(This Gearlab review was published in the July 2012 issue of Rider magazine.)
Last year I tested Ventura’s Bike-Pack System, with model-specific L-brackets installed on my 1998 Kawasaki KLR650, along with a multitude of racks and bags (Rider, April 2011). The high-quality system was easy to install and offered lots of versatility for carrying gear.
Ventura recently released a new bag that offers a different look than others in its lineup. Made of 1680 denier ballistic nylon, the Mistral I bag’s molded, semi-rigid pockets, lid and base give it a sleek, rounded look and help maintain its shape when empty.
The Mistral I Bike-Pack Kit ($479), which includes the bag, L-brackets and Pack-Rack, arrived prior to our staff ride and camping trip—the perfect testing opportunity since I needed to carry food, supplies, clothes and camping equipment on a 2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650. Installing the L-brackets was simple. Remove four bolts, remove the bike’s luggage rack/grab handle assembly, put the L-brackets in place, and reinstall the rack/handle assembly with new bolts in the kit. Then insert the male ends of the Pack-Rack into the female fittings of the L-brackets, both of which are made of black powdercoated tubular steel, and tighten the two locking bolts. Lickety-split, you’re done.
The Pack-Rack’s upper frame slides into a special pocket in the Mistral I, and two adjustable straps with quick-release buckles secure the bag to the rack. When riding two-up, the bag faces rearward, with its weight carried on the flat shelf of the Pack-Rack, aft of the pillion. When riding solo, the bag can be turned around with its weight on the seat, moving mass closer to the center of the bike and leaving the shelf free for smaller, lighter items. Or, optionally, a second Mistral I bag ($225) can be zipped to the one attached to the rack, doubling the system’s carrying capacity. To remove the bag, simply undo the straps and lift it off the Pack-Rack using the carry handle. Padded shoulder straps are hidden in their own pocket, converting the Mistral I into a backpack—a great convenience when you’ve got a helmet and other gear to carry down a path to a remote campsite, or up two flights of stairs to your hotel room.
Putting the Mistral I bag in the rearward position left the passenger portion of the V-Strom’s seat available to load a tent, sleeping bag, air mattress and camp chair, and the Pack-Rack provided a solid anchor for securing all of my loot. The 47-liter Mistral I has three external pockets, plus a fourth in the lid, and a cavernous main compartment. The bag’s fabric is waterproof and its zippers water-resistant; after several bouts of heavy rain on our ride home, everything inside stayed dry. For added protection from the elements Ventura recommends the optional Aero Spada VII Storm-Cover ($31.90).
Ventura components and bags are designed and built in New Zealand, and there are L-bracket fitments for over 1,800 motorcycle models going back to the 1970s. Common L-bracket fitments as well as the racks and bags are in stock and ready to ship from Ventura’s U.S. distributor in Lynnwood, Washington. Uncommon L-bracket fitments are made to order and can take 6-8 weeks for delivery.
For more information:
Call (800) 688-6439 or visit ventura-mca.com