bag is the access. The two side zippers are the only way into the bag and that restricted access. Ideally, you are only loading and unloading the bag at the beginning and end of the day. But loading and unloading was cumbersome at times and when I really needed something, I would end up loosening the straps and digging around for it. I would prefer a single zipper across the back, though that might have eroded some of the GL toughness.
The Giant Loop bag is available directly from Giant Loop at www.giantloopmoto.com or at 541-633-0620 (9:00 am to 5:00 pm Pacific time) for $229. And, as if they were reading my mind, Giant Loop just released a new bag this spring called the Great Basin. It’s larger, waterproof, easier access, and it’s removable. The Great Basin may be the best option for riders wanting additional capacity and better access.