When I went Solo from Bangalore to Pune and Mumbai with a Saddle bag on the rear seat, I faced certain difficulties or rather ‘inconveniences’ with respect to luggage. I could adjust with all the small niggles except one- the effort and time taken to mount and dismount the Luggage on and off my KTM Duke 390. The strap system on the saddle bag looks like you could tie it in a jiffy but it was cumbersome to strap on the huge saddle bag onto the rear seat and then when I was done, I had to tighten all the straps again so that the bag didn’t slide about. Once I was done with mounting, I used to stick insulation tapes around straps that were hanging loose so that they didn’t interfere with the chain or wheel (that’s happened before!). The same challenge arises when I wanted to take the bag off the seat, the tapes had to be taken off first and they were extremely sticky, then one strap on the left, other on the right, then one from the back. Phew I’m feeling it happen again as I write.
Now all that process took quite a lot time and effort, something you wouldn’t want to waste when you’re eager to head out into the unknown or when you’re checking into a hotel after sundown and you’re stomach’s doing mini burnouts inside because it wants a lot of food. Now Imagine doing all of that mounting and dismounting when you’re suited up in a city like Mumbai or Pune! May you never face such an eventuality.
I had a long ride planned that would easily take up 20 days of my life days and I definitely couldn’t take up the saddle bag misery for 20 days. Consequently, I started looking up for high capacity luggage that was easy to mount and dismount and something that had lesser, shorter straps on it. After a lot of googling, I concluded that I must buy Aluminium Panniers. I then came across Dirtsack, the only firm that makes Aluminium Panniers for the KTM Duke 390 in India and they’re called Llama but I never found the panniers to resemble a land animal and nor did I find Dalai Lama’s signature on it 😛
The thing about hard panniers is that they mostly remain bolted to the motorcycle throughout the journey but your luggage gets stored in liners that go into the Panniers, they are shaped like the panniers and you only have to take them out when you clock in for the night. These are bags inside the Panniers that you can shove in and extract but the panniers stay as they are. I checked the Panniers out personally at their office in Mumbai and bought them a few weeks later. They were shipped to my residence and I paid a sum of 14,500 INR for the brackets, Panniers, Liners and shipping (price updated, check for update at the end of page). They originally come in Black matte color which didn’t go well with my Duke, hence I got them painted matte silver and made it look like it meant adventure 😀
The brackets are tailor made for the Duke 390 and if you were good at joining the pieces of animal puzzle in your childhood, then you should be fine with bolting these onto the motorcycle with a little direction from Mandhar from Dirtsack and with some help from a mechanic as you may find a few irregularities in measurement which needs minor alteration. If you’re buying these, you will need at least half a day to get all that sorted. But once its sorted, life is simple!
After using them for around 9,000 Kms, I’ll answer these FAQs!
1) What is their storage capacity?
Erm, 25 litres on each side.
2) Are they heavy?
Yes! They’re quite heavy but that’s an advantage if you’re looking to increase handling. The motorcycle remains planted like never before. You still keep smiling on full lean.
3) What about acceleration and wind drag?
The panniers take a slight toll on acceleration but its still possible to do 160 Kmph with them. They’re not a big hindrance to performance.
4) Is it possible to take a Pretty girl for a ride in case you met one on a tour?
Yes! There’s no complaining about that, a fat or thin pillion can sit without any hassle. Imagine you came across a pretty girl in the middle of a tour, eagerly wanting a ride on your Duke! The Llama won’t let you down 😀
5) Are the panniers too wide?
Not really, they’re as wide as the 390’s handlebar. But, maneuvering the motorcycle when you’re off it could make you feel like you’re maneuvering a small aircraft. That’s a good feeling! 🙂
6) Will I hit random things with the Panniers?
If you’re careful, then you may hit a few things like how I did. From my watchman to a parked scooter, my subconscious mind didn’t take a lot of time to know there’s something on the sides. If you aren’t careful, then you better be.
7) Do they act as crash guards?
I’m not too sure about the kind of crashes that involve sliding on the road but they do help in protecting your leg in case you were hit by something as big and heavy as a horse cart’s wheel! That happened to me in Ajmer when a horse got insecure as it sensed 44 horses trying to overtake at the speed of 10 kmph, so it jumped right and made sure the Tanga’s wheel hit my LHS Pannier and pushed me off onto a stationary Taxi. Nothing much happened apart from bruises on the pannier and a broken RHS hand guard. If it wasn’t for the panniers, the cart wheel might have hit my leg. I pity the taxi though.
