Givi V35 PLX Saddlebags Review – 7 out of 10
Written and reviewed by Brent VanDyke
Soon after purchasing my then new 2008 Kawasaki Versys, I found that I’d be travelling a great deal further on this bike than I had originally thought I would. I should have known this would be the case based on my previous bike (I had put 12k miles on my Ninja 250 inside of nine months…). With this extra travel, I found myself constantly strapping down my tried and true backpack, but this was a cumbersome ordeal. It was time for something different.
As luck would have it, Kawasaki offered Givi’s Monokey V35 saddlebags (Amazon.com link) as OEM accessories for the Versys. These saddlebags are offered for the Suzuki V-Strom, Kawasaki Versys, BMW F800, and various other motorcycles so after a bit of research, I thought I’d go for it. It was my first experience with hardcases and I figured they’d be a bit more pricey than what I was used to, but I was in for something of a shock.
With mounting hardware AND the cases, the total comes to nearly $700 U.S. (prices may vary, check with your local dealer). Frankly, I had a bit of sticker shock on this one. Again, this was my first experience with hard luggage. Prior to this, my luggage purchases had been soft saddlebags (Nelson-Riggs, actually), a few tank bags, and a tail bag or two. With this much cash invested, I had very high expectations for the hardware that was to be sent my way. Six (!!!) weeks after I placed the order at my local dealership, 321 Kawasaki of El Dorado Kansas, USA, the hardware arrived (back-ordered).
The mounting hardware (Amazon.com link) is obviously designed with fantastic tolerances and is made to perfectly fit the bike for which it is ordered. I can’t speak for the fitment kits for any cycle other than the 07-09 Versys, but given how well the kit fit the Versys, I have to assume that the hardware for other bikes are made to the same level of tolerance as my own. Solid mounting points where chosen that would not affect the rideability of the bike or indeed even interfere with the passenger portion. Everything about the fitment is about as perfect as one could ask for.
There’s good and not so good here. First, the good:
1. These things are made to last. I’ve had mine mounted on the Versys for the majority of the last four years and they’re as solid today as they were the first day they were ordered. I’ve removed and replaced the cases upwards of 200 times (estimated) since my original purchase and even with a bit of abuse, the bags have no signs of cracking.
2. The internals are huge. 35 liters doesn’t SOUND like a lot of capacity, but the inside of the bags are quite spacious. It’s not difficult to pack for a week for myself or a weekend away with my wife and still have a bit of room left over.
3. The contour of the bags looks to try to follow the lines of the bike quite well. These aren’t boxy camera bag type cases. These are curvy, fitting well to the originally intended look of the bikes for which they are fitted. More finesse seems to have been used in the design than for “other” cases on the market.
4. Straps are mounted internal to the bags to allow you to restrain any items placed within. This is especially handy when packing large items with high surface areas that can lay flat (such as jeans or carefully folded shirts).
And now the not so good (and there are a few of them):
1. The upper and front of the bags are covered in something of a plastic super thing color coating usually meant to match your bike (though you can order various colors). The sun has not been kind to these and the glossy (apparently) stick-on portion of the bags has cracked to the point where I wish It was simply enough to just remove the things. It looks horrible and detracts from the overall looks of the bike.
2. Side opening bags on something this large is just asking for trouble in my opinion. While the internal self holding straps do keep MOST of the stuff you’ve placed within them held back, usually if you have the bags packed and open them up while mounted, something is either going to fall out or stuff itself in the crease and cause you headaches trying to get the latch shut back. This will probably be the last time I purchase saddlebags that don’t open from the top instead of the side. Far too often I find myself having to fool around with making sure something isn’t stuck in a crease when trying to shut the lid. Quite annoying.
3. 35 liters and you STILL can’t fit a full face helmet. Those curves I mentioned earlier? They’re mostly for looks and not for functionality. Usually I just stuff a row of socks or a couple of shirts rolled up in to the deep indentation at the bottom, but this is still annoying for those with larger items to stow.
4. They’re not actually 100% water proof (without a little help/added silicon). I was a little shocked to find this out as I had just spent nearly 700 dollars on these and my $100 Nelson-Riggs were able to keep everything out with a bit of Scotchgard and their rain covers installed. To me, hardware of this class should not require any additional modification to keep out all water in anything less than full submersion… One should note that this was in a four hour downpour and is probably not much like what most riders will encounter.
5. Lastly, and this has only been happening the last year or so, the cases have started becoming a real bear to remove. There is a large push button on each case which allows itself to be removed. I’ve been diligent about ensuring that the spring mechanism within each case has been adequately lubricated, but to me it seems that perhaps the cases are just beginning to wear out. Perhaps, but perhaps not. This is something to keep an eye on though for those looking for these bags.
Overall, these are well made units. They’ve hauled what likely amounts to tons of groceries and taken a beating from the sun and still function fairly well (even four years in). I would recommend these cases to anyone trying to acquire decent hard luggage while not completely killing the looks of their bike. For those not as concerned with aesthetics, I would recommend something more akin to the E41 units (also from Givi) as they are top loading and have less of a gasket (less area to keep water away from).
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