Hepco & Becker Gobi panniers

Hepco & Becker Gobi panniers have been standard equipment on KTMs for years, even though the German firm initially marketed the boxes as being lightweight and suitable for smaller bikes. Their weight is why I bought a pair back in 2003 before an Antipodean adventure. They’ve taken phenomenal abuse since then, including crashes and innumerable small tumbles on various continents and survived remarkably well.

Gobi boxes are top openers like most overland hard luggage, but they are made of coloured tough plastic not metal, and the outer wall construction provides what is perhaps their USP; a double skin, which permits the storage of 3 litres of water.

With the (optional) addition of a natty little tap that bolts to the lower leading edge, this double walled water carrier couldn’t be more convenient if you enjoy your water super-heated by the sun and with mildly Tupperware overtones. I was grateful for the liquid in the Australian outback, but where this vessel really worked for me, was its use as a wine carrier on my return from France and the subsequent party round the campfire, where everyone knew it was white on portside and red on starboard. Filling this ‘between the walls’ space isn’t easy without a suitable funnel. You need to have the lid open during the process, and one slip will pour fluid over your neatly packed clothing.

The disadvantages of the double-skin idea is that the pannier’s overall width is increased and as it’s only the outer half of the pannier wall that takes the water, you are adding weight to the outermost edge, whereas surely keeping it in next the mounting frame would create better riding dynamics.

With a single lockable latch keeping the box on the frame (which can be left unlocked but still securely attached), the easy fitting and removal couldn’t be easier. But I had to cut all the brackets of the framework itself to move the whole thing in 20mm on both sides. The factory metalwork design was simply lazy, but the fitting kit instructions included the helpful tip that if any of the bracketry didn’t quite fit, it would be due to the manufacturing tolerances of the bike!

It’s fortunate that the mounting system works whether locked or not, because the locking mechanism at the heart of the otherwise metal clamp, is made of light alloy that simply snaps off when under pressure (left). That kind of pressure occurs every time you drop the bike at anything faster than stationary.

The same type of locking mechanism is used within the two entry clasps, but they can’t fail the same way. What did fail, (and I reiterate that this was after thousands of uses), was the small hinge within the clasp, causing the whole clasp to fall off as you can see in the top photo.

The lid hinge is plastic and full-length, with a small metal mesh covering on the outside, no doubt designed to stop a sharp knife slicing through, or at least give that appearance. Once opened there is a strap to stop the lid crossing 90 degrees (which broke on both boxes) and a prop to ensure it remains open for loading purposes. The loading aperture offers perfect access to the 37 litres of space and there is a thin rubber seal to keep the water out. One of the pair was never fully waterproof, though I never discovered where the water entered, but I presume it passed this rubber seal, which relies on compression to seal, as there is no lip to deflect moisture.

An almost ergonomically perfect carry handle in the centre of the lid means one box can be comfortably carried in each hand, making the Gobi extremely convenient to pop off and carry toward accommodation, whether that’s a room or a tent. If it’s to the tent, then you’ve instantly got two reasonably comfortable seats.

All round, I never regretted buying the Gobis, but given they only offer 37litres of space, they do stick out very far which may be a concern.

Overall dimensions of each box 47x25x36cms Current retail is about £400, but shop around, there’s wide variation.