ViaTerra Rapide review – Saddlebags for everyone!

By | May 27, 2015

Disclaimer: I work with ViaTerra, I am ViaTerra, so please take this review as an opinion you simply cannot trust. I’m writing this only because I can’t stop the itch to do so. 

I hadn’t used the ViaTerra Rapide saddlebags before my latest trip, ever. That’s pretty weird, considering the fact that I work there. While I was planning the Hyderabad – Mumbai – Pune – Bangalore – Hyderabad ride, I had made up my mind to ride with a set of bags that I had never ridden with before.

As much as I may hate Royal Enfields, I haven’t humped any of them much. I wanted to put my mouth where my mouth is, wanted to do this 2500 km ride on a Bullet 500. That would’ve allowed me to test out the ViaTerra Leh saddlebags, one of ViaTerra’s most popular product. My Duke 390 was in pretty bad shape, the battery was dying, the chain set was dead, and the fork seals were half past dead. But then just one word was enough for me to NOT do this ride on an RE. 

PUNCTURE.

Long distance touring is a lot about confidence in your machine. There’s plenty of shit to worry about, and the last thing you want is to be scared that something as small as a puncture that can fuck up your ride for good. I had the choice between a good as new Royal Enfield Classic 500 Desert Storm, or an old, limping, 40,000 kms old KTM Duke 390.

It’s rather obvious what I chose.

Now came the question of bags. I had already done more than 25,000 kms with the ViaTerra Velox. The sample piece that they sent me for review must’ve been cursing the day it was born. The Leh isn’t really meant for bikes with monoshocks, which left only one option to pick up, the ViaTerra Rapide.

The Rapide is a universal saddlebag system that’s meant to fit on any motorcycle. The design is such that it stays as far away from the rear tire as it can, and also leaves enough of the rear seat to tie something else that you may want to tug along. So I plundered the ViaTerra factory, picked up a black Rapide, along with a prototype tailbag that I wanted to test, and off I went laughing like a witch. Here’s my ViaTerra Rapide review which I repeat, you should totally not trust.

ViaTerra Rapide review – Capacity (8/10):

Quite impressive! The 38 liters are well distributed over various pockets to ensure that you don’t end up with a sack full of snakes at the end of a ride, something that happens with the Claw. You have your main compartment that opens from the top, which is nice since side-opening bags are really messy to handle. There’s a big zippered pocket outside on each bag, where I kept my bike papers, extra key, ear plugs, balaclava, tissue paper, and a whole bunch of other shit.

There are 2 mesh bottle pockets, one on each bag, with straps to keep the 1 liter bottle it can carry from flying away. The water did get unbearably hot though, but the stupid weather is to blame for that. I was carrying my GoPro bag, my camera bag, clothes, undies, contact lens shit, and some other stuff in the bag, and it was still comfortably empty. I think for the next version, we’ll try to add a few more smaller pockets. What happens is that tiny items like memory cards slide down the outer pocket, and it’s a pain to catch them again. A smaller zippered pocket should make things easier.

Ease of use (8/10):

Oh this bag is kick-ass for that! I am a monumentally lazy guy, and I don’t want to spend anymore than 30 seconds to mount or dismount my luggage. With the Rapide, all you have to do is get the initial settings right, and from there on forward it’s just simple slide in/slide out fun.

First step is to optimize the separation of the bags, by using the 2 wide straps that connect them. Make sure it’s not too tight, but just enough that the bags aren’t swinging from side to side. Next up comes the rear tail strap, which you must tighten properly around the rear light. And you are done!

Next time when you want to load the bag, just slide it in from behind like in a BDSM porno. Once done, tie the double-D ring straps on the pegs, like in a BDSM porno. All that’s left is to enjoy the hassle-free fun of riding, unlike a BDSM porno, where that can get pretty annoyingly disgusting.

Looks (6/10):

Not too good, especially on a Duke. The 390’s tail is too far away from the tire, which means that the Rapide hangs out like saggy old boobs. I don’t think there’s much we can do to improve that, because that’s the price you have to pay to make a bag a universal fit.

The good news is that if you are like me, you are pretty OK with giving up on aesthetics as long as it helps you in functionality. The other good news is that it doesn’t look that hideous on every bike. I’ve seen it on a CBR250R, and it looks quite kick-ass. If you are planning to get it, try it before you buy it.

