1   2

My Pages

3   4
1   2

External Links

3   4
1   2


Touratech Zega | Fitting Zega Locks | Zega in Use | Vario Top Box

Pacsafe Helmet Bag | BMW GS Tank Bag | Kriega

BMW Vario Cases

My bike was originally fitted with BMW Vario panniers and top box and I thought they looked really smart but for a few weeks they were only used for the odd bit of shopping. Then one came open on a bend and dumped the contents. Cracks started to appear on the edges of the seals as the lid did not line up properly if they were loaded. Then, of course, the side loading made it hard to use the full capacity unless the were removed from the bike to load and unload.

Before our European tour I bought the liner bags so we could take our kit into a hotel and leave the boxes on the bike. My previous experience with Givis showed that the idea of a couple of nice `suitcases' to quickly remove and take into a hotel seemed OK when they were new and clean but not so good when they were wet, muddy and coated with exhaust soot. Although the liners were really smart (and expensive) they further reduced the small capacity of the panniers. To give a bit more capacity I bought the Touratech bags which are designed to fit on the top of the Vario boxes.

The system worked OK for our tour but it did show up further shortcomings. The use of the liner bags made the left side pannier (with the cut out for the silencer) even smaller and when the bags were full they were a sod to get in the panniers and close the lid. The side opening caused a few problems when we came back to the bike and found other bikes parked either side. Our bike had to be pushed out and parked in the road in order to open the panniers. I also noticed that when expanded and loaded they flexed a great deal. Probably as they only locate on the bike on the top edge and halfway down one side.

Touratech Zega

After the trip I looked into other options and a chat with Kevin Sanders (BMW Rider Training) convinced me to change to Touratech Zegas. Amazingly for Touratech they were delivered overnight and a couple of hours were spent fitting them.

Pannier frame fitting to bike frameThe mounting frames have five fitting points. One on the rear foot peg frame, one on the main bike frame, one picks up the thread for the original Vario cases, one joins the frames together at the back. The final one fits at the rear of the frame and this one takes a bit of time to fit as the rear carrier and the under-pillion luggage rack needs to be removed to fit a small bracket. The frames can be removed if necessary without taken stripping the rear gain.

The whole frame system is well engineered and high quality. The clamps for the frame are machinedPannier frame fitting to foot peg hanger and anodised aluminium, the bracket for under the seat is stainless steel, as are all the bolts. The whole assembly is bomb proof once fitted and my only complaint is the use of many different size bolts. I seemed to be forever looking for another hex key. I ordered the grey paint finish which costs a little more than the standard black and it matches the bike frame quite well.

Pannier frame showing "pucks" for locating panniersThe boxes were ordered with the frame fittings already mounted (which costs a little more than getting them loose and doing it yourself) so the final job was just slot the boxes in place and tighten the big knurled wheels inside the pannier. These wheels are the weakest part of the design. One plus is that they are inside the panniers so reasonably thief proof but after a few weeks of rain and crud they can be a sod to remove. I had to resort to a pipe wrench on one occasion to unscrew them - and they are only done up hand tight. Fortunately I only remove them for cleaning and maintenance so I don't need a pipe wrench in the tool kit.

Fitting the Locks

As standard the Zega lid locks have a coin slot latch and padlocks can be used for security. An option is to replace the coin slot latches with key latches which Touratech supply as a DIY kit. They look a lot neater than padlocks but are a bugger to fit. First the old bolts need to be removed which entails either drilling out or grinding off the heads of the rivets. Then a self adhesive template (supplied) is stuck on the locks as a guide to the material that needs to be filed away to fit the key locks. I started with a file (as suggested) but eventually gave up and ground it out with a Dremel. Much better solution.

Zegas in Use

Overall I am glad I made the change. The Zegas have a better capacity than the Varios and as they are simple rectangular boxes all the capacity is useable. The top loading is a big plus, easy to load while on the bike and nothing drops out. I was initially concerned about the loose fit lids but have found it an advantage as I have Panniers with bottle holdersbeen able to carry items that are too big to go right inside the pannier. Just leave the lids at home.

The lids are fitted with four bungee points so the tops can be used as extra kit racks and again the loose lids are better as the lid plus load can be removed for access. This would not be so easy with hinged lids. The only downside with using the lids as racks is the soft aluminium scratches easily. I solved this by gluing on some rubber strips (sold as bumper protectors in a car parts shop).

The left pannier has a holder for two bottles which are used for stove fuel and engine oil. The later was added as I had an oil bottle leak inside a pannier last year and getting synthetic oil out of clothes is close to impossible. The right pannier has a holder for a water container.

