The MotoCentric Mototrek soft luggage is the real deal.
Thoughtful design, quality materials and virtually flawless construction make the Mototrek line of products a contender right out of the starting gate.
Well worth a look - there is a lot of value represented in the three products evaluated here and with some minor fixes they would represent an even greater value.
MotoCentric products are relatively new to the market, at least in North America.
Their website identifies a diverse offering of products for motorcyclists, ranging from soft luggage, motorcycle covers, outerwear and some handy accessories.
How serious are they?
Well, appreciating the usual marketing hype, there are a lot of clues provided in some of the information posted on the website, especially under the "Technology" tab.
In a nutshell, their goal is to "design and then test products to their absolute limits, which serves to identify strengths and weaknesses vis-à-vis design goals and production standards".
Their simple objective is to make a better more durable product for the market. This objective is obviously one reason why all MotoCentric luggage products come with a lifetime warranty; fair wear and tear appreciated,of course
Distinguishing the MotoCentric products is the use of innovative materials and the incorporation of some unique and very useful features.Every MotoCentric product has a small label stitched into it somewhere that identifies the product features specific to that item.
One of these innovative materials is Maxtura, a high performance fabric made up of very strong fibres, claimed to provide high levels of resistance to the usual wear and tear common when used as motorcycle luggage. Depending on the product, a denier rating (higher number = denser fabric and generally more durable) from 300D to 1680D is used.
Another distinguishing or illuminating feature is the use of "Reflect-A-Light" fabric, which uses tiny light-reflecting lenses adhered to the material. As with other retro-reflective products, the lenses reflect light back to the source, serving to illuminate the objects -- luggage, motorcycle and thus rider.
While all three MotoCentric Mototrek products evaluated here are of different form, fit and function, they are very much alike regarding design, execution and quality. For starters, all three feature the use of the Maxtura fabric in a 1680D rating along with the Reflect-A-Light fabric in the piping.
The Maxtura fabric is very dense, with a light sheen and satiny texture without being slippery to handle. With regards to construction, everything is cut evenly, joins are taped or rolled and tightly sealed with heavy duty single or double stitching used throughout.
Although they are not self-sealing, the zippers stitched into the products function smoothly (after some run-in) and are easy to use, aided by heavy-duty plastic pull tabs. Extra zippers are found on the saddlebags and tail bag as both pieces feature expandable side pockets; narrow stiffeners stitched into the outer walls are pushed down flat to form a floor and provide shape.
Heavy duty Duraflex "Rock Lockster" (Fastex-style) connectors are used throughout in both 32 mm and 25 mm size, depending on requirements. For example, the tank-bag uses three 32 mm connectors, one for each mounting point.
The saddle-bags use 25 mm connectors for the front and rear mounting straps, while four 32 mm female connectors are recessed into small pockets at the front and rear of each saddlebag for use in adding the tail bag, via its four short connection straps, to create an integrated assembly.
Finally, each bag has its own nylon rain cover -- integrated in the case of the tank bag and separate elastic-hem items for the saddlebags and tail bag.
So, if my initial first inspection is any indicator, this is some serious heavy duty luggage that deserves to be used. What follows are my respective form, fit and function observations on each of the three products evaluated.
Marketed as a medium-sized tank bag, the MotoCentric Mototrek 19 Tank Bag is long, narrow and low in profile, measuring 5.5 inches high by 9.0 inches wide and 16.5 inches long. Capacity is listed as 19 litres. In addition to its spacious elongated main compartment, the tank bag has other interesting and useful features.
I have the strap base variant which for its intended applications on various machines provides more flexibility than the magnetic base option. The well padded base and tank-bag are held together by sliding the mounting connectors through elastic straps on the top of the base piece. This makes separating the two very easy when desired.
The front neck harness is comprised of a long 2.5 cm (0.98 in) wide nylon strap with a male Duraflex connector at each end. A hook-and-loop crossover with loops on each end for the neck strap provides alignment and tension between the two connections and depending on its fit, keeps the neck strap in place when the bag is dismounted.
