Pannier Alternatives

I received an email from friend Bruce Humphrey down in Bathurst in the Eastern Cape about the new love of his life – the Yamaha XT 660R. He’s made a couple of mods to it, not least of which are his “Pelican Case” panniers. Read on…

I got totally hooked on big singles early on – they are an acquired taste – and my present Yamaha XT 660R is my eighth XT Yamaha. The list of my big singles also includes five Suzukis, two KTMs and two Kawasakis. 

As you can see I have fitted Acerbis handguards (half the price of the genuine Yamaha ones), a carrier with a Givi top box that has done duty on several bikes over the past five years and Leo Vince noisy aluminium exhausts which, with a DNA air filter and Dyno tuning, gained me 13% more power. The most recent addition, and why I did the photo, was the addition of a set of Motech pannier brackets, but my old soft panniers didn’t work well on them. But good aluminium panniers are ridiculously expensive, as in R15,000.00 for a pair!

I then had a ‘lightbulb’ moment and thought “Pelican” cases! Under half the price of proper bike panniers and available in four different colours. I took a photo of the bike and in Photoshop added a rounded rectangle shape the right size and in the right position so I could check out the colours. Black would have been the obvious choice, but I liked the yellow/blue contrast and the extra visibility, so yellow it was. The cases are firmly bolted to the frames with five bolts, but the pannier frames themselves are attached to the bike with three half-turn quick fasteners on each side which can be removed in seconds with a R5 coin (but with a place for a padlock if you are worried about theft).

Some nice mods and those yellow pelican cases do look good as panniers.
Some nice mods and those yellow Pelican cases do look good as panniers.

So that’s my current Baby, and a joy to ride.

Thanks for the update and tips Bruce.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Andrew says:

    All very well but

    a. They do not hold an aweful amount
    b. With the vibrations on the bike I wonder how long they will last as they are plastic
    c. Serious offroaders may wonder as to their durability when falling off on the trail.


    1. Hi Andrew. Have mailed Bruce and asked him to respond but, as in all sorts of things, there is no correct answer I fear. Bruce Houghting, friend and partner in Motorbike Safaris, swears by soft luggage. Others prefer hard luggage. Using Pelican Cases, works for Bruce Humphrey it seems. I cannot comment on their durability on a motorbike but from a photographic point of view, they are very durable… I have used them for years.

      What panniers do you use and how have you found them on the trail – good?



    2. Bruce Humphrey says:

      Hi Andrew, about using Pelican cases as motorcycle panniers. I have been riding motorcycles for over 50 years now and started doing long “adventure” rides in 1970. I have covered most of sub-Saharan Africa by motorcycle and have owned 58 motorcycles, including several GS BMWs, KTMs and all of the medium to big dual purpose Adventure bikes.
      As a retired Environmental Scientist and Professional Photographer I have used Pelican cases for years and they are indestructible – in fact Pelican guarantees them to be indestructible. Pelican make a huge range of cases and I chose these (Model 1450) because they were exactly the size I needed. I don’t do long trips anymore unfortunately. But Pelican make lots of bigger cases.
      They are each bolted on with five bolts and large washers to spread the load. Where I now live in the Eastern Cape I have to cover at least 24km of really terrible dirt roads every time I go out. My car is a Jeep Wrangler as you really need good 4×4 to use these roads. The panniers show no signs of any stress at all.
      As for falling off in the dirt, something I am very good at, I can guarantee they will be stronger than Givi or aluminium panniers which dent – believe me I know.
      Check out Pelican cases as motorcycle panniers on the web, you will find lots and lots of motorcyclists use them in the USA.
      I hope that answers your question. Cheers Bruce Humphrey


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