Soft pannier attachment system for HT racks

RCinNC

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I designed this setup to work with my Happy Trail racks, but it could probably be adapted to work with other types. As always, I post these projects in case someone else can use them as inspiration for their own stuff, in much the same way I did when I first got an ADV bike and got ideas for my own projects by seeing what others had done.

I wanted to have a set of soft panniers available for a ride on the MABDR this year. I had an old set of Nelson-Rigg touring bags that I’d bought back in 2013 or so that I used for a little while. I never liked all the straps and tiedowns on soft bags, and wanted something that would attach and detach to my Happy Trails pannier racks as simply as the hard panniers I use. A while back I designed and built a quick release system for my Happy Trail racks for use with my Duratool cases based around a rotary latch, so ideally I wanted a setup for the soft panniers that would be able to use the existing attachment system with no further adjustments when I wanted to change bags. The packboards used by troops in WWII and Korea to haul things like mortar shells became my inspiration for the project. The packboards I made would be able to accommodate other soft panniers beside the Nelson-Riggs. If I made some additional tie down straps, the packboards could even be used to carry the standard type dry bags that a lot of us strap across the rear seat. They would also provide a simple, secure attachment point for things like military surplus backpacks used as panniers.

If you wanted to see how the rotary latch attachment system was made, that thread is here: https://www.yamahasupertenere.com/index.php?threads/rotary-latch-pannier-attachment-system.23836/#post-333194

The packboards were cut from sheets of 3/8” ABS plastic, and are 16 1/2” wide x 14 3/4” high. The plastic came from TAP Plastics, an online plastic supplier. If I recall, they were around 12 bucks each. All of the aluminum fittings you see in the photos were made from a one foot piece of 2”x2”x1/8” aluminum angle and an 18” piece of 1 34”x1 3/4” x3/16” aluminum bar stock. I had to buy the aluminum angle on line (from Amazon), since my hardware store didn’t stock angle that wide.

The webbing and hardware for this project came from Strapworks, an online store that sells that sort of stuff. I always use polypropylene webbing for outdoor gear; it doesn’t stretch when it gets wet, and it’s more resistant to mildew than nylon. I used heavyweight 1” polypropylene webbing for this project. Some of the sewing involved multiple layers of webbing being sewn onto the pannier, and to do this I used a hand sewing awl, which looked like this:



They work really well for that sort of task. Other lighter duty sewing was just done with a needle and thread. None of the tools used in this project were particularly sophisticated; a hacksaw, a power drill, coping saw, backsaw, hand files, etc.



Here’s the packboard under construction. The pannier racks were taken off the bike to make the fitting process easier.



Here’s the packboard, with all the holes and slots drilled. The slots were made by drilling a hole at each end of the slot, then cutting out the material between the holes with a coping saw.



This notches in the top of the packboard are to keep the pannier’s top attachment straps in position. The straps that go through these notches are the main load bearing straps for the panniers, so I rounded off the edges in the notch to cut down on wear on the straps.



Here’s the completed packboard. That rectangular block in the center of the packboard is a small piece of 3/8" ABS plastic, made from leftover plastic from cutting out the packboards. This piece, called a pinch block, fits closely underneath the upper horizontal frame of the Happy Trail rack (you can see it in the photo of the packboard under construction). When the packboard is attached to the pannier frame, the pinch block prevents the packboard from being knocked loose if it sustains an impact from below.



The original over the seat straps on these panniers were wide pieces of velcro with nylon backing. Each pannier had two of these nylon straps, and they were designed to hook together so the bags could be slung over the bike. I removed these velcro straps and replaced them with 1” polypro webbing.



This shows how those straps work. They go over the top of the packboard, through the notches, and are threaded through the strap adjusters on the other side of the packboard. The pannier basically hangs from these two straps.



This shows how the side and bottom attachment straps work. The strap feeds through the slot, and that silver strap adjuster at the end of the strap spreads out over the slot so the strap can’t be pulled through.



Once the strap feeds through the slot, it goes through the strap adjusters I sewed to the pannier. Once you snug these straps down (there are two on each side of the pannier and two on the bottom), they pull the pannier tightly against the packboard.



Here are the panniers attached to their packboards.



This is how the top attachment bracket mates with the rotary latch on the Happy Trail racks. The rotary latch is in the open position in the photo. The keeper on the pannier attachment bracket was made by hammering a small piece of sheet metal around a 3/32" threaded rod.



