Idea and purpose of this review
I want to give you an impression of the 21brothers (www.21brothers.eu) soft bags I am using on this trip. These bags are quite unknown; before ordering I could not find a lot of information on the web about them. Someone mentioned the bags in a thread on Horizons Unlimited, but the manufacturers website is in Polish only and no reviews could be found on the web.
So I was working my way through the website using google translate and talking to one of the owners via email. What I saw on their website (and could understand in googletranslateish) looked really good so I took the plunge and ordered a few of their bags. Now it’s time for a review.
A few words about the usage: I have done approx 10.000 km in about 8 weeks through the Balkans, Greece, Turkey and Iran with the bags. I have ridden both very bad gravel roads and highways with 120km/h. We started two up, so the bags where filled as much as possible. I have to admit though that luckily I only rode in about 3 hours of rain (but it did rain on several occasions at night where I left the bags on the bike).
I hope this review is useful for people considering luggage options. Maybe the bros at 21brothers even find it useful in a way that they change some things. But first things first.
Note: I did not recieve any sponsoring or other benefits from 21brothers and I’m not affiliated in any way.
Sakwy 30l Soft Bags
These are my main bags on this trip (besides the mandatory 49l Ortlieb Rollbag). After the bags finally arrived (see below) I was very impressed by the quality of the bags and the low weight. The stitches made a good impression to me, as did the materials that are used. The two large sides of the bags are made of a strong material similar to what ortlieb is using but with a matte finish and maybe a bit lighter. The smaller sides and the bottom are made of strong nylon (I think). The bottom is additionally supported by an outer layer of a somewhat strong plastic mesh. The outer/front plate also features a diagonal reflective strip and the 21brothers logo. The second inner nylon layer is bright red, which also makes finding things easier when it’s getting dark.
The bags are 30l each but due to the flexible nature of soft bags I can get a lot more stuff inside than my 32l Givi plastic cases. Also, you can fill them up until it’s almost impossible to close them. They won’t be 100% waterproof then, but it’s great for carrying food and water before setting up camp.
Mounting: The mounting of the bags is quite simple but has it’s limitations. The two bags are connected to each other via two strong straps. Initially each strap would make a loop though both bags with the loop being closed by a big clip. For me, this did not make sense because this would mean I had to take off one side of the clip everytime I want to detach the two bags. Therefore I bought an additional piece for the main straps (this probably has a name, but I have no idea what it’s called – please refer to the picture). This allows me to detach the bags from each other easily. Also I now set up the clips in a way that I could use the main strap as a handle if the bags are detached (it’s hard to describe – again: have a look at the photos).
Besides the main straps which go over the saddle, each bag is held in place by 5 more straps. 4 large straps kind of wrap the bags horizontally from the sides and clip onto the outer/front plate, one smaller strap goes over the rolling closing system vertically, also clipping to the the outer/front plate. Again: refer to pictures! The 4 straps are connected to the rack using metal eyelets (?), therefore they can be added to pretty much any rack I guess. I used cable/zip-ties to make sure they stay in place on the rack, but I guess this depends on the rack. I also customized the top strap: I bought a longer strap and had loops stitched to one end to mount them on the rack. Once all the straps are tightened the bags sit very tight on the bike; on offroad-tracks they don’t bounce a lot.
To close the bags simply roll the top as far as possible and clip both sides onto the side plates of the bags (like with Ortlieb bags). The lids are closed using velcro. I guess this is supposed to make the bags more waterproof, but in reality this is more annoying than useful. Clothes will stick to the velcro and might get damaged, also the velcro is of poor quality so after a few weeks it does not really stick anymore but leaves lots of tiny plastic velcronians in your luggage and evenly distributed in your clothes. Bummer. Dear 21bros, why not use some simple plastic like Ortlieb does? (Sorry for all the Ortlieb references)
Waterproof: The bags are waterproof, but they do get a bit damp inside. The red inner liner feels a little bit wet after being exposed to rain continously.
