We take a look at the AltRider Hemisphere soft Panniers. The Portland companies take on the ultimate adventure luggage.
AltRider Hemisphere Soft Panniers combine ultimate functionality and extreme durability to create what they claim are the most versatile pannier on the market.
READ MORE: RideApart reviews luggage options.
The Hemisphere Panniers can have as much as 125 liters of total capacity, they're waterproof, dust proof and designed around the concept of keeping the center of gravity low on the bike. This aids handling in soft terrain and at low speeds making that ADV bike a bit easier to maneuver. They did this by adding a compartment at the bottom of the bags to put items like tools, repair kits, and other items you need ready access to. They even put a dry bag in there to keep anything stored in the pocket as dry as the top bag.
Notice the opening is to the rear for easy access. Both the bag and the opening have buckle closures.
The bags are constructed from 1050D ballistic nylon sewn over vinyl coated polyester. The dry bags are all made from military grade threads, fully taped seams and delrin buckles - tough stuff and time proven materials. There is no need to reinvent the wheel for these materials; AltRider took what works and made their own design with it.
The top portion of the bags are supported by that lower compartment and stiffeners sewn in the sides to help keep gear stable and give the bags some additional form. The two side bags are 34-liter containers, fully waterproof dry bag construction featuring a roll top closure and compression straps. Ideal for packing tightly, keeping everything close to the bike and also keeping that concept of a low center of gravity.
You can see how large the opening is with a helmet stored inside.
One of the main design concepts for the Hemisphere luggage is stability. The entire base is tied together, running from one bag all the way over the motorcycle to the other bag. That's also where some of the capacity comes from. There is a removable top kit that holds up to 28 liters and sits where a passenger would. That integrated approach means that while universal they are designed to fit over the exhaust and you need to order a left or right hand kit depending on how the muffler is mounted on your motorcycle.
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Attachment to the motorcycle is done via the use of straps and cam buckles. The cam lock system really keeps the entire setup very secure regardless of how hard you are riding. Take a look at that heavy duty webbing; it has a particular rigidity to it that lets you know it's in it for the long haul.
Design specifications are great, but they don't tell you how something will work in real world practical applications. You can clearly tell a lot of thought, blood, sweat, and probably tears were poured into the design. Did it pay off?
Yes, they are definitely great saddlebags with a ton of very useful features - but they are not for everyone. Solo riders are definitely a bigger beneficiary when using these. The integrated construction and use of the top pack either limits the ability to carry a passenger or causes a rider to lose 28 liters of storage. To be perfectly honest, carrying a passenger was impossible when I had this mounted. My wife refused to sit on it after trying it for about 10 seconds. Buckles, straps, and the material are all uncomfortable and the overall size made it difficult to even sit.
If you ride solo the features, the construction, the capacity, and the design are as good as anything we have tested. Priced at $569.97 they are also extremely affordable for a setup with 125 liters of total capacity that is waterproof and dust proof. There's also just the Hemisphere saddle bags at a less expensive, $379.97 price tag.
Thank you to AltRider for the opportunity to test the setup.