8) How much time does it take to shove the liners into the panniers?
If the liner is bulging with stuff in it, it should take you about 90 seconds.
9) How much time does it take to pull the liners out of the Panniers?
About 30- 50 seconds.
10) Do the Panniers come with locks?
Yes, they do. You could now have lunch peacefully in case you’re riding solo.
11) Are they visually appealing?
I got mixed reactions on this! You guys need to tell me. To me, I loved the look of them, you could get creative too by sticking logos on it or writing funny things. Villagers at certain places could troll you though as I was once asked if I was delivering for ‘Flippedkart’ or ‘snappedadeal’. 😀
P.s. I don’t like using original company names, you never know when they flip.
11) Are they multi purpose?
They are! you can take them off and use them as tables to eat on in case you’re camping, you can tie stuff onto them or you could use it to keep a glass of chai on it if the glass gets too hot to hold! 🙂
12) Are they practical for short rides?
Why would you use them on short rides? If you’re doing weekend rides then a tank bag or a tail bag would be sufficient. The Panniers would make sense if you’re you’re touring far off places that takes up more than 4 days of time.
13) Is it worth 12.5 grand (excluding shipping)?
It definitely gives me a big bang for the money I spent. It makes a lot of sense, especially if you’re an ardent tourer like me. I checked out a lot of other aluminium panniers but they would add up to more than 1/4th the cost of my motorcycle!
14) Do the boxes rattle?
No ways! That was one concern at the back of my head when I bought them. Thank god they don’t, that would’ve driven me mad during tours.
15) Does it scratch the motorcycle in any way?
The frame hardly comes in direct contact with the motorcycle’s body, hence no paint or body damage occurs. There’s one place where it does come in contact but you can always cut out and stuff Styrofoam in the gap, which comes in plenty when the panniers are shipped to you.
16) Are they waterproof?
They are! I rode through some maddening rains but there wasn’t even a drop of water that wet the liners. I just love to not carry extra rain covers in monsoon and not wet my stuff!
17) Are they easy to maintain?
Since they’re made out of aluminium, there’s no chance of them rusting. On the brackets though, I feel that a black paint touch up might be needed on a few areas as there are chances of them getting scratched and rusted.
18) Does it alter the ride quality?
The Panniers add weight, hence you will feel the ride being soft and relaxed. It suddenly feels like you’ve moved from sitting on a hard bench to old furniture. Especially on bad roads, the Duke 390 did not feel like it usually does- HARD! Hence, they do prove to be bum savers!
19) Would I make modifications to the panniers?
In the near future, yes! I feel the Panniers should’ve come with pouches or bottle/can stands on them, water bottles and cans take up a lot of room on the inside hence I would make external provisions for them.
20) Would my engine get stressed due to extra weight and would my tyres wear out faster?
In terms of engine strain- I cruised peacefully at 110 to 120 KMPH on the highways and engine remained relaxed between 5500 and 6000 RPM. My luggage would’ve weighed 50 Kgs! When it comes to tyres, well you’re gonna get jacked pretty soon if you’re on Metzellers but I’m on Michelin Pilot and frankly speaking, the panniers have hardly done harm to the tyres. The rear tyre has traveled for around 18,000 Kms (9000 kms with panniers)and it looks like it’ll still do another 3000 Kms with ease. That’s enough to keep me happy 🙂
21) Can I use the Llama on a Duke 200?
Of course, you can! There is hardly any difference between the 390 and 200 when it comes to the tail section.
All in all, if you’re a lazy bum like me and if you need convenience when it comes to motorcycle luggage, you should consider Panniers as an option.
My next luggage purchase would be a sleek tailbag, suggestions on that, anyone?
UPDATE August 2016: I used th LLAMA recently on a ride to LEH Ladakh. This time I had way more luggage than last year so the liner bags that go inside the panniers had expanded in size. Putting the fat bags inside the panniers was a task, the convenience luggage wasn’t so convenient this time as I might’ve taken a similar amount of Time with soft panniers that come with a simple and smart strapping mechanism.
In addition, the price of llama has been raised to 18000 INR. Some improvements have been made to it but I wonder if that was really required considering the 5500 INR increase in price, that’s a big jump if you ask me. What If I were to buy them today? Well, I’m really not sure if I would’ve ended up spending that much!