Date reviewed: June 2019 | Tested by: John Milbank | Price: £790.98 | www.shad.co.uk
Whether you use your bike for touring or every day for commuting, having hard luggage can make a world of difference – the practicality of being able to safely and securely carry your kit means that, with the right top box and panniers (if you need the maximum space), you can as easily carry your packed lunch and computer to the office as you can a full couple of week’s gear for you and your partner’s holiday.
I’ve been using the Shad SH58x top box (a unique, expanding design) with the SH36 panniers on the Yamaha Niken for the past couple of months. They’re of course also available to fit a huge number of other motorcycles.
While the price of the fitting kits will vary depending on what bike you have, the complete set for the Niken costs £790.98:
SH58x Carbon top box
SH36 Carbon panniers
Top Bix fitting kit
Pannier fitting kit
This compares well with the competition, and remember – while the fitting kits are specific to a bike, the luggage can usually be used across a variety of machines, so when you sell your motorcycle, you can likely just buy a new fitting kit for the next one (and sell the old racks). If you’re going to have luggage on all your bikes, it should be considered a long-term investment.
Made of tough, impact-resistant plastic with a textured carbon-fibre-effect panel (different finishes are available), the Shad SH36 panniers and SH58x top box are very well made, feeling resilient and secure.
The Shad SH36 panniers have a ‘shelf’ that stops your kit falling out when you open them.
The SH36 panniers each hold 36 litres – they do of course add significant width to your bike (something to consider if you need to filter a lot), but they’re not ridiculous. On the Niken (which does have wide bars), they don’t stick out further than the bar-end weights, so navigating queues of traffic isn’t too problematic.
Each pannier will happily take a full-face helmet, and – brilliantly – there’s a ‘shelf’ at the bottom of the box. Unlike many other panniers I’ve used, when you open the SH36, all your gear doesn’t roll out. There are of course elasticated straps to keep things secure, but this ledge is a very useful feature.
The Shad SH58x can be quickly and easily expanded from 46 to 58 litres.
Taking brilliant design ideas even further, the SH58x top box is expandable. At its maximum 58 litre capacity it’ll easily take two full-face helmets (even with peaks) and more, but by simply flicking open two large catches inside, you can lower the upper section to reduce it to 52 or 46 litres. If you don’t need the space, this allows for a much more sleek look, but the clever design means that the box remains secure, thanks to the solid plastic expanding sections. A simpler solution would have been to use fabric in the expansion, but like BMW’s Vario expanding panniers, this top box stays solid.
On shorter rides, my wife and I will often use luggage to simply store our lids and gloves when we arrive at our destination – the SH58x allows us to ride with it at its minimum setting (where Helen finds it as comfortable to lean against as when it’s at full height), then expand it when we stop to lock our gear away.
The large, solid latches inside the SH58x top box make it easy to expand or compress when needed.
Like other luggage I’ve fitted, the Shad instructions aren’t the clearest, especially if you’re fitting both the pannier and top-box kits. Take your time though, and it soon makes sense.
Sadly no torque settings are supplied, but to fit the metal, powder-coated racks you just need a 5mm Allen key. I usually use T-bars, but on the Niken at least, you need a standard right-angle key with a reasonably short end to get behind the pillion pegs.
You’ll need a small 5mm Allen key to fit the pannier racks to a Niken.
Fitting would be much easier with two people, so rope someone in if you can for a few minutes, just to hold the sides in place as you pair the kits and refit the pillion grab rails. Those Niken rails do sit slightly further out when the racks are fitted, which gives your pillion a bit more room for their hands.
With the luggage racks fitted, the Niken’s grab rails gain a bit more space.
This Yamaha needed very little removing to fit the racks, and only eight bolts to secure it. Fitting the plate that comes with the top-box onto the mounting kit was a little more fiddly as you need a PH2 screwdriver, a PZ3 and a 10mm socket of spanner. Again, the instructions are very small and not very clear, but take your time and it comes together. I’ll admit to losing five minutes first trying to work out how the top-box opened, just so I could get to the instructions inside it!
The panniers come with an extra lock barrel, which you can fit to the top box to make them keyed alike, but there are no instructions supplied for this. I found this a really awkward job, and would recommend you ask your dealer to do it. If you’re going to take it on, you’ll need a Torx TX15 driver and a 10mm socket, and follow the guide on Shad’s video: https://youtu.be/BfUnYZXI8sE
Note that while all of Shad’s rigid panniers generously come with a spare barrel for a top-box, a recent upgrade to the system means that some smaller-capacity top-boxes may require the additional purchase of a new barrel set (around £26). If in doubt, check with your dealer.
The pannier racks are a neat design, the boxes locking securely on without leaving a messy framework when they’re removed.
The fitting kit is a very neat rack system – by avoiding a large, clunky framework, the Shad pannier rails look a lot better than some of the other aftermarket competitors.
The side boxes fit securely, though they do take a bit of force to get on; this eases with use, but you still need to get them on ‘just so’. You don’t have to lock them on with the key, which is slightly surprising, but having said that, once latched, they’re not going to come off by accident. Locking the lids also locks the panniers to the frame, keeping your gear as secure as possible.
The top-box locks securely onto the rack and has bags of space that’s easy to access.
The top box requires the key to pop into onto the mounting plate – a slight inconvenience compared to Givi’s system, which sees the box drop on and lock automatically, but this will only catch you out if you’re used to Givi. Once on, the Shad’s securely locked in place.
You don’t have to lock the lid of the top box to take the key out, which I consider an advantage over Givi, but don’t forget to lock it if you leave the bike. It does make it much easier to get to your kit if you’re constantly stopping, perhaps to take photos.
Opening the top box just requires a press of the lock mechanism, which sees the carry-handle pop open. Reach in behind this and pull the large lever to open the lid. On the Niken, dirty water is able to spray up onto the handle, which sometimes stops it popping open when the button’s pressed, but it’s easy to flick with your finger.
Neither the panniers nor the top box can accidently have the keys locked in them.
Pressing the lock button sees the handle pop open.
A rubber seal and deep lip all around the boxes ensures your kit stays dry – unlike soft luggage, you’ll not need to worry about anything you’re carrying in the Shad SH58x top box or SH36 panniers.
If you’re leaving your kit on the bike – be it while taking a break at the services or storing everything on board while you’re away for the day – hard luggage is by far the most secure option. Of course, a determined thief could cut or force it open, but it would take time, and for any serious touring, hard luggage has got to be the best bet – only heavier metal boxes would be tougher to get into.
Using hard luggage is a great way to keep your gear safe on the bike.
While there were slight frustrations with the fitting, this is common on most luggage. Once on, the Shad SH58x top-box is superb, giving a huge amount of space if you need it, yet compacting down to be much more manageable if you don’t. It’s also great for pillions, who can comfortably rest against it. A padded backrest is available for £62.99, but my wife didn’t find she needed it (though the back protector in her jacket will have helped).
The panniers are also brilliantly designed, my only slight reservation with them being that they’re a little harder to fit onto the rack – a week of touring, when you’re removing them every night and refitting each morning might be a little irritating, but on the other hand, it makes for a much neater-looking rack when the boxes are removed.
I tend to ride with a top-box fitted all the time, only adding panniers when needed; the Shad kit is practical, solid and extremely clever – if you want the space on your bike it’s well worth the investment.