Rubber 'bumpers' on pannier lidsI have found a couple of downsides with the Zegas, both relate to the bare aluminium finish. The lovely shiny surface when new scratches easily and soon starts turning a mottled grey. It is near on impossible to maintain the original finish - which my wife is glad about as she complained that the sun reflection was blinding her when following me. Also the contents can pick up black residue if it rubs against the aluminium so the use of inner bags is essential if decent clothes are carried.

Final plus. I dropped the bike in a filling station when my foot slipped on spilled diesel. The only damage to the pannier was a tiny dent in the front corner which is very hard to see.

Vario Top Box

I haven't bothered to change the top box to a Zega so still have the original Vario fitted, well the second Vario actually. The original came off the bike halfway up Stelvio Pass and skidded down the road on its lid. As it had stayed in place with my wife learning on it for about 100 miles it seemed unlikely that I had not fitted it properly so it spent the rest of the trip with bungees around it for security.

My dealer supplied a new one together with a new mounting plate under warranty and I have since learned that it is not unusual for these boxes to come adrift. The later ones are supposed to be better and I hope my replacement is one of these but have not changed to Zega as my wife has her own bike now so I don't need the capacity, can't get a helmet in it anyway so rarely use it

Pacsafe Helmet Bags

I have seen a lot of moans that the Vario top box will not take a helmet and while this seems a bit of a design fault is it really a problem.

When I tour my panniers and top box are normally full of kit so I could not get my helmet in however big it was. For years I used the usual solution of a chain and padlock round the helmet chin guard and bike frame but last year found a better solution with the purchase of a couple of Pacsafe bags.

These bags have a waterproof nylon outer, a soft fleece inner and a steel mesh between the two. The "drawstring" that closes the bag is a steel cable which is threaded through the mesh. Drop in the helmet, draw the opening closed and padlock the cable to the bike. Job done. Not totally thief proof but removing the helmet would involve cutting through the heavy drawstring cable or a lot of steel mesh.

The closed end of the bag has a velcro loop fitted so it can be hung on the bike with the open end down making it waterproof. Highly recommended.

BMW Tank Bag

Overall I am quite pleased with this but having tried many tank bags on different bikes I don't think there is a perfect solution.

This bag has a decent capacity for the bits and pieces that may be quickly needed for a trip. It's 100% waterproof thanks to the fitted welded liner and easy to open. The little bum bag that clips on the back is useful for small items but has limited use as a bum bag.

The plastic tank means magnets can't be used which is probably a good thing as they always seems to promote tank scratching. This bag has a wide hook on some strong elastic at the front which clips on the headstock and an open zipper on the back which connects to a match half on the back of the tank. The tank part of the zipper has a strong velcro back which connects to a velcro patch which is stuck to the tank. The patch is below the level of the seat so cannot be seen if the zipper is removed.

The bag can be a bit of a fiddle to fit. The steering must be on full lock to attach the front hook then it requires some strength to stretch the elastic to engage the rear zip. Once fitted it is very secure and after a lot of use has not damaged the tank in any way. It is, however, a bit of a nuisance when filling the tank. I have tried just removing the zip and hinging it forward but its just as easy to take the whole thing off and dump it on the seat.

I have noticed the bag changes the airflow over the bike which is suprising as it is behind the screen. With it fitted there is a distinct draft up the front of my helmet which is great for hot summers but not so welcome in January.


I seem to have become a bit of a Kriega fan. It all started with the Bum Bag. Then I gor a couple of hydration packs followed by a 95 litre rucksac. Finally I have replaced the Touratech pannier liners with a pair of Kriega ones.

Kriega kit is pricey but worth every penny. The quality of manufacture of the bum bag together with the 100% waterproof construction was enough to sell it to me. Then I discovered Kriega's clever belt system that is easy to adjust and does not leave loose ends to whip you at speed.

A hot summer saw the two hydration packs added. Same bomb proof construction and an unusual shoulder strap design. As a backpacker I have used all sorts of rucksacs and they don't seem to work on a bike. The Kriega straps are a different shape and are very comfortable and so secure that the waist belt is a waste of time. The large rucksac uses a similar strap design and I can't fault it.

The pannier bags are a recent addition. The original ones I got with the panniers worked and were cheap but could best be described as very basic. If it was not for the Touratech label they would be at home in a pound shop. The Kriega ones, in contrast would be at home in Harrods. Super design, adjust to different pannier sizes, useful inner pockets and straps, strong shoulder strap and would look good walking into any hotel.

The toolroll holds somewhat more than the original BMW one. It will not fit under the seat any more but goes in one of the panniers.


3   4
1   2
The more luggage space you have, the more kit you need to take with you
3   4