Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tail bag for the WR250R

Not having a tail bag has been a pain in the rear (so to speak) on numerous occasions. Various bag options I've checked out online all seemed to be lacking something, were out of stock, or cost too much. It then occurred to me that bicycle tail bags might be a good alternative. Indeed they are--and they're much cheaper! MEC and Bushtukah in Ottawa have some good options at about half or a third the price of comparable bags aimed at motorcyclists. However, being designed for a bicycle, they tend to be narrower than motorbike tail bags. I figured this was a reasonable tradeoff for the lower price and lighter weight. Besides, the rear subframe on the WR can't exactly handle a lot of weight anyway, and a narrower bag is less likely to snag on underbrush or tear off if (when) I hit the rhubarb.

So I picked up a Vaude Silkroad (large) from Bushtukah for $60. There were insulated lunch-style bags for $30 but I preferred the features of the Vaude: rain cover, side pockets that didn't fold down below the rack (they'd get in the way on a motorbike), internal zippered pockets, and simple Velcro strap attachment. Not sure about the water bottle holder. I'll try it out but may end up cutting it off if it proves to be more of a nuisance. The stitching will be easy to remove with a seam ripper, without affecting the integrity of the rest of the bag.

The challenge was how to mount this bag to my homemade rack. Unfortunately, the slots I'd originally cut in the rack didn't align with the strap attachments points on this narrow bag, so I needed to devise a new attachment method. I considered sewing new straps, but this was more work than I wanted to undertake and besides, I wanted to work with metal!

Some leftover stainless steel sheet from the face of our old dishwasher (I knew this would come in handy one day!) provided the basis for some simple clips that I bolted to new holes drilled in the rack. The sheet was just thin enough that I could shear it by hand, but sturdy enough that it is unlikely to snap. The slots were cut by first drilling a hole, then filing it long with a rattail file. This only took a few minutes for each clip and gave a pretty straight and smooth slot. A quick cleanup with files and emery cloth removed all burrs.

Then I bent up the end of each clip to make it easier to pass the strap through. A single 5mm bolt with Nyloc nut holds each clip in place. The bolts are located outboard for two reasons: first, it's easier to reach the hardware without removing the rack; second, so any vibration of the bag will tend to pull on the clip and reduce the risk of metal fatigue. The strap itself is more likely to wear through long before the clips break. I may slide a small length of split tubing over the friction point of each clip under the strap, to reduce wear.

One problem with my approach will be how to mount the bag on top of a RotoPax fuel cell that I'm planning to add. The clips are fairly flush to the rack (although the bolt heads stick up a bit), so I can probably leave them in place under the cell. However, I'll need to come up with another way to attach the rack on top. I have a few ideas for that. I may also sew some additional Velcro onto the bag sides to hold the flapping end of the straps. As it is, there's about 1.5" of Velcro sticking at each location. That's plenty strong against shearing forces.

Lots of room inside for a full-size SLR camera, 1.5L bottle, and other items.

The rain cover is nice and bright. It's big enough that it encloses the rack itself, and is therefore much more secure than if it went over only the bag.

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