By Dave Bucher
[This Happy Trails Targhee Motorcycle Panniers Review was originally published in the July 2007 issue of Rider magazine]
Our attempt to re-create the Euro look of metal pannier’d adventure touring began with a Suzuki 650 V-Strom and with a call to Happy Trails Products in Boise, Idaho. The firm makes a variety of accessories for the dual-sport minded, among them sets of aluminum motorcycle luggage that were recommended to us for their sound construction and accuracy of fit.
The goods arrived in two big boxes. One contained the two Happy Trails Targhee panniers, the other the rack system to accommodate them. It was a daunting array of metal.
The rack system consists of an aluminum top plate with brackets that integrate it with the welded, tubular-steel pannier racks. All are powdercoated black. Installation required the removal of the factory tail rack and the exhaust canister’s “beauty cover.” Instructions are given for notching this latter item, but we chose to leave it off. The manufacturer has promised a new instruction sheet and it is sorely needed. This would have been a much quicker and easier job without having to do so much guessing while squinting at the fuzzy photos. Still, in under an hour and a half we’d gotten everything fitted to our complete satisfaction.
In pieces it looks very complex, but the secret is to first “dry fit” everything so you understand where it all goes and then to fasten everything loosely in place before final tightening. In addition to the tie-in with the top plate, which is itself bolted to the bike’s frame, each side rack is fastened at three other hard points. One of the mounting lugs on the left side rack was off by about a half-inch, so we put a piece of pipe over it and very gently levered it into the proper position. Nylock nuts and stainless bolts are provided for assembling the top plate components. Thread-locking compound is recommended for the stainless cap screws used on the hard points. The final piece is a stiffening bar that bridges the rear fender to tie both side racks together. When everything is snugged down, the racks are incredibly rigid. Yet, total weight of the components is just 11 pounds.
As for the panniers, they arrived nearly ready to mount. The company TIG welds them from .080-inch aluminum—no glue or rivets here. Two options we’d exercised when ordering were powdercoating (textured aluminum and black are offered at $90/set) and pre-drilling for the mounting brackets ($38/set). The pre-drilling saves what might be a considerable measurement and layout challenge, but constrains you to a factory-default bag height. All we had to do is fasten a PVC mounting bracket, which we opted first to slather with silicone sealant. Once the L-shaped bracket engages the lower part of the rack, two bolts terminating in large knobs are used to firmly secure the top of the box from the inside.
The end result was impressive. The Targheemodel panniers we’d ordered were 7.5 inches wide by 18 inches long and 17 inches high. They weigh in at 10.8 pounds each. An offset at the bottom provides an extra 2 inches of storage to the bike side, although the outside edge is beveled to accommodate bike lean. Total side-to-side distance with the panniers on the bike was 37 inches. Lid hinge options include side, end or no hinges (suggested if being used with a top trunk). Each end of the lid is secured by a cam-lock fitting that firmly seats the lid gasket and allows use of a small padlock. Capacity of each of these panniers is 42.6 liters. Lids come standard with small hooks for attaching additional items, but optional top racks are available for the lids.
Cost of this set up for the DL 650 was $377 for the rack system and $264 each for the panniers, plus $128 for the painting and pre-drilling options. Grand total $1,033. What you get for that tidy sum is voluminous storage in a well-made, extremely sturdy package. You also get that cool Euro look.
For more information contact Happy Trails Products, 4545 W. Chinden Boulevard (Chinden Business Park), Boise, Idaho 83714; (800) 444-8770 or (208) 377-8771; www.happy-trail.com