Equipped with the VTR/Firestorm’s stomping V-Twin, one of the most character-ful engines Honda’s ever produced, the Varadero retains the side mounted radiators from that its organ donor’s design. A particularly delicate component for a 610lbs motorcycle to rest on, when it decides to have a little nap on its side in the sand or gravel. Two key elements out of our paired down Adventure Kit (we skipped the topcase) kept the big-Vara safe then, the SW-Motech Engine Guards and the 45 Liter TraX ALU-BOX side cases.
Had we been empirical, we could have given an embarrassing breakdown of frequency and ferocity of the impacts, but we’ll leave the description at hard enough and slow enough Kevin wasn’t broken horribly. Most of the downs occurred in sand, and represented a slow and relatively gentle slew of the Varadero to one side or the other. Across the incidents, the Engine Guards kept the bike’s fairings and radiators safe, but it was the TraX side cases that really impressed as “great frickin’ big frame sliders full of your stuff”, mainly because sand can hide larger, less flexible geographical features – like rocks. Luckily the TraX bags are available for a variety of bikes other than the Varadero.
When impacted it’s the bags that absorb the impact, rather than the Quick-Lock EVO carrier racks, means they hold in place rather than bending or breaking the rack. As important the luggage can be pounded back into shape with a hammer, chunk of wood and 2×4 — in our case in an Arizonian retirement village workshop (long story). As a note, you may want to put your laptop against the innermost wall of your luggage.
It’s not all upsides to the TraX luggage though. The bags themselves vary in their water resistance from new, so that the Adventure Kit comes with Drybag Liners is a suitable precaution. Unfortunately sharp corners in the luggage eventually chew their way through the Drybags, but that problem is easily solved with a bit of shoe-goo on the road. Regardless, after the convenience of loading and unloading the bikes with the TraX DryBag, we’re converts.
In terms of security the TraX luggage offers more piece of mind than soft luggage, but we found the locks are easily popped. It’s more the show of having a lock that acts as a deterrent anyways. The other weak point is the U-shaped metal clasp that secures the case to the rack; the torsional stress of one “more aggressive” drop sheared the wire, which saw us using a metal zip-tie to hold the bag in place. Lastly, exposed to a corrosive, used to keep the dust down on Baja’s 5 while it was under construction, the raw aluminum bags pitted slightly, while the fasteners on the Quick-Lock’s for the Evo side cariers rusted badly. The black powdercoated version of the bags held up much better, being better protected from the chemicals by the paint. Lesson learned though, after riding through a Mexican construction zone, wash the bike immediately and thoroughly.
There’s also some nice features for when you wrap up your adventure, as the name suggests SW-MOTECH Quick-Lock Sidecarrier is quickly removable for when you don’t need 45L of luggage fixed to either side of the bike. This helps lane-splitting considerably. And frankly, the Adventure Kit gives a visually soft bike like the Varadero a much more purposeful look. About the only item we wish we had included in our setup was the SW-MOTECH Skid Plate as the flimsy stock Honda one became somewhat mulched over the course of the adventure.
Some of this might sound dire, but keep in mind riding the Baja was a thoroughly abusive test of Twisted Throttle’s Honda Varadero 1000 Adventure Kit in the type of terrain that many Varadero riders won’t be treading. Also, without the protection afforded by the Twisted Throttle Adventure Kit, I’m certain that our Baja: Tropic of Cancer series would have suffered a pool of tears and coolant on the side of a rural dirt road somewhere in Mexico.