My trip to Alaska caused me to do something very, very rare in my life – I actually had to plan for something in advance. The horror! And while sites like ADVRider make it easier to prepare by giving you a peek at what other successful travelers have done, there was one aspect of my trip that I was concerned about: luggage. For a third of my trip, my girlfriend was going to be on the back of my bike, which eliminated my usual method of strapping down luggage to the passenger seat. Thankfully, the folks at Wolfman Luggage were able to help out with a system of tank panniers built out of their versatile Rolie bags.
I’d like to start with a little tale about customer service. When I was first panicking about how I’d be able to effectively deal with the double whammy of not using the passenger seat AND having to carry the girlfriend’s gear, I considered using a giant rear bag like the Boulder Beta. But David K. over at Wolfman took a lot of time out of his day to hear my situation and my concerns, walk me through the options, and recommend the best fit. I ended up with:
Shipping was quick and easy enough, which leads me to:
If you have plenty of experience with straps (not a bondage joke), you’ll be alright. Because I’m a little inept, it did take a little longer than it should have, including have to undo and redo where I decided to loop the straps to ensure the bags were balanced on either side of the tank and to give me enough knee room.
Instructions are provided, though I didn’t find them to be particularly helpful. Frankly, installation was my biggest complaint about the whole process, which should suggest how happy I was with the bags. I think installation of a product like this will always be a little fussy or tedious simply because they’re somewhat universal and not specific to your bike.
Once the bags were on, I considered it too much of a hassle to take them on and off on a daily basis, so I just left them on for the entire trip. When I camped, it didn’t think twice about it. When I was in a hotel, I emptied the bags and brought the contents inside with me.
Over the 3 and a half week long trip (plus the extra week I kept the bags on in-town because I was too lazy to take them off), I really only had two complaints, and they were both minor:
1.) Despite plenty of adjustment, I could never get the bags in a position where my knees didn’t graze against them. I suspect this is what I got for ordering the Large bags. It should be noted that this never interfered with my ability to ride, it just annoyed me every once in a while.
2.) You have to roll the top of the bags down every time you want to close the bag to ensure dustproof/waterproof-ness. This is more of a hassle than something like the zipper of a tank bag or the clamshell mechanism of the saddlebags. But this isn’t a Wolfman-specific issue, that’s just a dry bag issue.
But the goods worked as advertised – the bags were waterproof and I never once feared for the contents inside. In fact, during heavy rain storms I started to put my camera and passport in the Rolies, which should exemplify my trust in them.
I’m very, very happy with the bags themselves. They’re waterproof and they seem tough (though I thankfully didn’t have a chance to crash test them). The ‘integrated’ bottle holsters were a nice touch, and the entire package was clearly well thought out.
That leads me to the only problem – there aren’t many use cases for these bags. I’m usually solo for my long trips, which means I can throw luggage on the passenger seat, and combined with saddlebags, a tank bag, and/or the trunk, that’s enough room for all I need and more. The rare times I’m going 2-up for thousands of miles at a time, I’ll throw these bags on.
It may end up that I only use these bags for my Alaska trip and never again. But they made my Alaska trip so much better that I consider them to be fully worth the investment. They were a great introduction to the Wolfman brand – I guess I’ll be going back to them when I finally buy a dirt bike….