13 August 2010

Side Luggage Options (Lots of Pictures)

Over time I've looked at quite some luggage options for the R1200GS. There are lots and lots out there, all with different advantages and disadvantages. Here is my collection.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of these luggage systems yet, I have owned the BMW Adventure cases for the F800GS though. All I write here is from research, reading reviews, reading reports.

BMW Vario Luggage

The BMW OEM luggage integrates very nicely with the R1200GS. The cases are fairly small and don't look sewing machine cases (like the Micatech).

The cases have a unique feature: integrated is a mechanism which makes them expandable. You tilt an internal lever and gain around 9L volume per case. Overall size of the cases is fairly small, usable space even smaller. 68L in expanded version. The setup gets fairly wide when expanded, but it's still manageable. At least it's narrow when not expanded.

The cases are unfortunately very fragile. The nice looking aluminum inlays are not very scratch or dent resistant and the expanding mechanism might not even survive a single tip-over. Not that I'm planning to drop the bike, but shit happens and the luggage should survive that.

BMW Adventure Luggage

BMW also offers aluminum boxes for the GS Adventure series. They can be mounted both on the GS and the GS Adventure, the GS needs the same racks that often come installed (as a paid option) on the Adventure.

The Adventure cases are bigger, have a better shape for just stuffing things in, so are way easier to pack but also have some issues:

  • It's often said, that they are leaking after a while. 
  • The plastic corners crack easily.
  • The lids don't go on very well.
  • The locks get dirty fast and are fickly to operate.
  • The hinges are sub-optimal.
  • The crash not very well either - get out of shape fast.

I can't say all too much about them, I had BMW Adventure boxes on my F800GS and I like that the ignition key also worked on the boxes (same as the Varios), but they are very wide (110cm on the F800GS, less bad on the R1200GS as the R has a narrower rear end). Overall I would not buy them again as they are very expensive and for the same kind of money there are just plain better cases out there.

Here's a photo:

One more thing I don't like about them is the monstrous racks that stay on the bike when the cases are off. It's huge and pretty ugly.

Jesse Odyssey Cases

What I like about them:
  • narrow
  • big enough
  • pretty solid
  • top loading

What I don't like so much:
  • ugly (black) racks, that don't blend in well
  • weird shape on the exhaust side
  • separate key from ignition

And the photos:

I think the racks are really ugly because they just don't blend in with the looks of the bike at all. They should be powder coated silver or stainless steel, but not black for the standard GS. Makes no sense.

The racks have one nice feature: you can slide the cases back and forward, depending on whether you'd like to pull the center of gravity in or you're riding with a passenger and need the space for the passenger's feet.

Jesse also has the Safari cases, which are bigger and uglier. I don't consider them as I think they are butt ugly, therefore no picture ...

Micatech Cases

The best thing about the Micatech Cases is the incredibly nice mounting system. It's nearly invisible when the cases are not mounted, but still very stable (much better than the Varios). The cases are cavernous, huge, no, unbelievably big.

Mounting system:


The cases have about 108 liters volume which is plain huge. They are side loading, with all the advantages and disadvantages to it: it's easier to get things out when you have a large luggage roll strapped on top, but it's a bit harder to pack efficiently. And you can't easily get a single big liner in there. Micatech sells two liners per box.

Nevertheless, apart from their size they are very well made, and though they don't look like it, they are not wider than the handle bars and from what I heard only slightly wider than the cylinder heads. So not too bad in that regard. You can get case body and door in different colors which breaks the optical size a little bit, but still, they look and are huge. Might be too easy to overpack the bike with them. But might also make two up touring easier as there really is enough space for luggage of two persons.

The Micatechs are actually my favorites at the moment because of their unobtrusive mounts, the sheer quality, and the not so bad width. I would not get their topcase though as I think it's even uglier than the cases ...

Metal Mule

I won't go into much details about the Metal Mules here. Seem not to be a very popular choice for GS riders, maybe because they are really expensive (some $2300 before tax / shipping) as they include a smaller exhaust.


Touratech has actually two systems for the GS: the Zega Pro and the standard Zega.

Zega Pro

Standard Zega

The Zega Pro are a bit fancier with the plastic corners and the rounder shape but I see no real advantage to them over the standard set. Price is pretty steep, right around the OEM Aluminum cases, but the cases are probably a bit better quality and tougher. Round the world travelers seem to use and like them a lot. I haven't heard anything negative about them other than the steep price.

I don't the like mounting system as it is basically the same as the one for the OEM Adventure Cases: big metal hoops bolted to the rear of the bike. I can really live without that.

Vern's Worldbeater Cases

These are probably the Landrover cases here. Very robust, very strong stainless steel mounting bracket. They are handmade by a guy in England, are pretty big, and I have never heard anything bad about them. They aren't cheap, but basically non of the aluminum options really is.

Here is a picture:

I think the cases itself look a bit more elegant than the Micatech, but the mounting system is pretty ugly again. Not as ugly as the typical metal hoops, but still.

I don't have a side shot handy right now, but it comes down to: really, really strong, but not as nicely integrated as the Micatech mounts. You might also have trouble opening the cases when a large topcase is installed, as they are top loaders that have a hinge in the front. On Zega and BMW cases the lids have locks on both ends so you can open them and remove the lid easily.

Caribou Cases

Ugly and cheap:

I think these are the cheapest cases mentioned here. The system is based on Pelican cases with a custom mounting rig. They can also attach to SW Motech, H&B or Givi racks. Side loading and 36L per box. The boxy shape make the space easy to use, and the Pelican stability is legendary.

I still don't like them very much. Nevertheless, worth considering if you need some "beater cases" that can take whatever you through at them (mostly the bike I guess ...) and stay watertight even after continuous use.


I do not consider Givi side cases for the R1200GS as good options as the whole system gets way too wide.

I love the Givi topcases though. Big, stable, good mounting system and very handy on commutes or short trips.

Hepco & Becker

I could never find anything compelling about the H&B cases. They are smaller and uglier than the competition, often more expensive and less well integrated.

H&B has several different systems, here is a picture of the Gobi cases, just to underline what I wrote in the last paragraph:

Other Systems

There are several other systems out there which are interesting but I don't have enough information on them to write about.

If you want something added, leave a comment with a link to the product and I'll take a look and might add it.


  1. Hey, what do you mean by "Caribou is cheap and ugly"? They don't come that cheap, I can tell you this much. I like the Vario cases, but it's not that I have to make a choice, since my ugly Caribou's came already attached to the bike ;-) However, a bike in the price bracket of the R1200GS should get some shiny ones.

  2. Aaaah. I nearly forgot ... ;-) I actually like the Pelican cases, but the mounts are so that they stick out very wide and make for an ugly overall installation. But the Micatechs are definitely uglier ...

  3. I think the Vario cases are the best overall because they expand and are nicely integrated.

  4. Vario cases have good features, but the features are useless since cases are cheaply built. Look at the number of fairly new Varios for sale. Must be a reason people are getting rid of them.

  5. The Varios aren't bad. Just not very sturdy. And the left side case is ridiculously small.