We do plenty of dual-sport riding during our lengthy two-wheel season. Sometimes, however, the trips themselves aren’t quite as long. Any time we plan for an extended ride, aside from fuel stops our first concern is the ability to carry our needed gear. We’re done suffering through the misery of an overloaded backpack, so when it came time to take our 2008 DR-Z400S on a multi-day tour with OMA-KTM, we started looking around for aftermarket luggage. We didn’t have to go far since the local Katoom shop works in conjunction with Diamond Back Dual Sport to develop and distribute their heavy duty saddlebags. We like it when things are so easy.
The saddlebags are certainly heavy duty. We like the thick, powder coated diamond-plated aluminum used to create the boxes, but the durability comes with a price. Each side case weighs nine pounds and the mounting bracket adds another three. That means our DR-Z gained 21 pounds before we even started packing! However, that’s when the bags started to shine. We were able to stuff tons of gear inside. By the time we were done, the sides, which are tapered for more ground clearance, held extra clothes, shoes, a pillow, sleeping bag, camera equipment, spare batteries and miscellaneous smaller items.
After adjusting the shock preload setting to accommodate for the added weight, we set off for a few days of dusty riding. Throughout the trip we opened the lid countless times to retrieve our cameras and there was never any dust inside. The foam liner works excellently at keeping a tight seal. We even sprayed it from every angle with a hose and the contents remained dry.
The outer wall is tapered at the bottom to increase ground clearance. We only had a few instances where it scraped or hit something, and it was much less obtrusive than its bulky appearance suggests. Basically, if your handlebars can fit through, so will the bags. However, we did spend a lot of time thinking about them while we rode. Dabbing a foot can get messy if it gets caught underneath and we learned quickly that you have to be cautious. The damage could be serious if done at speed. Also, while the mounting brackets are unquestionably solid, the tabs that attach the cases to the bracket give us some concern. Each case has two quick-access anchors that can be released or latched without tools. They are actually designed to be something of a weak point so that the boxes will break away in a hard impact or crash. Rather than destroying the boxes, the rubber grommets on the anchors get sacrificed. The boxes come with extras so that you can replace the hardware and be on your way. We kept a wary eye on the undersized mounts, but to the boxes’ credit, we never had one come off unexpectedly.
The Diamond Back Dual Sport Heavy Duty Saddlebags are strong, durable, and safe thanks to a locking latch mechanism, but it has its quirks. For instance, if you do want to lock your possessions inside, you will have to deal with a padlock banging around on each case. We also noticed that a lack of handholds make the boxes awkward to carry when detached from the bike. Even still, the panniers were definitely a welcome addition for our testing. These are best suited to long-distance riders who place value on durability. A simple set of bolts would fix the mounting concerns if you want extra peace of mind and you would be left with a solid, rugged and dependable set of side cases that can hold a whole bunch of stuff. The boxes for both the DR-Z400 and KLR650 are exactly the same, with just the mounting brackets differing. Since these are two of the most popular dual-sport bikes on the planet, we think the Diamond Back product will be well-received so long as consumers intend to buy ‘em, bolt ‘em and leave ‘em alone.
Application: 2000-’08 Suzuki DR-Z400S; ’88-’08 Kawasaki KLR650
MSRP: Mounting Rack – $150; Bags – $250 each.
More Information: www.oma-ktm.com