Comfort (9/10):

Brilliant! I hate bags that keep sliding forward on our beautifully destroyed roads. I am a tourer, and I can’t be bothered with checking if the bags are still there every time I go over a goddamned speed breaker or pothole. Once you spend the 30 seconds to mount the bags properly, they ain’t going nowhere. You can jump off a cliff for all it cares, the bags will stay even if you die.

Although I like the Rynox Nomad V2 saddlebags, they are a bit too long for my liking. Add that to the especially tiny seat on a Duke 390, and what you end up with is the Nomad making a home inside your knees. The Rapide, although smaller in capacity, never troubles you while you are busy. Add to that the nifty carrying handles, and it’s a breeze to move it around off the bike, unlike the Nomad.

The best part is that since they aren’t too hefty, there’s space for the pillion to sit on, as well as rest their feet on the pegs. Although I have to say that I never really enjoy riding with a pillion, and Duke’s rear seat is a certified torture device, it’s always good to have the option, if only for a few kilometers. Since it’s a saddlebag, you an always tie a tailbag on the rear seat, or use a tankbag as a tailbag, or just tie a dead body there with bungee cords.

No problem that enough bungees can’t solve.

Waterproofing:

Unfortunately, can’t tell you much about that. I’m so lazy, that for this trip I thought I won’t even carry rain covers. It was the middle of fricking summer man, what’s the point? I’ve seen a lot of people use the rain covers as dust covers, but as you may have deducted from my super dirty riding gear and luggage, I can’t be bothered with that.

As it turns out, my trip involved running away from rain at a number of occasions. Day 1 involved getting drenched in renegade rain just outside of Pune. Mumbai to Bangalore stretch was a complete game of hide and seek with showers. Bangalore city itself involved quite a few skirmishes. And the return ride from Bangalore to Hyderabad was simply a one-sided match of me against giant black clouds. Even though I wasn’t carrying rain covers, the bags still did a rather good job of keeping the important stuff dry. That does not mean that the bags are by default waterproof, but that they can handle mild showers with relative ease.

Build quality (10/10):

There are certain things you come to know about ViaTerra only when you are inside, and there’s no way I can’t tell you enough how irritatingly anal these people can be about quality. Millimeters matter, half a degree is too much angle, double stitching is not enough. I always admired the build quality of ViaTerra bags, even when I didn’t work with them, but now that I can see how insanely, almost obsessively particular they are about things, I sometimes feel out of place.

The Rapide is no different. You got triple stitching on stress holding points, plastic reinforcement on corners, YKK hardware, denier fabric and the works. I can go on and on, but you gotta see it for yourself.

It feels nice to work with people who know their shit.

ViaTerra Rapide review – Verdict (8/10):

The Rapide is, in my opinion, the finest universal saddlebag system available. The size is optimum, it’s built like a tank, and at 2900 bucks, it’s rather underpriced.

There are of course things that can be improved, creators are never satisfied with their creations, which is why Rapide V2.0 is in the pipeline. But for now, if you don’t feel like worrying about the fit and finish of your motorcycle luggage, the Rapide is as close to perfection as you’ll get.

Disclaimer: I work with ViaTerra, I am ViaTerra, so please take this review as an opinion you simply cannot trust. I’m writing this only because I can’t stop the itch to do so.

  • Akshay

    Heyy !
    Is the Rynox Nomad Better when riding with a pillion or Viaterra Rapide/Falcon ?
    Unable to decide which ones will be better on the Duke 390 2017.
    Please consider the extra luggage that comes along with a pillion.
    and your review on the Benelli 600 was hilarious !!!
    Keep Going !

  • Abhijit

    Hi Akhil. I’ve been looking at a set of compact saddlebags for 2-up with the Ninja 650. This + the Optimus M looks like a convenient setup. My only issue is that the top straps go *over* the seats. Do you think it would be possible to tuck the straps under the seats, rather than over?

    • Akhil Kalsh

      It is possible, but you’ll need to experiment to find out. It is possible the seat may not close properly. Try one from a friend or go to a neighborhood friendly shop 🙂

      • Abhijit

        Guess I’ll have to hunt one down then. Looks like Moto Adda carries Viaterra. Appreciate the response, thanks!