Durability: At one time I crashed at around 30km/h in a corner with the bike skidding and turning on one of the bags. At the very bottom of the bag I had the spare break pads. After the crash the break pads peeked through the bottom material of the bag. The hole is only 1cm wide, so I repaired it using nylon repair tape. I hope it’s waterproof again. Other then that the bag took the crash with surprisingly well, only a few other scratches and scratched clips. Just yesterday I dropped the bike in deep loose gravel on the other bag. No damage at all. I do have to say that some of the stitches which hold the clips to the bags start to get loose so I have to do some work on them (see pictures).
Let’s summarize with the good-ol‘ pro/cons list, shall we?
- high quality (except for the stiches of the clips)
- durable (maybe not as much as aluminum panniers, but hey!)
- quite large
- red inner lining for high visibility
- mountable to pretty much any rack (with limitations)
- light and flexible
- you can choose from several colors
- reasonable price (i.e. quite cheap for what they are)
- not very handy to take on and off (too many straps)
- had to improve the system for taking off quickly
- velcro at the top of the opening is crap
- mounting on rack needs some fiddeling (e.g. with zipties)
- needs tightening of 10 straps after packing up, but this adds to them sitting tightly on the bike
Price: € 125 for both (!!)
I also bought the additional bags which can be attached behind the bags by looping two straps through them. Handy addition for small stuff like a waterbottle, other straps, etc. (I feel like this review uses the word straps way too often). Not waterproof, but reflective material. Price: € 17 for two.
Torby Plus 5l Bags
I also bought two Torby Plus Bags (5 liters) which I mounted on the engine crash bars. These bags are simple and great, that is if you find a good spot to mount them (not so easy on my crash bars). In one of them I carry all my tools as well as some Scottoiler-Oil. The second one holds all my medical kit (see the professional label on the picture; just recently someone pointed out that therefore I can only crash on one side, otherwise I can’t get to the medical kit. Wise words).
There’s not too much to say about these bags, they are quite similar to their large brothers. Except these are held in place using two straps which, in my case, go around the bag and around the crash bars and are tightened using a clip. They also feature the red inner lining, but no additional mesh on the bottom on the outside. These bags are great, altough maybe 1 or 2 liters more would be nice. They are really easy to get into, so don’t keep your valuables in there (well, I guess same applies to all soft bags; or: all bags that stay on the bike).
- easy to get to stuff
- very durable
- simple and effective
- you can choose from several colors (I saw white ones on Trui’s electric motorcycle (#electrogirl), they looked great too!)
- no instructions whatsoever, just comes with two straps and two clips (which is ok since it depends on where/how you want to mount them)
Price: € 25 each
Ordering and Shipment
That’s the interesting part. I can only describe my experience and I guess I just had bad timing, but here it goes:
As said above the website is only available in Polish, so first of all it’s hard to find out about the products. Placing orders is done via email. While this might not look very professional, I found it quite effective since I could ask several questions before ordering. Tomek (one of the founders afaik) always responded very quickly within a few hours at maximum! You can order the bags in different colors, so Tomek will also tell you what’s available currently or how long it takes for them to produce the bags (they are made by them in Poland).
Here’s the tricky thing: At first I was told the black Sakwys will take 10-14 days to make. In the end it took more than two months, apparently they had difficulties with some of their staff. However, in the end I received the bags, but in the meantime I was quite angry and almost bought other bags since I was about to set off on my trip soon. I have to admit though that Tomek was very sorry and offered me to cancel the order because of the delay.
After the bags were finished, they were delivered within a few days. Shipping costs: € 20 to Austria.
All in all I am very happy with the 21brothers bags, even though the ordering process was a bit nerve-wrecking. I hope some of the flaws of the bags will be fixed in future versions, especially stronger stitches for the clips, the velcro and the straps over the saddle. But at this price, the 21brother bags are really good bags and I think we will see more of these bags around soon.
I hope you found this review useful. If you have questions or comments, maybe even other experiences with these bags feel free to use the comment form below or drop me a line at martin dot grubinger äätt gmail dot com.