Pack it in the Fizz
product evaluation in City Bike, July 2006
by Bob Stokstad

How does one organize an expedition: what equipment is taken, what sources read; what are the little dangers and the large ones? No one has ever written this. The information is not available. John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez. (1940)

Right you were, Mr. Steinbeck, back in the year of my birth. But if you're a motorcyclist today and wondering about what equipment to take on your next expedition, there's an almost bewildering amount of information available. You can start with the Aerostich Catalog, for example, where the problem quickly translates into choosing among many appealing alternatives. Once you've figured out what to take, though, you face the next question - what to take it in. Stuffing it all into a second-hand backpack and bungee-ing that onto my Triumph Tiger was how I packed for Baja in '04. I knew I needed a better solution before our trip to Copper Canyon in '06.

I prefer soft luggage for dual sport trips as it doesn't break when you (I mean, I) drop the bike. I also like the trim look of a narrow rig and the accompanying ease of lane splitting on the LA freeway before even getting to Mexico. You've guessed it - I want a seat pack. I picked the "Moto Fizz" medium size (page 87 in the Catalog).
In San Felipe, Baja California, MexicoAs with a new piece of computer software, I started using the pack without first reading the instructions. That's OK because it turns out you can't read the instructions anyway, unless you are fortunate enough to know Kanji. The pictures provide some clues, however, and figuring it all out is part of the fun. The Fizz is well designed and, like a 'stich, has more zippers than you can imagine. Once it's attached to the bike, you're in business. But mounting it can be a challenge and different bikes will have different solutions. You'll want a method that provides for easy mounting and quick removal, and yet keeps everything firmly in place when riding dirt roads. Four mounting straps with loops at one end and bayonet fasteners at the other are part of the kit. The method I came up with isn't pictured on the instructions, and I have an idea how to do it differently and better the next time. There's enough flexibility in this system for you to find the ideal solution for your particular bike provided the seat or luggage rack is wide enough to support the pack properly. This is the case for the Tiger and the medium Fizz, but this size would be a bit large, for example, for my street-legal but narrow-seated XR600R.

The feature I most enjoyed is the large flap that goes over the top, which I used to stash the clothing I removed as heat of the day set in, and that I put back on when we had to keep riding after sunset. The flap has three fastening straps, so stuff won't fall out provided you cinch them tightly. (Take a large plastic bag to put the clothes in if you will be riding in dust.)

Copper Canyon, Mexico Access to the contents of the pack is from above (once you unbuckle the large flap) and from each side. Your job is to pack your stuff in such a way that, whenever you need something during the day, that item is the first thing you see when you open the pack through one of these three access ports. This requires more intelligence than most people have, myself included. Good luck.

There are many other features that, taken collectively, add up to a good design. The pack has a shape and holds it. This makes packing easier and the whole affair look better. The non-skid surface on the bottom together with a loop at each bottom corner (through which the mounting straps go) prevents the pack from sliding around. There's a carrying handle and a single shoulder strap that you can attach. The Fizz does not convert to a backpack, however.

There are two side pockets, one of which is detachable. (I never removed it.) Both side pockets have vertical-running straps that can be tightened to keep the pocket and contents from bouncing around. These side pockets are very handy, once you know what to put in them. The water-bottle holder located next to the right-side pocket is very practical. Even though I had a Camelback, I still took advantage of this.

The large flap has straps on it for attaching a tent or rolled-up foam pad, or anything else that has an elongated shape and isn't too heavy. There is also a one-eighth inch bungee loop on the flap top (like a cargo net) that you use at your peril. Had it rained on this trip, I would have covered the pack with the large, substantial rain cover that has a built-in elastic band to keep it in place. Expansion zippers on each side can add an additional eight-inches of width (total) in case you absolutely insist on bringing along more than you need. I didn't, of course, and so I do not know how much this extra-wide bag would have sagged, as the ends are unsupported by seat or (in my case) hard saddlebags.
In Batopilas, at bottom of Copper Canyon
A product-evaluation must contain a negative comment or two if it is to be credible. So here goes: If really quick mounting and dismounting of your luggage is a high priority, you may want to stick with hardbags. Anything involving straps, loops, and clasps is bound to take a little longer. Second, my riding companions complained that the numerous strap ends on the pack flapped in the wind, which offended their personal aesthetics. I agonized over this and conscientiously tried to tie up all loose ends. In the end, I solved this problem by riding last.

Although we rode in heavy dust on several days the contents inside remained dust free. When the outside got so dirty that even I began to notice it, I just hosed it down and it looked as good as new. Finally, the Fizz is well constructed of high-quality materials. It survived three falls in the dirt without a scratch (not so the Triumph) and 4000 miles of hard use in 18 days of travel.

I would like to do four more trips to Copper Canyon, each one with a different seat pack. Then I will write the ultimate seat bag shootout story. Until then, however, I can recommend the Moto Fizz to my dual-sporting friends as a pleasure to use and well worth the approximately $150 it will cost delivered to your doorstep. Be sure you select a size appropriate for your motorcycle, then go for it.