luggage on the Vulcan S (650)

I suppose it’s stating the obvious to say that touring or any sort of long distance travel on a motorbike will involve  a number of compromises.  I know from experience that something has to give. Ive done long distance European touring on all sorts of bikes, that have included: GSX-R 600’s; 750’s, 1000’s as well as on a Fireblade, CB1000R and a Kawasaki Z1000 SX.

All of them have been excellent and I suppose its only the Z1000 SX that is the most ‘obvious’ of those as an out and out sports touring bike with its factory fitted luggage option.

But it’s my opinion that really you can tour and undertake log distance travel on just about any bike … but that’s where the compromise comes in.

It might be comfort, fuel range or maybe a compromise of practicality over performance or even, reliability etc and a whole host of other things – but one that you can never really get away from is the ability and relative ease (or otherwise) to carry luggage.

It’s the last point that has proved interesting with the bike that my wife and I will be using in a few weeks time when we set off to travel in Spain and probably down into Portugal from our home in Manchester (UK)

We’re doing it on Kawasaki’s medium weight ‘cruiser’ the Vulcan S  (650).

I suppose it’s not an obvious choice of bike to undertake a trip on, but having traveled extensively in Europe many times over the years I cant actually see any inherent problems with us doing it on that. It’s reliable, its got enough power, its a very easy bike to ride and it returns a pretty impressive mpg – so why not?

The availability of luggage options has increased dramatically in the last year or so. Once you got over a near choking fit when you look at the price of  Kawasaki OEM luggage  – over £650 for a pair of leather (non locking) panniers and a £185 for the mounting bars, then you realise that actually not only are they incredibly expensive – they probably are not even the best options.

I started looking around on the web and looked at products from Viking, Givi, Kappa, Hepco & Becker and Shad. I’m sure they all have their merits but many of the options seemed to just look wrong on the bike – especially many of them seeming to be oversized and looking way out of proportion.

Eventually we settled on a new product from the Spanish based company Shad – the SH23’s.

Shad actually produce  OEM equipment for  a number of companies, including: BMW; Yamaha; Honda, Derbi and others and I knew from a previous product of theirs that I had owned that the quality was a good match against the price.

The problem I initially had was actually getting hold of them as they were a new product (2017) and it seemed there were some initial distribution problems – certainly to the UK.

I ordered mine from a company based in North Wales called Fast Bike Bits who supply parts and accessories for a wide range of motorcycles. I can say without hesitation they were a good company to deal with, and although there were some problems with supply, they were down to the manufacturer and not Fast Bike Bits – I had several telephone and email conversations with them and they proved to be a really easy and helpful company to deal with.

My order arrived a few weeks ago, but as I was off traveling around Europe on one of my other bikes it was only this week that I actually took them out of the boxes and got around to fitting them.

The product arrived in two separate boxes, one with the actual panniers and the other with the fitting kit. The instructions were easy to follow and the actual fitting was pretty routine.

I had already fitted a Hepco & Becker back rest and rack – so had already done the drilling out of the two plastic covers – and in practice it was simply a matter of removing the bolts, working out which way the support bars went on and then fitting them.

Once the bars are on they are pretty unobtrusive, as you can see in the picture. After fitting the bar on the left hand side of the bike it was a case of the same again on the right hand side of the bike and to be honest that was more or less it.

The panniers both lock with the same key and feel secure when on the bike. They also came with a spare barrel – I’m not really sure why, although I’m guessing that it’s perhaps if you have other luggage (maybe a top box) then you can swap the barrel and only have to carry a single key for the luggage.

But of course – once the panniers are on then it’s back to the compromise issue and with a capacity of 23L each then clearly it’s not massive, but they DO look proportional on the bike, rather than looking like an oversize option that would be better suited to a bigger and/or different style of bike.

To help with the space we have a Givi 15L bag that we plan to secure to the rack – although I may look at other options if I need to. I’ve had a quick ‘test packing’ in one of the panniers and I reckon I can get enough of my own stuff in there (along with a tube of wash and go, so that after the first week of travel I can wash things through).

My wife has yet to have a go at looking at how much of what she wants to take she can get in – but as I have said a couple of times, motorcycle travel generally involves compromises of sorts and I’m pretty sure we will manage … even if it means compromising some of ‘my space” so she can carry a little bit more of her stuff!