The single point back harness is another long 2.5 cm wide nylon strap with a Duraflex male connector on one end and a stitched loop at the other. As long as there is something to lasso or run the loop strap through or under, this single strap approach works very well.
For those who use the magnetic base variant, the base flaps can be tucked away when not in use, such as when the bag is being carried using the supplied shoulder strap with its well placed shoulder pad.
The main compartment is lined in a satin-touch material also used in the two flat side pockets that run almost the full length of the bag. The organizer features are found on the inside and outside sections of the two dual-track zippered-pull flaps or lids. The rear flap pulls forward while the top flap pulls from the front and overlays the rear flap with a hook-n-loop seal.
The front flap has three zippered sections; a rectangular map pocket that runs the length of the flap along with an inner fabric pocket and smaller mesh pocket. Distinguishing the rear flap is a clear plastic face section accessed from the inside and designed for housing a mobile phone, music player or multi-function device in a weatherproof housing.
Two waterproof pass-thru ports located on the right side of the clear-face pocket provide the means to provide access between the interior and outside. The large bottom port is aligned with another cutout in the main compartment wall providing a straight path for a hydration bladder feed tube.
Directly above the larger access point is the smaller port, right-sized for a stereo cable or headset connector. If not used for a hydration feed tube, the larger port is ideal for running other power or connection cables as well.
The top inner section of the rear flap is a zippered pouch, perfect for holding my static-free cleaning cloth and lens cleaning materials. Between the other organizers sections all my oft-used items such as a pen, notepad, digital recorder and flashlight, etc, are safely carried and easily accessed.
If a hydration bladder (not supplied) is used it can be housed in the supplied storage pouch that is securely held in placed by a full length hook-n-loop strip mated to a counterpart strip on the bottom of main compartment. The pouch is best sized for a 1.0 to 1.5 litre bladder.
A square pouch occupies the very front of the tank bag. A small zipper along the bottom front of this pouch provides access to a very compressible and very effective rain cover - itself secured to the inner pouch by an elastic strap. A side to side zipper on the top of the pouch allows use of remaining pouch space.
Mounting this type of tank bag is typically pretty simple and I have a number of candidates in the garage. But at first glance, it seemed the HP2 Sport might be the best choice as it has a long one-piece carbon-fibre molding that covers the fuel cell and extends down each side of the machine.
After setting the tank-bag on this panel and doing a visual estimate of how the mounting straps would have to go, deciding to put the tank-bag on the big Boxer was a no brainer. End result? It is a perfect match visually and physically.
Befitting design simplicity and pure functionality the steering head section on the Sport is pretty small, so the dual connector neck harness and the crossover strap is pretty much excess. However, the whole harness is so easily adjusted that potential issues simply were not a problem.
At the back it is a simple matter to pass the strap under a frame mounted bracket as done with the previous two tank-bags mounted, pull the loop tight and run the connector strap up to the rear portion of the tank bag base.
The detachable one-piece base has an extension at the rear to protect the back edge of a tank or in my case, an expensive carbon fibre molding. Further piece of mind is provided via a simple detachable pouch-style pad extension that ends up providing complete protection down to the front edge of the seat. This valuable addition is secured to the base by a small hook-n-loop tab.
Keeping the tank-bag from moving around and so protecting the panel surface is well covered – the base uses a thick non-skid material and a very discernible layer of padding between the inner and outer layers.
Those with keen eyes might note a previously cut piece of Motrax Wonderweb still in place. Used for the previous tank-bag installations this rubber-like product is an essential first layer protecting finishes and minimizing movement. I have been using the stuff for years -- it never fails to work and seems to last forever.
After having been so successful with the tank bag, my feeling towards the MotoCentric products was pretty positive and thankfully, the expandable Sport saddlebags do nothing to change my feelings.
I have used a few sets of saddlebags or panniers -- hard, soft or a combination of both -- over the years on a good many motorcycles and I must admit my success rate has been probably running about fifty percent. There is typically some design or functional feature that just seems to leap out and become a big irritant (read limitation).
