Hard Panniers vs Soft Panniers

My beautiful companion, “Bronte”

When It comes to choose panniers for your motorcycle, there are two main options available: hard or soft ones.
I was new to the infinite debate between the two parties, which it has been going on probably from before i was born; suddenly I found myself in the position to pick one for my trip around Australia, after years of using just backpacks and top box cases, for my shorts commutes around town.

For a long trip instead, this became an excruciating decision.
Fortunately, I had the choice made for me, since my 1190 Adventure came already with the hard KTM ones, directly from the dealer.
On top of that, around half of my trip, I had the chance to try the other party, getting some Giant Loop Siskyou soft Panniers.

Giant Loop soft Panniers vs KTM Hard panniers

Somehow, I tried to imagine what would push me to pick one or the other anyway; most of the times the criteria of your choice is strongly influenced by your  riding style, your  finances, or your parking location.

Before writing this article I felt also the need to read about this matter on various forums and websites. Many people were fancying hard or soft panniers for all valid reasons; this obviously caused further confusion in my head.
There are in fact several different opinions about those, which are related mostly to the different styles and level of riding of each user.
Because this choice is, at the end, so personal, It’s hard to standardise a perfect solution for everybody.

Although, after all this reading and riding that i’ve done myself with one and the other, i believe that the choice upon purchase, has to be made based on one factor:
The Style of Riding

Let’s talk about the HARD PANNIERS to start.
It’s a known fact, first of all, that hard are more expensive than soft ones.
This point does not apply only if you “do your own”; I’ve in fact seen lots of people using fuel cells as panniers, which are very cheap, durable and lightweight (if plastic), but certainly not completely waterproof (if not done properly) and secure for storing your personal belongings; plastic ones are sometimes flimsy and they will most certainly crack if you drop your bike.

custom made metal panniers. 20l fuel tank

Hard panniers in any case have to sit on a rack mount that has to be fitted separately, which can also be made ad hoc or bought for roughly USD $300.

I rode 20000 km using the hard KTM panniers (42 litres  the left one and 31 litres the right one), which are “not recommended” for off-road tracks.
It’s a more street oriented kind of solution, i have to admit, but I didn’t really experience any trouble at all (except the excessive weight), while riding on gravel and sand.

KTM Panniers back

KTM pannier protrude really a lot on the sides. Not the best idea if you love lane filtering.

Giant Loop Panniers back

Giant Loop Soft panniers (empty) are obviously narrower and lighter.

Overall, I have to admit that these panniers served me very well through all the long roads, bumpy tracks and torrential rains I encountered in the south regions of Australia.

Their waterproofness is certainly remarkable and you can rest for sure that your things are secured in there.

I would love to meet the locks engineers

Many people state and prefer hard panniers because of the capability of “protecting” the rider from accidental falls of the motorcycle, but It’s also true that once bent or damaged, those lids or hard structures fail miserably in going back the way they were, causing all the sort of issues like water leakage, vibrations and locking problems.
Repairs are then very hard to perform and users are most of the times force to replace the whole thing, which can be cost effective.

Ultimately, I appreciated my hard panniers for 3 main reasons:
– Waterproofness
– Easy to remove
– Valuable items protection 

Does size really matter?

It’s almost unbelievable that these ones can store more stuff than the others

My bike is significantly heavier than the other smaller Dual Sport machines, due mostly to the engine displacement and the fuel tank size (1190cc and 23 litres tank). Adding those bulky hard pannier was not an experience that I found rewarding while going off road, for sure.
On gravel roads and light dirt tracks, the difference was minimal though.

They are OUT THERE.

Once full, they do stick out a bit

Riding on sealed roads with hard panniers was certainly ok, despite of the strong wind resistance caused by the excessive protrusion of the boxes; even at regular speed in fact, their squared surface made consumptions sensibly higher, due to the intense friction with upcoming air.

Also, removing the panniers, when full, was easy but they were certainly not comfortable enough to be carried around for long, even with those good big handles on the side.
On bumpy or twisty mountain roads those were also affecting my riding style, excessively sticking out on the side of my bike, not allowing me to lean as much as I wanted.
Also, the lowered position on the bike, was making my riding not so pleasant, especially during short and hard turns.
On top of this, exceeding 140-150 km/h was causing problems to the bike stability; strong vibrations on the handlebar occurred, making riding quite dangerous.
Obviously, these last three points are very personal; this kind of luggage system is not meant to be used for “fast riding”.
They are indeed very effective instead for touring and nice cruisy rides.
Things felt definitely more secure when left in there, while leaving my bike unattended, or when parking my bike at night.
So, I was glad that I had hard panniers while I parking my bike in the street, in the city.

Let’s talk about the SOFT PANNIERS now.
When I switched to soft and rackless pannier system, using Giant Loop Siskiyou, my riding experience changed completely, I have to say.
I rode 20000 km with them and I went through dust, mud, water and sand; they behaved beautifully, as good as hard panniers, in terms of waterproofness and resistance, which made the transition between the two kind of luggage systems absolutely seamless, in this sense.

The position of the soft panniers was slightly higher than the hard panniers, since they hang from the passenger seat (roughly around 10cm above the hard ones), slightly moving away from the centre of gravity of the bike.

Even with this modification, my whole riding experience improved, especially while going off-road and really sharp twisty sealed roads.

Easy access to its content even with passenger handles fitted on the bike

Yellow watertight bags are inside each bag to protect your things from accidental water leakage

Surprisingly I found out that soft panniers were actually “bigger” than my old hard ones, regardless of the slimmer look that they had at first sight.
Being soft and “malleable”, I could in fact stuff them up until their physical structure allowed me to.
The size of each bag is 35 litres, which is plenty for storing everything I had in my hard panniers (42 and 31 litres instead).
Rain and water crossing were my main worry once i switched to this solution, but I have to say that the yellow watertight pods, placed inside each bag, protected my items completely from water leaking in.

