With sportbikes, finding a way to carry items comfortably and safely can be a hit-or-miss affair. Tankbags can be cumbersome and awkward if they’re too big, and soft luggage can be difficult to fit if it hangs down too close to your exhaust. Tailbags can be dangerous if not secured properly (we’ve seen firsthand what happens when one of the fastening hooks comes off and the bag becomes wedged into the rear tire), and they’re not stable if packed with goods.
Enter the Ventura Bike-Pack system. Originally designed in New Zealand by a sportbike rider with the same problem, the Bike-Pack system does away with all those issues by supporting the bag with a strong but lightweight framework that mounts to the tail section of the bike’s chassis. The Bike-Pack system also mounts the bag behind the passenger seat, so you are still able to carry another person, and the framework is strong enough to also act as a grabrail for the passenger.
We tested Ventura’s latest Mistral I Bike-Pack, which boasts a voluminous 47-liter capacity. Constructed from sturdy 1680 denier Ballistic fabric, the Mistral I features three molded external pockets in addition to the main bag, plus a pocket inside the main bag’s lid. All zippers have water-resistant seals, and the bag has bound internal seams to ensure structural integrity when packing the bag to capacity. Like all Ventura Bike-Packs, the Mistral I has quick-release buckles for easy removal from the framework, and the Mistral I also includes shoulder straps that allow you to tote the bag like a backpack. There are also D-rings that permit locking the bag to the framework, and additional hardware converts the framework to a passenger grabrail when you’re not using the Bike-Pack.
All Ventura Bike-Packs include all mounting framework and hardware. Another key advantage with the Ventura Bike-Pack system is the company’s huge number of motorcycle model applications; the chances are very good that no matter what type of sportbike you have, Ventura has a Bike-Pack made specifically for your year and model bike.
We ordered the Mistral I Bike-Pack for our 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 test unit. Mounting the supplied framework was very easy, required no drilling or cutting, and only took about 15 minutes. The framework of the Bike-Pack had plenty of clearance from any bodywork, and is very sturdy in construction. Our only gripe — and it’s a minor one — are the foam pads used to cover the mounting area on the frame, which looked a bit like an afterthought considering the rest of the Bike-Pack’s quality construction and excellent design.
The Mistral I is cavernous enough to hold a surprisingly large amount of cargo, and because the Bike-Pack framework allows it to be mounted facing front or back, the framework provides additional carrying space provided you have some bungee cords or other fastening straps (or you can buy two Mistral I packs and zip them together for added capacity). We had about 35 pounds of gear and paraphernalia stuffed in the Mistral I bag and strapped to the framework on a 300-mile ride, and the Bike-Pack system handled it all in stride. We also rode with the Mistral I in the rain, and while we’re not sure if it would handle a torrential downpour for hours, 40-minute commutes saw all items inside dry with no water leakage.
When we were in Australia some time ago, a large percentage of the bikes we saw on the road had the Ventura Bike-Pack system, and now we see why. We highly recommend it to any rider looking for a better alternative to conventional soft luggage on sportbikes. Prices for the Mistral I start at $479.00 and depend on application.
** Ventura Bike-Pack System
What We’re Testing
**AiM Solo Laptimer
** The data acquisition systems we’ve used in the past are generally bulky and require some creativity when mounting them to a bike. AiM’s new GPS-equipped Solo laptimer/data acquisition conversely mounts right to the tank and provides all the information we need to point out Bradley’s errors.
**Avon 3D Ultra Supersport Tire
** Avon’s new 3D Ultra lineup is complete with three all-new tires, the Sport, Supersport and Xtreme. We currently have the street/track-oriented Supersport levered onto our carbon-wheel-equipped ZX-10R and plan on putting them through the ringer in both environs.