The finish of the MotoCentric Mototrek Sport saddlebags doesn't appear to stand out upon first viewing but they have a nice sheen and shape, thanks in large part to the material used. Similar to the tank bag, each saddlebag includes a front-stitched top pull flap with dual-track zippers, a pull cord and a back hook-n-loop patch to seal the flap.
Inside each smoothly lined main compartment is found a well padded rubberized shaped non-skid piece that secures to the exterior wall of the saddlebag via hook-n-loop strips to protect the side of the motorcycle and reduce movement.
A lightweight nylon rain cover with an elastic seam is packed in each bag as well. Finally the left saddlebag yields up two more padded non-skid items, for use under each of the heavy duty crossover straps. So far: so good.
Essentially an extended tear-drop shape, each bag measures 10.5 inches high by 16 inches long and 7.5 inches wide (10 inches wide when expanded). In addition to the top load flap there is a flat outer zipper pocket, ideal for carrying the rain covers, half of a two-piece rain suit, gloves, etc.
The floor of the bag is padded and forms part of the overall stiffener solution that provides such good shape retention. Also helping out in the protection department is the bottom full-width fire resistant heat-shield panel.
Capacity is identified as 22 litres per bag, although once expanded and the narrow floor-board stiffener forced into place, each bag provides 29 litres of useable space. Thanks in large part to their heavy construction and the expansion stiffeners the bags droop very little when empty and remain quite stable when underway.
When dismounted, a two-piece handle is put together to carry the two bags as one piece of luggage. What seems to be missing however is a shoulder strap and some strategically placed plastic rings, as found on the tank bag and tail bag, to provide another carry option.
The saddlebags proved their versatility quickly. On a roll with the BMW HP2 Sport, I decided -- for the first time -- to try a set of saddlebags on it. For the purists this might seem a bit demeaning, but I like to spend time on the machine; everything on it is adjustable and it is a long and tall motorcycle that fits me well.
Accordingly, adding a bit more luggage space to the tank bag and usual sports back pack is seen to be a good thing.
How complicated was it to install the MotoCentric luggage? After putting a padded non-skid side plate on each bag and laying the cross pads in place across the rear (exhaust) cowling directly behind the seat, I adjusted the two cross straps to let each bag sit down along the flared side. Hmmm, a pretty good fit and they look at home.
I looped the two front mounting straps around the 'Y' piece of the trellis frame on each side and squeezed the two back mounting straps through the license plate holder frame. After some slight repositioning of the bags fore and aft, I fully extended the attachment straps that are stitched to the front of each saddlebag and connected them to the front straps.
As positioned on the back cowling, the front straps are quite tight while the rear attachment straps, stitched to rear of the bag, connect easily to the mounting straps with about four inches of strap to spare. As positioned, both sets of straps pull forward and down - as desired and as needed for a secure fitment.
One of the reasons I had not previously tried any other saddlebags was out of concern for the exhaust system that runs directly behind the rider – the rear cowling has a fairly large wire mesh cutout for heat dispersion and it cannot, or should not, be covered in any way.
As the two MotoCentric straps are about four inches apart, they sit just ahead and just behind the exhaust cutout (see arrow in photo above). Even after a couple of spirited test rides the cross strap assemblies remain cool so I am satisfied that heat and safety concerns are mitigated, at least for normal use…the saddlebags would not be mounted for track days anyway!
I have also mounted the MotoCentric Sport saddlebags on the venerable "Water Buffalo" (Suzuki 750), the 1998 BMW R1100R, the 2010 R1200RT, a co-worker’s GSX-R600 and two adventure-touring machines, all without any major issues.
While the mounting system has worked each time, some accommodation has been needed due to the limited length of the attachment straps: a few more inches at each end would be good.
This medium-sized tear-drop-shaped tail bag offers 23 litres of standard storage space and up to 29 litres when the two side pockets are expanded. From shape, size and capacity perspectives it is pretty much smack dab in the middle of similar size and shape offerings.