Pillions can still ride sitting on the saddle and hanging on the handles, that I decided to cover with tennis racket grips to protect them from wearing and improve grasping.



Many people that bought these panniers, removed the passenger handles and pegs from the back of the KTM, to have better access to the bags, but I left those on, since they weren’t of obstacole to me at all. Actually, i regularly use pillion handles to lift my bike up, if needed.



Ultimately, I liked my soft panniers for 3 reasons:
– Lightweight
– Better riding experience
More storage capability

15 kg empty. WHAT !?

2.5 kg each. now we are talking!

A further note has to be made on the weight difference between the two; I personally felt that trimming on weight was somehow the best solution I could opt for.



It made my riding experience more pleasant and it felt more suitable to my riding style.

Being lighter and narrower means, less consumption on tyres, fuel and less friction against strong head winds, without considering the slightly minimised stress on rear shock.

No need for Muffler guard, since they sit quite far away from this beautiful WINGS Titanium Muffler.

So, in conclusion, the market offers a great variety of solutions for your long and short travels.
Going hard or soft with the choice of your panniers is just a little variable on the great equation that will be your journey.
Your riding style should be the only factor to take in consideration when making the choice.

If you are planning to carry with you very expensive items and you don’t want to take them with you all the times, you should better insure them, first of all, and never leave those in your bike unattended, in any case, in my opinion, even if you put them in a hard pannier.

So I think that ultimately, it does work as a deterrent for bad intentioned people to have a lock on your panniers, but still does not guarantee 100% safety against theft.
As a matter of choice between hard and soft, I don’t think that this is a strong enough point to opt for one or the other.

Make sure you take in consideration where you are going to ride and the way you ride.
I’m riding with soft ones.

Thanks for reading.
Please let me know what you think or if you have any personal experience about this never ending argument.

The change within

Hello again, beautiful people.

My Australian Giant Loop ended just few weeks ago, but feels like I’ve been in the city loop for years.
It’s time to plan something new and to work on the post processing of all the media collected in the past 8 months.
Trust me when I tell you that it’s a lot of work.
It’s mind blowing to see everything again; It’s just incredible.
I’m pretty much revisiting all the emotions that i felt in those places; all the beautiful beaches and gorges i walked upon…
They are back again, in front of my eyes, in digital form this time.
What a marvellous adventure and what a great time I had. Simply priceless.
Australia is really a great country.
Exploring it, in its totality, really put me in touch with myself and in complete harmony with nature at the same time.
It may look that I solely just had few hair and wrinkles extra on my face, after these 7 months on the road, being exposed to the elements in such way, but there’s more that meets the eyes.

The real change can’t be seen.
It may be possible to “feel” it…to sense it…looking into my eyes, but cannot be seen.
Everything I knew, changed.
All the doubts that I had, before my trip, are now gone, leaving space to a clear mind.
Clear, like pristine waters.

I just changed.
And the funny thing is that, while I was on the road, It was hard to metabolise all that change in me because I never really had a point of reference to compare it with.
So, my arrival in Sydney, was certainly one of the most overwhelming experiences I had in my adult life.
I finally had the chance to see myself and everything that belonged to my life prior to my departure.
So many internal conflicts and so many ethical pillars that have been completely knocked down, like a house of cards blown away by the wind.
Everything had to be reevaluated, relabelled, reassessed.
And It all happened in an instant.
Something that my simple brain didn’t quite like much.
It may have looked easy to foreign eyes, to come back to my starting point and enjoy the fruits of my triumph, but it was instead an absolutely terrifying experience.

On top of this, I felt also “imprisoned” by a city that has an incredible amount of cars, lights, speed cameras and things going on.
I felt like a wild animal being caged.
Paradoxically, I felt more relaxed crossing crocs infested waters in the middle of nowhere than driving through Sydney city centre.

37000 km of incredible adventures and freedom made me become a socially handicapped person.
Which I believe is quite normal, I have to say.
The privilege of being free is something that has to be earned with a lot of effort.
Most of the people think they are free but they are not.
They always depend on something or somebody.
And this is my ultimate point. My most precious goal.
Which I’m still yet to experience, I believe.
Experience pure freedom.

Anyway, as quick snippet of what I’m doing, I decided to release my first video, that is a collage of “selfies” that I took along my journey, just to see the changes that my facial features were subjected to, consequentially to all the adventures.
The result is pretty funny I have to say.
Beard growing, some sleep deprivation showing, some great places in the background popping up, some happy moments, some sad ones, some profound instants and some silly ones….
…overall this is a just a short video to shows that somehow, we don’t think about the fact that EVERY DAY we change a little.
Even if we do the same kind of life, nothing can’t stop time and changes.

enjoy it (fullscreen) and embrace the change, people!
Share it and let me know what you think.


Dear friends,

my Australian lap has come to its end, or to its start should I say, since I arrived exactly where I left from, here in Bronte, Sydney.

The trip had such a hard mental and physical impact on me that it was even tough to come back to live in this beautiful part of the world.

I know right!? First world problems!

But hey, I m not here to brag or to complain.

I m just here to say that I m processing EVERYTHING that I documented during my 7 months trip and trying to figure out my life at the same time.

So, I m just asking for a bit of patience while i sort my media out.

In the meaning while, in the photography section of this site, you can already admire some of the shot that made it to my selection and they left a little memory in heart.

Please share, rate and comment if you feel like!


see you soon with the first part of the story!!