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Motorcycle accessories are expensive. In fact, I remember reading once that when you buy a motorcycle, you’re really just making a down payment on accessories. My experience bears this out.

Yesterday I was riding solo and stopped by Van Sant Airport in Bucks County, PA – a regular gathering place for bikers. As I was munching on a hotdog from the snack bar, I noticed a Kawasaki KLR-650 pull in. The KLR is a similar bike to my V-Strom, so my interest was already piqued, and this particular bike had what looked like a very unusual set of panniers and topbox.

When I looked more closely and chatted with the owner, it was clear that this luggage set up was so ingenious and uniquely frugal that I had to write about it. Here are some pictures. See if you can figure out who makes this luggage set (apologies for the picture quality; I didn’t have my digital camera with me so these were taken with my iPhone):

KLR-650 with unusual luggage…

Another angle.

Close-up of the pannier. The sticker is from a local motorcycle shop, not the manufacturer.

Close up of the top box.

So here’s the deal. The owner (Pete) put mounting brackets on his bike ($200 from the local dealer) and jerry-rigged plastic bins from two large containers of Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes ($14 each). The bins are completely waterproof and accessible, albeit not secure against theft. Then he found a box from a DeWalt tool set in the trash and mounted that straight to the stock KLR luggage rack (cost: $0). The box has plenty of space for gear, and like the charcoal bins, is completely waterproof. The paint and paint scheme I don’t entirely understand, but when I asked him about the color choices, Pete said, “That’s just what I had in the barn.”

Pete went on to say, “The dealer wanted $1,000 for luggage. That’s a lot of travel money to me, so I wanted to find something cheaper. This is what I came up with.”

I’ll admit it’s not as flashy as a set of Touratech luggage but, damn! I’m impressed with Pete’s resourcefulness. As they say in baseball about an ugly hit, “Not purdy but effective.” The same holds true for Pete’s home made motorcycle luggage.

One of my goals for this year was to get some experience offroading. I haven’t had a two-wheeled motorized vehicle offroad since my Rupp Scrambler circa 1975. At Saturday’s Kawasaki demo day I asked one of the guides who had offroad experience about how to get training, to which he replied, “I dunno. I’m one of those crazy guys who will just go and do it.” Mind you, this is a guy who claims he rode his KLR-650  to the Arctic circle last year. So I was inspired.

Yesterday I found some dirt roads to demo my V-strom on. Here’s some video of my first offroad experiences.

Somewhere on the mountain near Bear Creek Ski Resort:


Then when I got back to my hometown I had a realization. Lansdale is an old town with old-school back alleys behind the homes. These back alleys are all gravel. So I decided to take a few laps around town. “Urban Offroading” I called it. The trip ends with a lap around my yard. And you’ve gotta love the drunk stumbling down the back alley with a big jug of wine in his hand at the 34 second mark of the video. It was about 3:40 in the afternoon too, and he was weaving back and forth pretty good. Lansdale is also one of those towns where drunks stumble down the back alleys:


On a completely unrelated note, riding motorcycles on strange roads lets you see some strange things. Here’s a house I saw in my travels that is made to look like Noah’s arc. As a friend mentioned, Noah didn’t need a dove…he had a satellite dish.

"It's the Lord, Noah"...."Riiiiight!"

Kawasaki had a fantastic demo day at the Granite Run Mall in Media, PA today. I got a chance to ride three bikes I really wanted to experience: the Ninja 650, the KLR 650, and the Concours. Some observations:

Kawasaki demo day in Media, PA

Kawi makes a lot of great bikes. Those were just the three I wanted to ride most – and they are all great in their own way. If I had unlimited time and the ability to take as many demo rides as I wanted, I would have also liked to try out the Vulcan Nomad, the Ninja 1000, the Z1000, and the ridiculous (in a good way) ZX-14. I honestly don’t think there is a bad bike in the Kawasaki lineup – every one is a quality machine.

It was the fastest demo day I’ve ever experienced. Kawasaki makes fast bikes – the ZX-14 is the fastest production bike on the planet today- and the guides at the demo day wanted to show that off. I was at the very edge of my comfort zone riding with the sportbike crew on the Ninja 650.

Sweet Ninja 650

Ninja 650 is fun. I really enjoyed the engine on the Ninja 650. High revving and torquey, whatever gear I was in just required a twist of the throttle to accelerate. I didn’t have to downshift once. It handled like a dream too. My only complaint was that it was a tad small for my 6’2″ frame. I stand by my belief that it’s one of the sexiest bikes for first time riders.

Kawasaki Concours. A dream machine.

Concours is like an extension of my body. I swear – I would think about turning left and the bike would start to go left. It was like the bike was anticipating my next move. It was the fastest bike I’ve ever experienced, and comfortable as a living room loveseat. Heated grips are a nice luxury – never experienced ’em before and on a cold day like today they were great to have. The wind screen that adjusts on the fly with a press of a button was pretty cool technology, too. A dream machine.

My favorite Kawi of the day was the KLR-650

The KLR-650 rocks. As nice as it was to ride a dream machine like the Concours, I’m a meat and potatoes guy. I like basic, hard working, functional bikes. So the KLR-650 was in my wheelhouse. It’s a great bike for taller first time riders (I think shorter riders might have trouble with it) It was my second favorite ride of the day. Which brings me to…

The best bike I rode today is the one I own. I just love the V-Strom 650. It fits me perfectly, it’s quick and twitchy, it handles like a dream, it’s versatile, it’s economical…it’s everything I want in a bike. As nice as it is to fantasize about a work of art like the Concours, I’ll never pay $16,000+ for a motorcycle. I’d buy three good used bikes before buying a new bike for that much money. So the fact that I paid only $4,000 for my used V-Strom makes it all that much more fun.

Here are some other pictures from the demo day.

Versys 650. Another good bike for first time riders.

The Z1000 just looks badass.

ZX-14. The fastest production bike on the planet. Lookin' good in blue.

Good looking orange Vulcan 900 Custom.

This 'Busa and ZX-14 look like they're getting ready to throw down in the parking lot.

A relic from Triumph's first year back in the USA - 1996 Triumph Adventurer in mint condition.

Unfortunately, no demo rides allowed on this 2002 ZRX1200R.