Alright then, enough bullshit! Let’s write something useful and uncontroversial shall we? During my recent 7500 kms long Mumbai-Bhutan-Mumbai ride, I really wanted to use hard luggage, Dirtsack panniers to be precise. Since I really couldn’t afford to buy them outright, I talked to the Dirtsack owners about sponsorship. Long story short, I couldn’t get the panniers. With just 2 days left for the ride to begin, I could feel my balls moving up from my scrotum, up the abdomen, and towards my mouth.
Sachin Sadashivan Nair to the rescue!
He lent me his Dirtsack Tailpack for the ride, and I was sorted. I already have the brilliant Viaterra Velox saddlebag system, and now the tailbag complemented the setup perfectly. I carry a lot of equipment on my rides, bike tools, spares, DSLR, GoPro and all the other associated shit. The space that Velox + Dirtsack provided was just barely sufficient for everything to fit in, and off we went! Sherman also had the same setup, with the exception that all of his luggage was brand new.
Through the whirlwind adventure of 20 days, we experienced extreme weather and road conditions, apart from dealing with major mishaps of course. My luggage setup however, never let me down! So here’s my Dirtsack Tailpack riding luggage review (This is for the Dirtsack Tailpack Standard version, costing 2100 bucks. There’s a Pro version costing 2850 bucks too, but I can’t seem to find any difference between the two.)
Dirtsack Tailpack riding luggage review: Space (7/10)
“Adequate” is what I would call it, although that’s not a very inspiring word is it? Try calling your girlfriend “adequate”, and you’ll see what I mean. It is spacious, no doubts about that, although I found its lack of pockets disturbing. There are only 3 zips in total, 1 for the main central compartment, and 2 for smaller side compartments. Why not 1 on the top flap as well, for easy access to documents and stuff? And why not one mesh pocket on the inside of the top flap too, for easy access to memory cards and stuff?
On the positive side, the lack of too many pockets and the bag’s overall harder-than-usual design means that it retains its shape beautifully. There are 2 small mesh compartments on the sides too, but they aren’t really useful for much. With 40 liters of claimed space, the bag does swallow up a lot, although the same inflexibility that helps it maintain its shape creates problems when you are reaaaalllly pushing in that last pair of undies. The side pockets are quite big, bigger than usual for sure, which helped me in keeping a lot of important stuff at easy access.
Overall, Dirtsack Tailpack provides good space, but only 3 main compartments to distribute the stuff in.
Build quality (6/10)
“Adequate”, again. The Dirtsack Tailpack is looks solidly made, with some of the straps made out of seat belt grade stuff. Like I said before, the bag maintains its shape very nicely too, no matter how weirdly you shove stuff up into it. The problem areas are the zips, straps, rain cover and buckles, some of which do not inspire a lot of confidence.
Take for example the tying straps. The Tailpack comes with 4 tying straps, all identical in every way, 2 of which go at front and 2 go at the rear. The straps, however, are not always attached to the bag, a design that is vastly different than the Viaterra Claw that I’m used to. It actually took me a while to understand how to fucking use them! I don’t know why Dirtsack chose these type of mounting straps, but they are rather easy to lose, since they aren’t always attached to the bag as “normal” straps would be.
Talking about the buckles through which the mounting straps go, Sherman was able to break through one of them through the course of the trip, and then had to rely on bungee cords to protect his bag from flying away. It’s also rather easy to tear off the buckle from the bag, and you have to be careful, and handle the mounting with a soft touch.
The zips didn’t fail during this trip, but they are again not very confidence inspiring. They aren’t the normal big and beefy type zips you see on some other luggage systems or riding jackets, they look very delicate and soft. I did push them a lot on this ride, but they didn’t fail on me, which is awesome. Just that I don’t think they’ll be able to take such abuse for a very long time.
The rain cover is something that I didn’t get to use on this trip, but was advised by many Tailpack owners to avoid using as much as possible. The rain cover comes with a string tightening system, which doesn’t seem to work as expected. The rain cover needs to be secured using bungee cords, otherwise it flops open from near the rider’s ass and gets all wet and slimy. Not personal experience, but words of other experienced riders.
So again, it’s a mixed bag as far as build quality goes. Some things are kick ass, others not so kick ass.
Ease of use (7/10)
Well, fuck. I hate to be repetitive, but it’s a mixed bag again. Mounting the Dirtsack Tailpack on my Duke 390 was a task in itself, and took me a good 5 minutes every morning. It took a lot of R&D to find the perfect way to tie it too, without which you keep facing some problem or the other. Because of Duke’s tiny pillion seat, the bag covers the tail light and indicators if mounted too far back. Because the bag is rather wide, not mounting it too far back causes it to bounce against your back, something that I absolutely hate.
All through the trip I used all 4 mounting straps and then 1 bungee cord to further pull the bag towards the rear. This worked perfectly, and the bag didn’t even move a single inch. Sherman used only the front 2 straps and the bungee cord, and that seemed for work for him as well. Once your bag is set in its place, it won’t move, but setting in its place will take a lot of initial effort, and then small efforts each morning. Dismounting the bag is easier, and takes about 2 minutes.
If properly mounted, the bag does not interfere with your riding pleasure, at all. You can corner as hard as you like, brake or accelerate as quick as you feel, and the bag will not cock block your fun in any way. The Tailpack fits perfectly with the Viaterra Velox bags too, with both bags being easily accessible and not interfering with each other’s mojo. I haven’t checked how the Tailpack fits with Dirtsack saddle bags, but I can’t imagine it being too bad. Off the bike, the Tailpack is extremely easy to move, something that is a nightmare with the Viaterra Claw. Full marks there!
In short, the Dirtsack Tailpack takes some effort to mount, but once done works like it’s not even there. Very easy to carry off the bike too!
Dirtsack Tailpack riding luggage review: Verdict (7/10)
The Dirtsack Tailpack riding luggage is a very decent item, priced very well at 2100 bucks. It may not have the space of Viaterra luggage, or the premium feel of Rynox stuff, but it is perfect bang for the buck! Being a universal system, you can buy it safely without any issues when you upgrade your ride. People taking it to Ladakh or other rain hit areas may face some trouble with the rain cover, but it’s like they say, with enough bungee cords you can force the heavens to bow down to earth.
Don’t quote me on that.