Reflecting the common design, construction and features found in both the tank bag and the saddlebags, the tail bag measures 8 inches high x 13 inches long (deep) x 16.5 inches wide (20.5 inches with side pockets expanded).
A heavy-duty carry handle and large plastic loops for connecting the included padded shoulder strap adorn the back end.
Unique to the MotoCentric Mototrek Sport tail bag is its multi-layer base structure: a detachable padded base secured to the second layer by two hook-n-loop strips is first; the second layer is stitched into a seam at the back and secured by a horizontal hook-n-loop strip at the front -- it serves as a cover flap for the bungee cord hooks that provide the most common means to mount the bag.
The second layer has a thoughtful attention-to-detail feature: two fabric strips stitched into the bottom form flat tubes, allowing the four interconnect straps to be tucked away and out of sight when not in use.
By design, these four straps provide an alternate means of mounting the tail bag by connecting it to the Sport saddlebags, forming an integrated system. For this purpose the tail bag has four 2.5 cm (0.98 in) by 18 cm (7.1 in) long straps terminating in male Duratec fasteners stitched into each corner quadrant, front and back.
Pulling the flap away from the tank bag reveals the final layer that houses the cross-over shock cords and provides a cushioning floor layer. This layer is fully sealed so if the shock cords were to break access would be somewhat limited.
The soft-touch padded interior is accessed by a two-way zipper running on an elongated semi-circular track. Like the tank bag and saddlebags the inner side of the lid houses a detailed organizer area – this one comprised of a small zipper pouch, slots for pens or pencil-lights and a zippered mesh pocket and a longer thin-zipper flat pocket.
Expanding the side pockets add about four inches of width to the bag while adding an additional six litres of capacity to the main compartment. Rounding out the storage aspect are two small flat side pockets good for small items - the right one holds the thin nylon rain cover.
Of the two primary means for securing the tail bag to a motorcycle the most commonly used is likely to be via the bungee cord hooks. They have good stretch and seem very strong and while the large hard plastic hooks make them relatively easy to use, care may be needed to prevent contact surfaces from being scratched.
Using the interconnect option, the intent is that the four straps would be plugged into their counterparts housed in the previously mentioned hard-to-access pouches at the front and rear of each saddlebag.However, the straps themselves are far too short and the tightly nestled receiver connectors almost impossible to access.
If the saddlebags are fitted on a motorcycle that is about the same width or thinner than the base of the tail bag and if the three pieces are extremely close together, the interconnect option might work, but for most modern motorcycles particularly sport machines with wide or flared side and tail sections, it will not. In any case, the connector issue will likely preclude much success.
Placing the saddle bags and tail bag combination on the very narrow back seat area of my 1976 Suzuki GT750A ‘Water Buffalo’ allowed the pieces to sit close enough together to use the straps, but the connectors refused to cooperate, so a secure interconnection didn’t occur.
Longer straps on the tail bag along with putting the saddlebags connectors on matching length straps, or at the minimum making the connectors functional, would resolve the issues and enhance flexibility of use.
This attractive and well-matched set of textile-based products have a lot of positives and few negatives.
Am I happy with the fit, form and function of the tank-bag? You bet. Overall capacity is smack dab in-between the other two bags that have graced the top of the HP2 Sport, but based on functionality and appearance perspectives, the Mototrek 19 is the clear winner. The tank bag has gone on three motorcycles without a hitch, but it looks, and functions the best on the HP2 Sport.
Likewise, the saddlebags have been fitted on virtually everything offered up as a host. My only observation here is that the straps and the mounting loops could be longer -- another six inches or so front and back would be just about right, especially the rear loops, which are quite short.
Marring what is an otherwise fully featured and well made set of products is the tail bag. Its size, aerodynamic shape and features make it really useful in stand-alone mode or when used with other luggage, like the Sport saddlebags. But when the highly touted interconnect feature does not work and the causes are clear, a fix is needed.
