2010-03-26 at 22-11-24 - DSC_2855

Waterproofing the Touratech Zega panniers and top-case

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You know about those little annoyances that go on untreated forever? A dripping faucet is an excellent example. The faucet drips, and when it drips in the most annoying way possible, we do anything we can to put off actually repairing the drip.

Bilge pump can’t keep up with that leak? Install a bigger pump.

Rip in a tarp? Gaffer’s tape fixes that.

Tarp rips again? Use more tape.

I can’t say how many times my answer to leaky pipe threads was to use more Teflon tape.

These are the kind of classic bandage repairs that work perfectly fine until the house floods, the boat sinks, or the tarp is too heavy to even hang usefully.

For years now, I’ve been bandaging my leaky Zega panniers with plastic bags. Hundreds of them. The leakier the panniers get, the more bags I use. This laziness works for me because the consequences are minimal. Maybe a wrench rusts from time to time.

After all, the panniers didn’t always leak. When they were new and all the corners lined up nicely, not a drop made it past the silicone seal.

But after countless drops, falls, dents, and repairs, these panniers lost their edge against water and dust. Now I keep tools and spare parts inside canvas zipper bags. They fit perfectly inside gallon-size freezer bags. I protect cameras, hard drives, and other electronics with roll-top dry bags — sometimes one inside another. All of this fits inside the canvas pannier liners. And as an extra layer of protection, I cover the liners in heavy duty trash compactor bags.

A bag inside a bag inside a bag inside a bag inside a bag… well, you get the idea.

The setup works okay given a day of light rain or even an afternoon of heavy rain. Blowing rain and submersion are out of the question because the bags wear out. Sharp things poke holes in cheap plastic bags, and I’ve found condensation several layers deep! Finding water droplets on a hard drive is no bueno!

Solutions? Maybe a bilge pump in the pannier? No. Touratech does sell waterproof pannier liners that I’ve threatened more than once to buy. The price always scares me away at the last minute. Still, I think the best solution is to stop with the bandage repairs or at the very least invest in better bandages.

Today’s investment is about $5 for a tube of white Silicone-I. That’s five times what I would spend on freezer bags at the dollar store, and it’s one-fiftieth the price of three fancy waterproof bags from Touratech!

Okay, maybe this *is* just another bandage. Time will tell. The silicone dries in the morning, and I think the carwash will be a very good test of waterproofness. The bike needs a wash anyway.

Time on the road is hard on gear.

Time on the road is hard on gear. I don’t even remember this boo-boo.

I drop the bike after crossing this wash in the road.

I dropped the bike after crossing this wash in the road.

Looking for camp outside Bishop, California, I drop the bike in deep sand. It's hot, I'm tired, and this is not how I want to spend my evening.

Looking for camp outside Bishop, California, I dropped the bike in deep sand. The weight of the fall seriously bent the pannier.

I beat the dented pannier back into shape with my camp axe.

And so I beat the dented pannier back into shape with my camp axe.

Thick trash compactor bags make for a cheap, if temporary, heavy-duty barrier.

Thick trash compactor bags make for a cheap, if temporary, heavy-duty barrier.

The next morning, I find my bike toppled, side stand stuck in the mud

After a night of record rainfall in the Texas Hill Country, I found my bike toppled, side stand stuck in the mud

A thin bead of silicone 1 over the top of the factory silicone seal.

A thin bead of Silicone-I over the top of the factory silicone seal.

I use a wet finger to evenly shape the seal.

I use a wet finger to evenly shape the seal.

The silicone dries very quickly and has a spongey firmness.

The silicone dries very quickly and has a spongey firmness.

Hoping the new seal fills in the air gaps of the bent pannier lids.

Hoping the new seal fills in the air gaps of the bent pannier lids.

 

 

Brian

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