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ADV ProductsADV Bike AccessoriesTusk Panniers: Rugged, Secure and Budget-Friendly Boxes

Tusk Panniers: Rugged, Secure and Budget-Friendly Boxes

 A high-quality pannier system for the budget-conscious Adventure Rider.

Published on 06.15.2017

Whether you use your Adventure Motorcycle as a globetrotting touring bike, a grocery getter or something in between, chances are you’ve had a need for a large-capacity, lockable luggage system at one time or another. And if your adventures include off-road travel, then you know durability is a must.

As diehard off-road riders themselves, the Tusk product developers know a thing or two about the rigors of Adventure Riding and have developed an Aluminum Pannier System with a rugged build and a price tag that’s significantly less than you’d expect to pay for a quality set of hard boxes with racks.

The Tusk Panniers are designed to haul lots of gear and come with rack mount kits that are compatible with a variety of popular Dual Sport and Adventure Touring Bikes. Boxes are available in two sizes — a massive 37 liters per side for the large size and a more modest 27 liters each for the mediums. Each pannier is finished in a silver or black powder-coated finish, both inside and out, which adds to their toughness and ensures the gear you are carrying wont get tarnished with bare aluminum dust.

Tusk Panniers Box Liners
Inner liner bags help keep your personal belongings organized and protected in the panniers. The Tusk panniers also work great as an ice chest.

While the Tusk Panniers are simple in design they have some sophisticated touches, like the seamless rear vertical edge and internally reinforced stitch welds on 12-gauge aluminum that remove potential weak points and further improve strength. Other key features include two locking latches on each box to hold the lid down and a rubber gasket seal to help keep dust and the water out. Both boxes have matching lock sets, giving you security and peace of mind when the bike is left unattended.

Tusk Pannier Racks are made out of tough 3/4” powder-coated steel tubing and feature a 4-point mounting system that ties all of the mounting points together. A cross brace connects both side racks together to make a very strong “cage” that helps strengthen and protect the rear of the bike. The racks also come with a unique cable-operated, spring-loaded quick release system that allows you to rapidly remove the panniers from the racks.

Included in each pannier kit, are a set of security knobs that lock the boxes to the racks from the inside. Once the security knobs are screwed in, they prevent anyone from removing the boxes from the bike when the lids are locked. You can also choose to use soft luggage with the Tusk Pannier Racks to help keep your bodywork protected from rubbing and avoid melting your bags on the hot exhaust.

Keeping all of your gear organized on a big trip can be quite a challenge. Tusk has some optional Pannier Box Liners that simplify how you pack and store your gear. The Pannier liners are sold in pairs and are shaped to completely fill each pannier. Liners are made out of 420D nylon and feature a zipper closure, along with a handle that makes removal and carrying of the liner bags easier. Tusk also offers carrying handles for the pannier lids as well.

How They Performed

We installed the large (37 liters) Tusk Panniers with racks on two different bikes, the Kawasaki KLR650 and KTM 690 Enduro. Both installs were pretty straight forward but some drilling and lining up is required to attach the quick-release mounting plates and locking latches to the boxes. The provided instructions and installation videos on the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC website helped answer our questions and overcome any challenges we encountered.

Tusk Aluminum Pannier Racks
Tusk pannier racks are made of beefy 3/4″ steel tubing and have a powder-coated finish for durability.

Mounting the quick-release plate to the panniers took some trial and error to get the proper spacing between the plate and the box, but Tusk supplies plenty of extra hardware to help you fine tune the fit. This DIY approach requires some additional labor, although it does allow you to customize the positioning of the boxes on the bike to your taste instead of being locked into a position pre-determined by the manufacturer. We can only assume this is one way Tusk is able to provide some cost savings to the customer.

Tusk Pannier quick release mounting plate

Once mounted up on the KLR650, the panniers fit great without any excess play in the rack connection. The boxes could be easily moved over to the KTM 690 Enduro’s Tusk racks without additional adjustments, although some may want to fine tune the mounting plate position for different bikes.

Simple lid latches with removable tops made finding what you need inside the boxes convenient. The quick release system works quite well and allows you to remove the panniers fast. Although if you use the security knobs, you’ll have to remove those first before detaching the boxes. Once off the bike, the panniers also work great as a makeshift camp chair or table.

