A recent moto-camping weekend gave me the perfect opportunity to test Al Jesse’s new Odyssey II motorcycle luggage on my BMW F800GS. Rick Lambert of Xplorermoto, Jesse Luggage’s exclusive U.S. distributor, sent me a set of the 10-inch (wide) bags and completed the outfit with a top rack and box. I chose the charcoal powdercoat color; silver and black are also available.
Installing the twin-loop, tubular steel side racks and top plate on the GS took less than an hour, as did bolting up stiffeners, mounting hardware and a crank wheel to each pannier. All holes are predrilled, the assembly requires only hand tools, and the system preserves the bike’s grab handles. The instructions are adequate, but are being improved. Jesse bags typically follow a bike’s shape to provide maximum volume with minimum width. On my 800, the left rack hugs the contours of the muffler and the panniers wrap around the canister and the bike’s protruding underseat fuel tank, creating 90 liters of storage with a rear width of 37.6 inches. Jesse MIG welds the 2mm thick aluminum from the inside for a slick look. Distinctive angular construction strengthens the boxes while providing a safety zone for your legs when paddling through rough country. The Odyssey II’s adjust about 21?2 inches front to rear to improve handling or to accommodate a passenger, though protruding ends of stiffener screws on the bags interfere with the racks in certain positions.
The panniers pop on or off the racks in about 30 seconds each: fit the mounting block onto the lower rack loop, engage an aluminum keeper in the top loop, and crank it tight with the folding handle inside the box. Devising a balanced packing system in the irregular shaped boxes took some fiddling, but I fit everything for a three-day camping trip into the panniers alone. My sleeping bag packs into one of the thick lids, spare clothing into the other, and my 18-inch tent poles slip into a pannier. The lids open outward 180 degrees on strong hinges, making the panniers almost as handy as a tankbag. Thick rubber gaskets and dual locking latches keep out the elements and the curious. They stood up well to both trail dust and my hose-down test. Optional liner bags ($125 for four) protect the interior powdercoat, but the main bags are tricky to put in and remove when full due to the boxes’ convoluted interiors. The lid bags are quite handy and should perhaps be sold separately.
The top box is a super shopping companion, adding 45 liters of storage. It easily holds a full-face helmet or two plastic grocery bags with room to spare. You have to drill four holes in it to attach an aluminum plate that mates to the top rack, but doing so lets you customize the box’s fore/aft position. A lockable plunger secures the box to the rack. The box adds $395 to the $1,195 price tag for the racks and panniers, plus $100 for the F650/ 800GS mounting plate. The Jesse system weighs in at 36.7 pounds for the pannier/ top rack system and 10.6 pounds for the top box—not light by any means, but the strong, close-fitting boxes provide a rugged, secure, and easily accessible home for your gear on or off the road. My only concern is that my BMW’s muffler mount is looser after mounting the racks (it has always wiggled). Lambert assured me this is normal and the canister will stay put. After three days of enduro touring, I’m well pleased with the Odyssey II’s performance and convenience. With more clean socks on board, my trip could easily have been three months.
For more information contact Xplorermoto, LLC, 1870 W. Prince Road, Suite #13, Tucson, Arizona 85705; Xplorermoto; (520) 743-0638