So where does this lead? Well, even with the observations above, the MotoCentric Mototrek products are a welcome addition to industry offerings. Based on design features, construction, function, projected longevity and price point, they represent extremely good value.
If the tail bag and saddlebag interconnect issue is fixed and longer attachment and loop straps were provided for the saddlebags, I wouldn't have anything to complain about...
|wBW Product Review: MotoCentric Mototrek Motorcycle Luggage|
|Manufacturer: MotoCentric USA||List Price: Mototrek 19 Tank Bag $74.99. Mototrek Sport Saddlebags $119.99 and Mototrek Sport Tail Bag $67.99.|
|Colors: Black.||Made In: Unknown|
|Sizes: N/A||Review Date: October 2010.|
|Warranty: Lifetime (excluding wear and tear from normal use).|
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From "R.A.Y." (January 2012): "In HBC's review of the subject saddlebags, he reported that he added "a padded non-skid side plate on each bag" during installation. What exactly is this? Does it keep the backs of the two bags parallel and keep of the bag from sagging into the wheel?
Seems to be a common problem with "throw-over bags. Wish he'd include photos of the rear along with this modification."
HBC's Reply: Mea culpa on this one -- the "padded non-skid side plate on each bag" refers to the non-skid pieces provided, which I identified in paragraph four of the previous Mototrek Sport Saddlebags section ("inside each smoothly lined main compartment is found a well padded rubberized shaped non-skid piece that secures to the exterior wall of the saddlebag via hook-n-loop strips to protect the sides of the motorcycle and reduce movement").
I didn’t make a clear connection in the following installation section, from which your query arises. So actually nothing was used for this installation other than the provided kit pieces. If a modification had been made it would have been captured visually. My apologies for any confusion.
Regarding keeping the bags parallel and preventing sagging (which are issues): If the throw-over section is the right size or can be adjusted, as many throw-over systems provide for, some side support can be gained by keeping a portion of each bag higher to against any side piece or upper frame member, with the fore and aft straps used to tension the bottom to minimize movement and maintain clearances with swing-arm, wheels, etc.
With bottom and side stiffeners or protection pads (as the Motocentric luggage provides), these issues can be addressed, although not totally overcome.
I was fortunate in that the motorcycles used are good platforms for these saddlebags, whereas getting them to sit totally straight and avoid sag would be an issue on something like the F800GS motorcycle, unless a light-weight side-bag frame was installed first.
These accessory products are becoming widely available for many motorcycles and are great for "supporting" the use of soft luggage without being obtrusive."
From "W.B." (11/10): "These are very close to the Tourmaster Cortech saddle bags and tail bags. I've got a set on my Motto Guzzi Griso.
The close ups in the review of how they attach are the same as the Cortech. The straps across the seat are the same in that they appear to be the same size and configuration as the Cortech.
I did see the other persons comments - seriously, how would you know they are so similar? As you said the same products (or nearly the same in this case) are often sold under different brand names.
I do concur that the bags and tail bag well made and work very nicely. I came from a Kawasaki Concours and was concerned about using soft bags but I was very pleased with these so I'm sure that the Motocentric bags would get the same review :) "
From "T.W." (11/10): "Regarding the "knockoff" comment from the reader below (and your reply), I would only like to add that I have a set of Fieldsheer bags that are almost identical to these bags, and thus I think your comment that this is a case where two (or more, apparently) essentially identical products are sold under different names is correct."
From "D.C." (11/10): "I just read your review of the MotoCentric luggage and was surprised that you neglected to comment that these bags are knock-offs of the Cortech Sport tail and saddle bags. Virtually all the features are identical, even the overall design is a spot-on ringer for the Cortech product. I'm not denying it is a good product but a nod to the competition they are clearly copying seems warranted.
Editor's Reply: Thanks for the feedback. I'm not sure how we could mention this if we had no idea that was the case and having never seen nor experienced the Cortech luggage. I can't confirm or deny that the MotoCentric is actually copying another design or not. It is possible that two or more products are sold under different brand names; it happens all the time.