  • Amit Kukreja

    hey akhil i am planning for a saddle bag but as ill b riding with a pillion most of the time so want to know wich will b the best velox or rapid or wolf for me and i m currently using Yamaha FZs and soon will b upgrading to CBR250 so i want something which can go for both wich will b the best out of these wat do u suggest for pillion comfort and touring out of these

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Hey man, the Velox is made only for the Dukes, will not fit on CBR or FZ. Go with the Rapide, it has a very flexible structure which means that you’ll be able to get maximum pillion comfort possible after some experimentation.

  • Kumar

    Hey brother. How comfortable are the Rapide saddlebags to carry off the bike? Can they be carried seperately (individually) ? Thank you.

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Yep, they can be carried separately. The bags come with straps to carry them together too.

      • Kumar

        awesome 🙂

  • Peeths

    bro, from the pics it looks like you are using Michelin tyres for your D390 ? is it so ?

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Yep, Michelin 140. Brilliant rubber, used it for some 25,000 kms now. You can also buy Michelin PSR 150 section now, approx 6k.

      • Peeths

        How is the grip/wet grip for Michelin. Also I believe Michelin 160 is also available in the market now for D390. I am planning for it. Not confirmed though. Please let me know what you think of the rubber, In your opinion.

        Thanks
        Anoop

        • Akhil Kalsh

          It’s the best rubber you can get for Indian road conditions. Superb grip even in wet.

  • How the Duke got so many problem!? And the chain issue at least you have it for long. Is it not. Wondering reliability and maintenance cost of Duke390.

    • Akhil Kalsh

      It’s 40,000 kms old mate 🙂

      Chain issue I don’t have for long, just that KTM chain sets don’t last for long.

      Reliability and maintenance cost of the 390 is as good as it gets.

  • Harish Kumar

    I love how you poke at RE every chance given. I usually don’t do it but love reading when other people make fun of em. I am beginning to like you bro 🙂 And nice write up. I have not found any other such detailed review on saddle/tank bags all at one place.

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Haha, thanks man!

      • Even though I was never a fan of RE due to its size/weight, I nowadays, secretly laugh at people riding RE.

        I saw recently a review of Café Racer (I don’t know whether the name is right!) from RE done by an Australian for his country. Eicher should watch it.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PgxDb_3vEU

        • Akhil Kalsh

          Nice one!

  • Sarthak

    Hey man good review!
    I’m torn between these and the Dirtsack Frogman series… Shed some light if you can!
    Oh btw, this is for an all out trip to ladakh (sorry for the cliché!). So, toughness, waterproofing, and oodles of space is required. I already have the ViaTerra Claw but that just won’t suffice. Also, I need a good (the best there is) tank Bag, price no bar. If your recommendation is of a brand outside of your current employment, please email me the details.
    Out of context, the range on the D390 on its best day is about 250 km without choking the fuel pump, right? In high altitude, I’m guessing not more than 160-180? So how do I carry some extra fuel? (I’m not welding a frame onto my Duke 390 just to carry jerry cans, hell no) Are good quality fuel bladders available in India? Can ViaTerra help me out with this? If not, what do you suggest?

    • Akhil Kalsh

      I have always hated the Frogman bags man, they are just too crazy to use in real life.

      For a Ladakh trip, the Rapide would not be sufficient. It’s 38 liters, the Claw is 55. I did my Ladakh with a Claw and the Rynox Optimus tankbag. Since it’s a magnetic one, I don’t think it’ll be useful on a Duke. There is a non-magnetic version too, but that comes with suction pads which totally suck, in the wrong way.

      There’s ViaTerra Fly, but I personally don’t like the way it is mounted, something that I plan to change soon. I think these are the 2 best tankbags available, the Optimus and the Fly, so make your choice between these two. The Dirtsack one feels rather flimsy to me.

      The distance from Tandi to Karo where there’s no fuel is something around 330 kms I think. The Duke will probably do 170-190 kms on full tank there, which leaves you with some 150 more kms, that should be doable with 7-8 liters of extra fuel.

      There are no fuel bladders available in India, and neither do we make one 🙂

      Long story short, for your trip my suggestion would be to get the Rynox Nomad V2 saddlebags and Fly/Optimus tankbag. The Nomad has enough space for the trip, and also places to keep small bottles of fuel. Carry a small pipe to siphon fuel from somebody else’s tank if you run out of it. You can use the tankbags as tailbags too with bungee cords.