Tusk Panniers with KTM 690 Soft Luggage
For those that prefer to ride with soft luggage, the Tusk pannier racks can help protect bodywork from scratches and keep your bags from getting melted on the hot exhaust.

After several months of testing that including a 1,000 mile adventure ride through Southeast Utah and another 1,000 miles on the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail, the Tusk panniers performed flawlessly. A few minor falls that occurred resulted in only light surface scratches and no dents. So far, they’ve handled all of our abuse and seem to be very durable. The mounting mechanism also continues to provide smooth operation. As far as waterproofing, we never had any water enter the boxes after riding through heavy rain for an extended period of time.

Who Are They For?

Budget-conscious Adventure Riders who want a durable, convenient and lockable luggage solution and don’t mind some additional assembly during the installation.

tusk panniers on KLR 650

Our Verdict

With luggage taking up a large portion of your bike’s upgrade budget, it’s refreshing to find a high-quality, affordable option like the Tusk Aluminum Panniers. After extensive testing, we were quite impressed with how they performed. They may not offer some of the premium features found on more expensive panniers (e.g. anodizing, hinged lids, angled bottom edges, etc.) and they are also a bit on the heavy side, but when you look at their functionality compared to other systems that cost two or three times as much, it’s hard to nitpick. The installation is more involved than with other more expensive systems, but it is easy enough to complete the job for anyone handy with the tools.

The racks are solidly built and hold the boxes securely in place. They also offer a good place to grab when you need to pick the bike up or get a push. The racks can be purchased without the boxes for anyone wanting to run soft luggage too. Tusk’s optional Pannier Liners are a nice addition, allowing you to keep your belongings organized while on the road. Overall, the Tusk panniers, racks and optional accessories are a great value that’s hard to beat.

What We Liked

  • A great value for the price.
  • Durable enough for off-road use.
  • Fast removal and attachment of the boxes.

What Could Be Improved

  • A faster way to unlock boxes from racks than security knobs.
  • Provide the boxes with less assembly required.

Tusk Pannier System Specs

Colors: Black and Silver
Sizes: Large (37 liters each), Medium (27 liters each)
Dimensions: Large (15 ½” x 9 ¼ x 18″), Medium (14 ¼” x 7 ½” x 16 ¼”)
Weight: Large (11 pounds each), Medium (9.5 pounds each)
Box Construction: Boxes use .085″ thick powder-coated aluminum
Rack Construction: ¾” powder-coated steel tubing
Price: Panniers with Racks ($374.99 – $429.99)

Shopping Options

Panniers & RacksPanniers OnlyRacks Only
Chad Berger Author ProfileAbout the Author: Chad Berger is a freelance journalist, photographer and tour guide from Wisconsin. Since 2004, he has been riding dual sport and adventure bikes all over the Midwest, the Black Hills of South Dakota, Moab, Baja, Alaska and many other places in between. He shares his experiences through the photography, videos and stories he produces from his trips. In 2008, he created a 600-mile dual sport route called the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail (TWAT), which eventually led to his becoming a tour guide for RIDE Adventures.
Photos by Chad Berger

Author: Chad Berger

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4 thoughts on “Tusk Panniers: Rugged, Secure and Budget-Friendly Boxes

  1. Very good report! I have the medium Tusk panniers and they are a good value. I thank RMATV for looking after riders that cannot afford thousands for racks and panniers.

  2. I have these. I got a set when they first came out. First, this is NOT a knock against them. I just want to relay my experiences so people know what they’re getting.

    While they’re a tad heavy, they aren’t particularly durable. I had loaded them up with camping gear and put them on my DR650 on a set of Happy Trails racks. They were heavy enough that they compressed the rear suspension enough that the bike fell over to the right since it wasn’t really “leaning” on the side stand.

    The resulting tip-over, on dirt (at my house), crushed the RH case. Not completely like a stomped soda can, but it did a good job on it. I was able to use a floor jack and a block of wood to pop it back into shape (mostly) so that it’s still usable, but it ruined the powdercoating… it was flaking and chipping off all over it. I covered that up with black duct tape.

    So.. these are definitely a nice set for the price, BUT keep in mind that they are not durable like the expensive stuff. I’d suggest keeping them on-road, because if you go down, they’re going to get messed up. Just be forewarned.

  3. I have the 27 liter ones and love them! Have had several crashes with them and aside from a small ding they still work great. This pannier system is the best value out there imo.

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