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ADV ProductsADV Bike AccessoriesCan Motorcycle Panniers Be Lightweight, Stylish and Tough?

Can Motorcycle Panniers Be Lightweight, Stylish and Tough?

 We review Touratech's new Zega Mundo Panniers to see if they pass the test.

Published on 04.22.2015
Touratech makes some of the best looking motorcycle panniers.
The Zega Mundo panniers are a new luggage system from Touratech that offer simple, clean, classic styling. But how do they perform?

It was 1985 when Touratech founder, Herbert Schwarz, built his first set of motorcycle panniers for his extended tours to the far corners of the Earth. He continued to refine the design until the Zega panniers were launched in 1992.

Fast forward 20 years and Touratech panniers are an icon in the adventure touring industry. Any mention of the brand conjures up images of Adventure Bikes traveling through distant lands, equipped with panniers. Motorcycle panniers remain a primary focus for Touratech even today. So when the company recently announced a brand new pannier system called the “Zega Mundo,” the adventure motorcycling community and media took notice.

The new Zega Mundo panniers are being brought to market as a replacement for Touratech’s long-running “Zega Classic” panniers. They offer the same clean, bare-aluminum styling as the Classics, but with the increased strength and modern features of Touratech’s flagship pannier system, the “Zega Pro.” In fact, the new Zega Mundo panniers share the same watertight, dust-proof casing as the Zega Pros, but without the plastic bumpers and anodized finish.

Zega Mundo aluminum motorcycle panniers
The new Zega Mundo panniers utilize the same heavy-duty casings as Touratech’s top-of-the-line Zega Pros.

Targeting the Sweet Spot in Panniers

There are a wide range of options in the pannier market. On one side of the spectrum there are the inexpensive panniers that are little more than motorcycle jewelry. One solid fall and these fragile boxes crumple like soda cans. On the other side, you have the heavily-built panniers that have all the elegance and style of a filing cabinet or home safe. With the Zega Mundo panniers, Touratech appears to be targeting a sweet spot in the market for style, strength, weight and price.

Classic Styling

From a style perspective, the Zega Mundos offer a refined look that sets them apart from many of the rugged military styled cases that are typical on the market. They share the same rounded-edge design as the higher-end Zega Pro panniers, but with a cleaner, more streamlined appearance. It’s a timeless, classic design that accentuates the lines of your bike.

hard panniers motorcycle
Touratech Zega Mundo panniers offer a simple, streamlined design that accentuates the lines of your bike.

Sturdy Construction

The sidewalls of the Zega Mundo panniers are constructed of one continuous sheet of 1.5mm aluminum. This seamless design is more durable than multiple sheets welded together and makes field repairs much easier. The bottom pan is attached using 20 steel rivets for added strength, and all the edges on the cases are rounded to help divert impacts and improve structural rigidity.

The Zega Mundo panniers offer an improved lid design, not yet found on the Zega Pros. A raised lip penetrates even deeper into the lid channel to create a completely watertight seal. This also locks the lid tightly in place and increases the strength of the panniers. It’s an innovative design that makes the lid extremely resilient to tampering and impacts, without adding excessive weight or bulk.

Four anchor loops can be found securely mounted on each pannier lid. These attachment points make it easy to strap on last minute supplies that don’t fit inside your panniers. The low profile design of the anchor loops also keeps the top surface of the lids completely flat, so the panniers can be used as a table or a comfortable seat by the campfire.

Making a supply run motorcycle panniers.
The anchor hooks on the Zega Mundo lids make it easy to strap on extra supplies that don’t fit inside your panniers.

The same heavy-duty latches found on the Zega Pros open using a quick-release button. The unique design allows you to detach just one side of the lid while the other side functions as a hinge. A thin safety wire holds the lid in place when hinged open and also keeps the lid from flying off if you forget to close the latches before riding away. The lid can be detached completely by opening both latches and removing the hand screw that holds the safety wire in place.

Touratech panniers heavy duty latches
A unique hinge design allows the panniers to be opened from either the front or back.
Using the pannier lid as a spare bolts tray
Lids can be used as a convenient tray to sort spare bolts while performing repairs.

Mounting the Panniers

Touratech provides a solid stainless steel rack system to attach the Zega Mundo Panniers to your motorcycle. The rack utilizes stout 18mm diameter tubing designed to add strength and protection to the rear of the bike. Unlike OEM pannier racks that can easily bend or crack, the Touratech racks can be confidently used as rear crash bars when riding with the cases removed.