This is the rotary latch in the closed position, with the quick release locking pin inserted. In order to remove the pannier, you just have to pull the pin and turn the rotary latch and the pannier comes right off. The pin isn't necessary to connect the bag; it's just there as a backup feature in case something happens to the rotary latch.



Here are the Duratool cases attached to the bike…



...and here are the soft panniers. It takes about five seconds to change from one bag to another. I much prefer this to all the straps and tiedowns with standard soft bags, especially since I often take the bags inside a hotel when I stay at one. It also makes it easier if I have to dig something out of one of the bags while I’m on the move, since I can take it off the bike and lay it down flat on the ground while I look. Once all the straps that secure the pannier to the packboard have been adjusted, you don't have to mess with them at all in order to install or remove the panniers.

You might notice that there are also D-rings sewn to the sides of each pannier. I put them there as tiedown points if I ever need to use the bags on a bike that doesn’t have pannier racks. I just need to make a harness that has over the seat straps, that connects to the polypro web straps that are sewn to the rear of each pannier.
 

RCinNC

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Very nice work and write-up! I will eventually have both soft and hard panniers since most of the time and top case or the soft's will work for me but longer heavier laden trips the hard setup may work better.
A good portion of my touring is two-up, and the larger hard cases like I currently have on the bike work out for us a lot better. They have more room, for one thing, and they offer better protection for our stuff . Even when you try to be minimalist when you pack (and both my GF and I are like that), two people for a 10-14 day trip still end up with a lot of gear, especially when the trip will involve severe changes in climate (like our recent trip to Colorado: lows in the 40's and highs in the triple digits).

And thanks!
 

Dogdaze

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Hey RC, I see you've been making good use of the 'down time'? Very cool work, as usual! I was thinking of pinging you an email, to ask when the next instalment of handywork was coming out, don't need to now......;)
 

RCinNC

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Hey RC, I see you've been making good use of the 'down time'? Very cool work, as usual! I was thinking of pinging you an email, to ask when the next instalment of handywork was coming out, don't need to now......;)
At the moment, the drawing board is empty as far as motorcycle projects go. I am working on a mobile blind to hide my garbage can, since I got a visit from the police recently who told me I'm in flagrant violation of the heinous crime of my garbage can being visible from the road. Right now, my design consists of a large tarp with the words "There's no garbage can under this tarp. Seriously." written on the side. I might have to come up with something better.
 

Heresjeff

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I’ve had this idea in my head for like a year. But I couldn’t figure a decent way to mount my bags to support plates for quick release. Looks awesome


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RCinNC

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I’ve had this idea in my head for like a year. But I couldn’t figure a decent way to mount my bags to support plates for quick release. Looks awesome


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Thanks Jeff. I took them out today for a shakedown cruise over some bumpy dirt and gravel up in Uwharrie National Forest. I'm happy to report that everything stayed secure and attached! :)
 

Heresjeff

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Thanks Jeff. I took them out today for a shakedown cruise over some bumpy dirt and gravel up in Uwharrie National Forest. I'm happy to report that everything stayed secure and attached! :)
Sweet dude, My Nelson rigg bags have Velcro straps on top, and I was scared to cut them off. But I had the idea of using a grommet and bolting them on the back of the plate. Maybe your execution of this mod will get me to finally figure how I wanna do it. I like to take the bags off when I’m on my local dirt roads. Makes it feel lighter lol.


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RCinNC

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That's how mine are done...I used my soldering iron to put a hole in the webbing, set a grommet in it to reinforce the hole, and then bolted them to the packboard.



I was hesitant to start cutting stuff off the bags too...they were pretty pricey when I bought them (well, pricey for me, anyway), and I didn't want to mess them up. Then I figured what the hell, I wasn't using them anyway, so I started removing all the original attachment stuff. I always hated those big velcro over-the-seat straps; if you wanted to fine tune the adjustment, you had to unrip the whole thing just to move the straps a little. The new over-the seat harness I'm working on won't have that sort of system, and the height of the bags will be able to be adjusted just by pulling on some straps.
 

Clawdog60

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east central "ILL"
At the moment, the drawing board is empty as far as motorcycle projects go. I am working on a mobile blind to hide my garbage can, since I got a visit from the police recently who told me I'm in flagrant violation of the heinous crime of my garbage can being visible from the road. Right now, my design consists of a large tarp with the words "There's no garbage can under this tarp. Seriously." written on the side. I might have to come up with something better.
NoNo.......garbage can popo. Society is lost. ?.
 
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