21 January 2011

Customer Service

Why is it often so hard for small vendors or companies to provide decent customer service? I have an example here: For my R1200GS I'm still looking for a decent set of side cases and I seem to have some really weird requirements:

  1. They need to fit my 2010 R1200GS. Don't laugh - a lot actually tell me they have something and then they say, oh, right, that exhaust lowering kit only works up to 2009 model years.
  2. The overall width needs to be narrow. Really narrow. I rather pack less stuff and have a narrow bike than add wide cases and have more space.
  3. I still like to get a decent size. 70L in combined volume should be manageable.
As I have a really hard time finding something that fits my aesthetic and functional requirements, I'm trying to puzzle something together from different vendors. Therefore I wrote lots and lots of emails in the last few weeks and here's what I got.

Below are some impressions from my quest for panniers (rating is for pre-sale service only, 0 being abysmal, 10 being perfect):

Jesse Cases

They seem to have a 9" set of Safari cases for the R1200GS, but other than a photo on their website, there is no information around it. I wrote to xplorermoto a few months ago and they told me they should have more photos "by the end of the week" and where careful enough not to tell me which week. Haven't heard back since then.

Rating: 2/10

Vern's Worldbeater Cases

Wrote emails before Christmas. Got response that he will respond the next day. Never heard back. Wrote again a week ago. No reaction. 

Rating: 1/10

Keihan Exhaust Systems

Asked them whether their system is available for a 2010 model. Never heard anything back.

Rating: 0/10

Metal Mule

When I was still interested in the Tiger 1050 I had some questions for them and they responded fairly fast, competent, and with photos. Took a bit and not every question was answered, but still - decent service.

Unfortunately their system costs an arm and a leg and I don't like their racks.

Rating: 8/10

Best Rest (Metal Mule USA)

Asked for photos / measurements for the MM exhaust system - got a response back that I'll get the info "tonight", haven't heard back yet. It's about a two days ago, I still give them some time and I will also ask one more time - as I did for most of the others.

Rating: no rating just yet


Asked about their exhaust system, had to ask twice but at least got a response then with the excuse that their computer system had crashed. Seems to happen fairly often in the world - especially when there are too many unanswered emails.

Unfortunately the response wasn't totally clear to me and on my follow-up question I never heard back.

Rating: 5/10

Asked a lot of questions, requested some photos, more information. Got everything I asked for and more. They are responsive, nice, helpful, and take ideas from outsiders serious.

Rating: 10/10

Micatech are also the only ones I link to at the moment, the others weren't worth it so far. Seems nobody wants to sell a set of side cases including racks and possibly a narrow exhaust to me.  I always asked politely and tried to be as precise as possible. 

What is wrong with those vendors? I can understand that people do not respond within a day or two as not everybody is a computer geek, types fast, or checks email regularly. But come on, when you offer your stuff online, you should be able to answer questions that are asked online within two or three days, right? I'm I totally off with what I expect? Possibly. Maybe. Nevertheless - it makes me hesitant dealing with those people.

So far, I might be buying the Micatechs just because they have great service and the panniers are solid and good quality, too. Don't meet all my various requirements and I'm still uncertain about the fitment, but what the hell - with those guys I have the feeling I can work something out. With the others? Nope. 


  1. Went to Micatech and had a look at their product range. Their 'letterboxes' seem to be pretty sturdy and voluminous. Curious about your review if your go for them.
    I'm glad that my panniers came with the package, not sure what I really would have liked. For now I am good with the ugly Pelicans for traveling and dismount them when I ride locally.

  2. BMW Vario cases?

    Nicer looking than those aluminium boxes!

  3. I was thinking about the Varios - but the problem with them is that the volume they have is really hard to use. There is the vario mechanism inside the case that takes up space, the left hand side is very small because of the exhaust cut-out and the pure side loaders are also not that easy to pack if you don't use full size liners which takes away another part of the available space.

    I still like their design and idea and if I were planning for me alone, they would be probably good enough, but when I start thinking about a tour two-up, the space can be quite a challenge.

  4. I think sone of the vendors view the Internet as something they do because they have to. Some parts of the organization may "get it" but others would rather focus on more traditional distribution channels. I.e. if you have a question about their products, you need to be talking to one of their distributors.

    I have always liked the concept of the top loading cases. I have BMW clamshell style cases and, as you note, they are a pain to use without the liners. No experience with any of them but I thought the Micatech cases looked harder to keep dust and water out especially if they get tweaked a bit.

    There was a new company in Medford, OR, that had very sturdy looking fold down shelves which you then lash dry bags to. Looked like a really flexible, practical solution.


  5. I have seen racks for dry bags and fold down solutions. Mostly I don't like the much for several reasons:

    - No locks. Locks aren't very good on nearly all cases, but at least they keep the casual "grab and run" people away.

    - They require a lot of strapping here, securing there - I'm lazy and like just taking a box off or a liner out and take it to the tent / hotel room.

    - The side hanging bags are too small for my use. If I'm alone on a trip, I can easily live with a simple topcase for a few days if I'm not camping. Not the best weight distribution but works. But for two people I'd need more space. And that's the intended use.

    - It's cumbersome to get to things over the day (raingear, some food, ...).

    If I use a dry bag, I would use something like a Giant Loop. No additional racks, just put it on and be done with it. But the points above are still true and therefore I prefer hard cases.

    Regarding the Micatechs: all I heard was they are incredibly strong, water tight, and generally robust. And the Pilots are cavernous ... Not my thing, I'd really love to get V2 with the Pilot mount and a very narrow exhaust. That's why I contacted the exhaust companies above.

    Here's a link of what I think of (only, I don't like the lowered exhaust):