Thoughts on luggage...
One of the beauties of enduros is their light weight, so loading them up with GS amounts of luggage would be somewhat silly. Apart from adding too much weight for an enjoyable ride it will also make the bike top heavy. So we don't want luggage racks resembling heavy scaffolding and big heavy hard panniers but soft bags and lightweight racks… but which ones?
How much weight can I take on an enduro?
Despite what some claim, an enduro can definitely take the weight of rider plus luggage. A KTM EXC450/500 for instance has a maximum permissible weight of 335kg according to KTM (145kg front / 190 kg rear). With all the added accessories and fully fuelled that leaves a payload of around 200kg. Not that we want all that weight but it does tell us the bike can handle a rider plus normal luggage easily. We aim for a maximum of 20kg luggage in total, which is easy to achieve.
What type of luggage?
We feel that the only type of luggage that works is enduro style soft bags, of which there are several available. There is also a combined version, which is basically a top bag and side bags combined into one horse shoe shaped bag. We don't like it very much for several reasons. For starters it becomes one unwieldy and heavy bag to carry around, not handy to take up the stairs to your accommodation. They're pretty useless when camping too, too big to put inside a small inner tent and too big to leave outside of it. If you want to make a daytrip and leave your tent in the same spot, or even just go for a quick trip to the local shop, then you'll have to take the whole big thing with you, while you could otherwise simply take the top bag only. When you have a fall and damage the bag, the whole horse-shoe bag becomes useless and will have to be replaced, while a damaged side or top bag can be replaced individually.
We prefer two enduro style side bags with straps over the seat and one top bag. As they can be separated I usually keep the top bag in the tent and the side bags in the vestibule area. Fitting them to the bike is easier too, as the seat straps stay in place it's literally a matter of 4 clicks to fit or remove them, while fitting the top bag is just two clicks more with Rok Straps.
Having looked at and tried several, we've chosen X-Country Enduro saddle bags. Most soft luggage brands have a spaghetti resembling bundle of straps, buckles and flaps all over the place. Some even go as far as sewing in bungy type straps in the bottom (as if that will hold a bag in place…). All it does is showing it's a poor design, made to impress on the showroom floor perhaps but not when you are wrestling with them every morning and afternoon trying to fit them to the bike. You don't want to spend endless time in the morning strapping the bags back on, you want to fit them quickly and go.
We use X-Country bags which are beautifully simple, made by a man who travels on enduros himself and knows what works and what doesn't. They open and close in roll-top style but with the buckles fitted at the sides, thereby closing and compressing at the same time. Made from a fully welded PVC inner, which despite all the clever fabric claims is still the best waterproof material, and a ballistic nylon outer for abrasion resistance. The elastic bands on the side and bottom of the bags are great for storing items you don't want inside your luggage, as they are strong enough to hold a 2 litre bottle in place for example.
We use a X-Country Highlander top bag. Same simplicity as the side bags and same materials. Easy to live with and rugged. The Highlander has a pocket on either side for smaller items plus the elastic webbing as used on the side bags.
On the Beta we use yellow bags, which are better visible in bad weather while the yellow inner also makes it easy to find your stuff. On the EXC the side bags are black, as the bike is a Black Edition after all, with an orange top bag.
The Highlander top bag is held in place with Rok-straps, which we used on our 4-year long trip around the world without needing one replacement. In fact we still use them! They have a rubber-like spring part which ensures your bags are firmly held down. The Rok-straps stay in place on the bike overnight, so in the morning it's literally a matter of two clicks and the top bag is back on, securely strapped down.
The side bags over-the seat-straps stay in place too, which means in the morning you hang them over the seat, clip the D-ring to the top rack with a dog clip and attach one short strap to a g-hook near the swingarm. Fitting the bags in the morning takes 5 minutes tops… and they don't move!
On the handlebar we have a small nondescript bag which holds a small battery which connects to the first USB port and is used to charge our helmet coms and/or phones when we're not riding. The bag also holds a multi tool, parking receipts, ferry tickets and a small spring type helmet lock. We don't have a tank bag, we thought we'd miss it but found we don't need it at all. A handlebar bag works just as well.
Soft luggage and safety…
Apart from being vicious ankle crushers, the hard vs soft luggage debate tends to concentrate on hard luggage keeping your stuff safe from thieving fingers… Sorry to disappoint but it won't. If anything the shiny expensive looking panniers work like a billboard stating 'Hey! Valuables are in here!' while dusty looking soft bags don't give the impression there's anything worth stealing. Don't get me wrong, determined thieves will get in anything but just like the expensive looking motorhome is much more a thieve magnet than the scruffy van next to it, soft bags are less inviting than much more expensive looking hard panniers.
In the end, there's only one way to prevent your stuff being stolen: keep it with you at all times… and that's where bags are easier as they can be taken into your tent or hotel room a lot easier than hard panniers.