Thursday 24 October 2013

Africa Twin Luggage System

Mercenary Garage Africa Twin Luggage System

Since I first published pics of my last Sahara trip on the web about five years ago, people have been asking me about the the luggage system on the Africa Twin. So I've decided to do a post about it. 

(Note that the pictures below were taken today. After the trip, the bike was packed away covered in road salt and left for five years - hence the rust!)

Over the years I've tried various luggage systems - some good, some bad. By far the worst was a set of Oxford throw-over panniers that started to disintegrate the first time I used them (they broke before I even got on the ferry and I had to limp all the way to Portugal with them) and continued to decay until I finally discarded them about a year ago. I can honestly say that I fucking hated them and I haven't bought another Oxford product since. 

You see, if your luggage isn't trustworthy, it causes you worry, lowers your morale and has a detrimental effect on your trip. This is particularly true if your trip is solo and even more-so if you're going to the desert, where if things go wrong, the consequences could be serious.

If I had a ton of money, I very probably would have bought a set of Touratech aluminium boxes with all the farkles. But I didn't, and I had to buy a new desert tent and a new winter sleeping bag and so on and so forth. So the bike was prepped as cheaply as possible. 

A quick look at Ebay revealed that Dry Bags were available in various shapes and sizes and the only cost GB£10-15. So I purchase two largish ones to act as panniers and a small one to keep my new sleeping bag safe and dry. All that was left to do then was weld up a lightweight frame.

There was no real design process to this. I got a length of 7/8" (22mm) steel out of the workshop, took the side panels off the bike and sat down and had a think...

I wanted to keep everything in as close to the centre-line of the bike as I could get it and to keep the weight as low as possible. The exhaust on the RHS limited how low I could go with a simple structure. I could have built out and around it but that would have meant more weight and more complexity and I guess, less strength.

I had to weld additional mounting points to the frame. I needed one on the top frame rail and as the structure relies on this to resist the downward moment of the luggage (and any other moments applied by a crash), this needed to be pretty strong. I think I made this bracket out of a cut-down piece of 1" box section, but a piece of angle would work too. The important thing is that the bracket (and the weld) goes in under the frame rail to resist bending of the bracket.

Mercenary Garage Africa Twin Luggage System
It's important the the bracket and the weld extend in under the frame rail to resist bending.

The next bracket went onto the rear subframe. This was made out of 5mm plate about 50mm wide.

Mercenary Garage Africa Twin Luggage System
The second bracket was welded onto the rear sub-frame.

The third mounting point near the foot-peg used an existing boss that had previously carried the passenger foot-peg.

Mercenary Garage Africa Twin Luggage System
The front, lower mounting point uses an existing boss that used to carry the passenger footpeg assembly.

The frame was constructed from three lengths of 7/8" steel tube. The longest piece (A in the diagram below) was deliberately cut way too long. It has a bend at either end, but these aren't in the same plane. The front bend is almost, but not quite horizontal, while the rear bend is approximately 45 degrees to the horizontal. The idea is that this frame rail should run parallel with, and about 25mm from the exhaust silencer.   

A couple of brackets were fabricated, the front from 1" angle and the rear from flat bar. These were bolted in place and the frame rail was then trimmed a little by little until it was a close fit to the brackets. The frame rail was then tack welded in place.

Remove the battery and put it somewhere safe before doing any welding!

Mercenary Garage Africa Twin Luggage System

Frame rail B was then bent and again trimmed little by little until it' was approximately right. The ends of the tube were then fish-mouthed with a grinder . It was fitted so that it was horizontal when the bike was vertical, and then tack welded in place.

Frame rail C was fabricated in a similar way.

As much of the final welding as possible was done with the luggage frame bolted in situ, the frame was then removed to finish the welds.

Note- both sides were cut, bent, assembled and welded simultaneously so as to keep things fairly symmetrical.

So how did it work? 

Very well.

The weight of the luggage is carried much closer to the centre-line of the bike than with hard luggage, and the load is carried reasonably low. The dry-bags were secured with straps I bought in Lidl so nothing rattles or wobbles or moves around (But after packing up each morning, it's a good idea to stop after 20 mins or a half an hour and cinch down the straps. After that you can forget about it). On the Africa Twin, the luggage system doesn't affect the handling of the bike very much, either on road or off.

I had a couple of crashes during the trip and nothing broke or bent. In fact, the luggage system never cost me a thought during the whole trip and I'd recommend it to anyone planning a similar adventure. It's light (about 5kg  and cheap (less than €100 including the dry-bags) and its pretty robust.

The only real drawback is security. The dry-bags are pilfer-proof in the sense that they don't have pockets and opening them isn't easy for a pick-pocket (I had two rolls of exposed film swiped from those fucking Oxford panniers after being surrounded by aggressive teenagers in Morocco on an earlier trip). However, if the bike was left unattended, the straps could be released and the dry-bags could be carted off in a matter of seconds.

There are some more pictures showing the luggage system on the bike Here.

#AfricaTwinLuggageSystem #Mercenary #MercenaryGarage

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