Mounting the racks on our KTM 990 Adventure test bike was quick and painless. Everything lined up with precision and bolted on nicely, and we were able to complete the job in roughly one hour. Even though the racks were fairly light and not at all bulky, we were impressed with the rigidity of the structure. We also liked the stainless steel finish which resists scratching and cleans up nicely with a little steel wool.

No drilling or fabrication was required to install the boxes on the rack. Panniers are attached to the racks using an ingenious puck and clamp system. The design provides an incredibly strong connection to the rack, and a set of scalloped dials allow you to attach or detach the boxes by hand with ease, even with gloves on. Panniers can only be detached from the rack when the lid is open. This provides a nice security feature when the lids are locked.

Attaching Touratech Zega Panniers
A simple puck clamp system makes it fast and easy to attach the panniers to the stainless steel racks.

Testing the Zega Mundo Panniers

We rode with the Zega Mundo panniers on several different expeditions in both mountain and desert terrain. Getting there, we traveled on twisty asphalt roads that allowed us to test the cornering clearance of the panniers at speed. Even during aggressive cornering, the Zega Mundos always provided adequate clearance on our KTM 990 Adventure test bike.

Plenty of ground clearance with Touratech panniers
Cornering clearance was never a problem with the Zega Mundo panniers, even when leaned deep into a turn.

On our very first outing in the dirt with the Zega Mundos, we got caught in deep sand unexpectedly with our tires at full pressure. A moderate get-off had us concerned that we’d already mangled our shiny new Zega Mundo cases before completing our first trip. We were relieved to see that no visible damage had occurred except for a few faint brush marks.

Pressing on the sidewall, the weakest point of most panniers, revealed the Zega Mundos are a lot stronger than they look. We further tested the strength of the boxes by having our 230 pound (104 kg) test rider stand on the sidewall to see if the metal would dent inward. No damage occurred. He next tried bouncing, and then proceeded to jump up and down on the sidewall of one of the boxes. We could see no visible damage or distortion after our test.

motorcycle panniers test review
Our 230 lb. tester checks the strength of the Zega Mundos by jumping on the sidewall. The Mundos’ strength will put riders at ease knowing they don’t have to worry about disfiguring their panniers with every little drop or tip over.

The watertight seal of the panniers also proved to be effective through rain, deep water crossings and even a high pressure hose test. Through it all, our valuable electronics remained completely dry inside the cases. The same held true for keeping our gear clean. During our off-road tests, neither dust nor silt penetrated the boxes.

water crossing with panniers
Precarious moments like traversing a boulder-strewn river crossing are when you really appreciate the watertight seal of the Zega Mundo panniers.
motorcycle panniers
The dust-proof Zega Mundos did an excellent job of keeping out fine silt during our tests in the desert

Final Thoughts

The evolution of a long line of high-quality, durable panniers is evident in Touratech’s latest offering. The Zega Mundos are built on the same proven design as the top-of-the-line Zega Pro panniers, but are priced to compete in the $1,000 segment (including racks) of the market.

Touratech has relied on clever engineering, rather than brute force, to create panniers that are both strong and lightweight. At just 9.17 pounds per case (38 liter), they are some of the lightest panniers available on the market. But the Zega Mundos are built to last and are capable of protecting your gear from damage and theft on countless expeditions. In the long term, they may even outlast your bike. They are also elegantly styled and prove that cases don’t have to look like ammo boxes to be strong.

Overall, we think Touratech has achieved an excellent balance between style, strength, weight and price that make the Zega Mundo panniers a top choice for anyone looking for a new set of cases. Zega Mundo panniers are available for most popular Adventure Bike models through Touratech’s Website.

Shopping Options:

Touratech (KTM 990 Adventure)Touratech (Various ADV Bike Models)

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Photo Gallery

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Shopping Options:

Touratech (KTM 990 Adventure)Touratech (Various ADV Bike Models)

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Photos by Bill Lieras and Karla Robleto

Author: Rob Dabney

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3 thoughts on “Can Motorcycle Panniers Be Lightweight, Stylish and Tough?

    • Hey Tom. Remember that Touratech’s pricing includes the rack system. Anything in the $500-$600 range usually does not include racks. Also, high-quality cases and racks that don’t crumple on the first fall never come cheap. The Touratech build quality is excellent and the rounded edge design on their boxes is a big part of their strength. It also makes them more expensive to produce. But what you get is a lightweight, very strong, feature-packed pannier system that will last you for years – at a competitive price.

  1. i would really like to see and read about other options, ive been searching around and there are other panniers like Holan, Heavyduties, H&B, could you guys review other panniers? I own a XT660Z tenere and im looking to buy panniers. im from Santiago, Chile.

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