Magadan Panniers Mk2 - The SAS of motorcycle luggage

By Lisa Morris

Installation and customer service


The install was speedy, straightforward and executed without a trace of fuss. The bags slotted onto the rack previously used for my hard panniers (usefully keeping the bags safely away from the side panels, wheels and exhaust), with Velcro top straps to support them over the rear seat of the bike.

The bags are designed to work with any traditional ‘hooped’ racks such as those from Metal Mule units or Touratech, although the bags can accommodate many other brands of racks for hard luggage: suitable if the bars on which the boxes rest are flat, you should be fine. If in doubt enquire via email with a picture and Adventure-Spec will confirm.

Stabilising each of the bags with a tension strap (not included) stops any shifting, flapping or sagging while riding. Pleased with the fit and finish, the panniers looked fit-for-purpose in preparation to transport our equipment on the second leg of our two-wheel jaunt to the top of the planet. Should anything wear out, it’s good to know that field serviceability can be undertaken if the buckles get damaged. Alternatively, replacements can be ordered and shipped, or company repairs made. Firsthand experience shows that Adventure-Spec willingly ship internationally where the after-sales service has always been managed efficiently and effectively.


Weight and sanity: a positive correlation


Despite the many and valid arguments for hard panniers, the pair of us have grown weary of pumping iron on a gruelling basis to keep up with the muscle mass required in picking up the GSs. Instead–and swopping the bikes for lighter models will be the next natural step in the process–Jason and I agreed that it was high time we shaved a load off. Struggling with 530lb (240 kilograms) of F800GS laden with luggage and marginally less on mine, an F650GS: enough to give anyone a hernia and a joyless endeavour at altitude, in sand, on cambers, and let’s face it, wherever when the bike topples. Simply, when off road the saddlebags come into their own.




Like any luggage, backpack, motorcycling suits and other performance apparel or military wear worth its salt, the incorporation of Cordura will be present. Known for its durability and resistance to abrasion, tearing and scuffing, its reputation precedes it. Where my current motorcycle suit enjoys 500 denier Cordura, the Magadans boast 1000 denier. Coupled with Kevlar / Twaron fabric makes them twice as thick and myriad times as strong respectively—their integrity would doubtless be unaffected if not practically immune in sliding down the highway. Perhaps the toughest solution on the market with regards to an endless supply of ruggedness and longevity. The straps on the MK2s have been redesigned and the buckles are supersized, giving further peace of mind to the bag’s endurance over a long life span.



Many might disagree but for me, the larger hard panniers promote over-packing and place unnecessary strain on my bike’s stock suspension. The 35-litre capacity of the saddlebags may have forced me to take less—sure, I’ve had to be strategic in my travel ensemble—but at least they alleviate the stress of having to art-precision pack each day with the volume I was carrying before. Always a joyless endeavour. Thoughtful details added include two outside adjustable pockets on the front and same on the back of the expandable bags: ideal for carrying a 24oz bottle / flask in the former and smaller items such as hat, winter or summer riding gloves, neck buff, batteries, charger and a multi-tool in the latter.




Without question, the MK2s have effortlessly weather-sealed our belongings. Period.

And no gnawing doubt ever surfaced on the emergence of heavy downpours or water crossings. (That said, I still kept everything inside free of moisture in dry bags.) Two removable, heavy-duty buttercup yellow dry bag liners (included) give rise to the aforementioned peace of mind. Sealed at the opening with industrial-strength Velcro, and rolled down a couple of times, my belongings protected inside remain as waterproofed and dust-free as they did in the former foam rubber-lined boxes. It’s a joy to report that the weatherproofing of the saddlebags continues to perform admirably after hours of rain lashing down on them, leaving our contents bone-dry and sanity levels intact.




Perhaps the biggest challenge of all: security of soft luggage. Where most saddlebag solutions are lacking in deterring the odd opportunist, the Magadan MK2s are lockable. Employing devices such as the Pacsafe Wrapsafe Anti-theft Adjustable Cable Lock or Lifeventure Sliding Cable Lock (neither included) for instance, not only secures the bags but locks the bags to the luggage rack as well.

The cable subtly routes through various heavy-duty loops on the front and back, firmly holding it to the bag, giving rise to Walter’s intended solution of “the first motorcycle soft bags that actually offer some sort of security and lockability.” However, a determined enough thief might still get in them, but I think the right implement in the hands of the wrong person, they could do the exact same with hard panniers too.

Likely the cable locking system is enough to deter most unsavoury types out there, but what’s to stop them gliding a knife into the hot butter of your contents? The bags are also slash-proof. An internal wire mesh was brought into consideration during the R&D process, although sandwiching a layer of Kevlar / Twaron into the construction was actually incorporated. Remarkably challenging to cut, the same materials are used in UK police officer’s stab-proof and bulletproof vests where the resultant puncture resistance further heightens the robustness of the bags.




Over 8,000 miles of: washboard corrugations, gravel, sand, dirt, mud and water crossings, the MK2s are sensational. They perform effectively in snow and ice as they do in the blistering heat, at 7,000 feet or -282 below sea level. I appreciate their Herculean strength, simple operation and weatherproofing; they do exactly what soft panniers are supposed to do.

Experience of the panniers has already shown me that they are the SAS of soft luggage, impervious to the elements and contents within which are easily accessible on the roadside. Coupled with an affordable price tag, makes for a glorious set of credentials. And let’s face it, for serious off road use you’re never going to wish for heavier luggage.