Date reviewed: October 2017 | Tested by: John Milbank | Price: Around £320, depending on bike and pack | www.ventura-bike.co.uk
I’ve long been a fan of top-boxes and hard luggage – the ability to lock your stuff reasonably safely away is a boon – but it’s not a practical solution for all machines. I prefer not to fit hard luggage to more sporty bikes – not least because it spoils the look to my eye, but also due to the extra weight. But strapping soft luggage on isn’t as convenient as clicking a box into place.
Ventura’s system has long been popular with those wanting the convenience of hard luggage, without the looks and weight. The new Evo range sits alongside the existing products, but offers a horizontal rack system that allows you to quickly slide on and secure your pack. I’ve fitted it to my long-term-test Suzuki GSX-S750…
Two support rails bolt securely under the tail of the GSX-S – the instructions could be a little clearer, but fitting is reasonably easy if you take your time and use commons sense.
Bolting the rack itself on proved a little more awkward as the elbows that go into the rails need lining up, but shift as you tighten them. Doing them each up a little at a time helps. I also used a light thread-lock on some of the bolts, particularly the replacement pillion pegs fixings – the originals had it on, so it’s worth doing.
The rack is tubular steel, so while it’s well protected, it’s worth making sure that, like your bike, you keep it well cleaned. The rack costs £77.99, while the L-brackets are £98.99 for this bike, though they vary between £82.99 and £162.99.
The rack is held in using thumb screws with a locking ring – both have holes for a supplied pin-type ‘key’ for tightening, which I keep under the seat. You could remove the rack when it’s not in use, or fit an optional £16.99 grab handle, but I just leave it there all the time.
Fitting is fairly easy and requires few tools…
The 10-litre Evo-10 pack costs £73.99, and has a single main compartment with a slim, zipped pocket in the lid. There’s a handle on the front, and while it’s not going to see you through a week away, the tough self-supporting bag will swallow a surprising amount – I’ve had a pair of jeans, shoes, pants, socks and tee-shirt in with room to spare.
The 40litre Evo-40 costs £149.99, and is the one I use for work every day. The massive main compartment swallows my 15” laptop, notebooks, lunch, jeans and more with plenty of room to spare for anything I need to bring home from the office at the end of the day.
There are no dividers inside the main compartment, but you don’t need them. Like the Evo-10, the lining is bright red, making it easy to find your stuff, while the large lid means I can ferret around for what I need easily.
There are zipped pockets on the top, both sides and the front – these will take a fair bit, and provide easy access to kit you might need on the bike.
Both packs are extremely solidly made, with stiff inserts that stop them collapsing when not full, and are rated to carry up to 9kg. Both have reflective piping, with the Evo-40 also featuring reflective panels. All the zips are water-resistant, and while I’ve not had problems in light rain on a short commute, it’s important to note that the material is waterproof but the zips aren’t; a good strong shower will see water get into either pack, and especially the front zipped pocket of the Evo-40. Once in, it just lays there, as there aren’t any drain holes. Storm covers are available for either pack, but they do cost £23.99 extra each. It’s a shame there’s not a retained one built into the bottoms, but this is the same across Ventura’s range.
I’d also like to have seen a shoulder strap for the Evo-40 – when carrying it along with my lid and gloves to the bike park it can get pretty awkward, especially when I’m fishing in my pockets for my security pass, or navigating the revolving doors.
Ventura recommends you fit the rack facing forward if you don’t have a passenger, to place the bag over the pillion seat. This makes sense, but in this orientation on the GSX-S you can't take the seat off without removing the rack every time – which needs the pin key to lock it off tightly. I leave it facing backwards as I keep my disc lock under the seat, but don’t always carry a bag. The rack also doesn't fit as well to my rack when facing forwards – one side tries to lift out until it’s locked off. I checked all my fixings but couldn't beat it. It’s no problem though, as having the rack to the rear makes the most sense to me.
Sliding either bag on is very quick and easy, then two buckle-type clips snap into place, keeping it solid. It’s a genius piece of design that works brilliantly.
I’m a little paranoid, so would have liked a locking mechanism for when I’m paying for fuel – just in case some scrote decides to make off with it – though it’s unlikely many would see how it’s taken off quick enough to take advantage. I’d also like loops in the zips for a small padlock; it’d not offer anything like the security of hard luggage, but it could be enough to see your gear safe while you nip into a services for the loo.
Of course, most of this is moot as the bag is so easy to slip off, you can just take it with you.
The rack isn’t the most elegant thing, but it’s well made and solid. If you bought a Panigale to stare at, you might not want to fit this, but if you bought your motorcycle to get plenty of use out of, it’s a compromise worth making.
The Evo system is a good progression of the traditional Ventura racks, which had a large vertical hoop that the bag dropped down over. There’s still a place for the other gear, as it allows you to fix two bags back-to-back, giving a huge amount of storage, but the Evo is very quick and easy to use.
If you want to do more with your bike, but don’t want to faff with panniers or lash out on heavy hard luggage, the Ventura is excellent, and as easy to sling on the bike as it is to pop on a rucksack. And it’s a lot more comfortable!