Monday, October 20, 2014

Nomada cases - the best pannier system in the world!

A lot has been written about Nomada Cases in the past, known for it's well designed and strong panniers. Most of what has been written about them on the internet is just plain wrong. Apart from having used the panniers for over 60,000 km now to full satisfaction, we knew practically nothing about them either. As part of our around the world trip, we visited them to find the real story. Read on and learn to know the people that make, in my humble opinion, simply the best panniers in the world.

These panniers have been with me on this trip since
day one. They have 60,000 hard km behind them,
never failed and saved my leg and the bike in Belize.
I wouldn't change them for anything else!
Tomasz started his own company 13 years ago, making dog barriers for car manufacturers like Mitsubishi, Mazda and Ford. He quickly built a reputation for first class work for a good price and the business grew. When Tomasz bought himself a BMW 1150GS and went looking for accessories he wasn't impressed with what he found. The prices were high, the quality not all that good and the designs left a lot to be desired too. Tomasz is a thinker, a thinker with practical knowledge. It came as no surprise then that he designed his own accessories for his BMW. He took his designs to one of the major adventure touring accessories suppliers who must have been impressed as they became their supplier for the next 7 years!

Tomasz designed most of the accessories too yet the relationship ended abruptly when Tomasz asked for a 3% price increase to combat the devaluation of the Polish Zloty to the Euro. For 7 years he had supplied products which were sold by that major adventure accessories supplier with a profit margin of 300%… yet a 3% increase was turned down. Tomasz didn't want to compromise on quality or materials, he also wanted to pay the people working for him a decent wage and thus branched out on his own. A big gamble. Today he is 100% dedicated to motorcycles and Adventure Touring in particular.

Since then a lot has changed. Nomad-ADV in The Netherlands became the world wide distributor for Nomada Cases (see Nomad-ADV.com), which through hard work and customer service became quite a success story in its own right. So much so that Nomada Cases is perhaps what they are best known for, while they are in essence a company building travel bikes. See the Husqarna 701 they've transformed into a proper travel machine for instance. Place your orders now! Professional preparation of motorcycles for travelling is the speciality of Nomad-ADV. Nomada Cases are a big part of that and fit well in the philosophy of top quality products for a fair price.

The continuous strive for better products is visible everywhere you look. The aluminium welding is the best in the business. The mounting system is simple and strong, each pannier is double sealed and made from top grade 2 mm aluminium with proper corner protectors and a double lip at the bottom (the point of impact) which is even 4 mm thick. Our cases have taken quite a lot of impact, one of which had the bike airborne and landing on the pannier… I must admit that particular fall damaged the pannier… it had a small dent as it also landed on a rock, but was still waterproof.

The panniers fitted to mine are the oldest. They haven't had to endure any serious crashes yet (touch wood) apart from a fall in Belize where they prevented any damage to the bike and more importantly my leg! They've been rattled and shaken for 60,000 km on roads that we're beyond belief, and also beyond the capabilities of Bonneville suspension. Just look through some of the pages on Central America on this blog to see what I mean. They really have had a hard life.
Having seen the Metal Mule boxes which are poorly finished and look like they've come out of an agricultural shop; and BMWs own cases which are as flimsy as cardboard, there is no denying that the Nomadas look and feel superb. 

Yet Tomasz is continuously looking for improvements. The latest panniers for instance are painted with a new structural powder coat finish which is even more scratch resistant than regular powder coating. It's more a Teflon coating. The newer versions also have different hinges which are even easier to use. At the moment Tomasz is working with the Wroclaw University of Technology, where he studied himself, on a new mounting system. The current mounting system is strong and simple to use but Holan has listened to it's customers who want a click-system. There is nothing on the market that is easy to use and strong enough, so he is designing one.

Still, there is more than strong boxes. You need strong frames too and… frames that are attached the right way to the motorcycle frame. If the pannier frame survives a crash but is mounted on the wrong spot on the frame, it will crack the bike frame! We have seen a lot of pannier frames which are very poorly designed, including the expensive Touratech ones. So much so that Touratech boxes have for us become synonymous with droopy ears… as a lot of them hang askew on the bikes and come off the frames easily too. When I first saw the Nomadas, I was impressed. We've since learned that they are very strong, even stronger than we thought they were. 

Jeanette's pannier being repaired to as new condition at Holan in Wroclaw
We were pleasantly surprised with what we found in Wroclaw: lovely people! People that create in steel, stainless steel and aluminium. Non of that indifferent factory feel but more an intimate workshop feel. A workshop where panniers, pannier racks, crash bars and headlight guards are made by a small group of people. Real people, no welding robots, no high tech machinery but dedicated craftsmen with proper tools that have pride in their work and manufacture high quality products. It's a dedication that shows when I asked for a couple of damaged pop rivets to be replaced on Jeanette's pannier while we were there. The rivets weren't leaking but just to make sure I asked them to replace them. They weren't having any of it. The pannier was removed, the small dent knocked out, the nylon protector replaced, the whole section re-sealed and then put together again with new waterproof pop rivets… Needless to say the pannier is like new again, simply replacing the rivets would have done the job but was an un-acceptable bodge job to them!

Frames being checked against a jig for a perfect fit
I saw the same dedication in the frames they produce. They are manufactured and welded on a jig; are then cleaned up and finished by hand, before they return to the workshop foreman who checks each and every frame again to the jig. When we fitted the Nomada racks to the Yamaha XT660R we found one of them didn't really fit… yet both frames fitted perfectly to each other. We measured the Yamaha frame and found that to be 'out'…

Our Nomada Cases have been perfect. There is no other word for it. They have protected our cameras and computer gear perfectly. They have also prevented serious damage to the bikes and the riders, that last bit alone makes them more than worth the money. Talking of money, have a look at their prices on the website… and then realise they are also the best pannier system money can buy.

Custom made foot extender for our Triumph Bonneville, final touches being done to clear both muffler and centre stand
While we were there, I asked for a couple of bits of aluminium that we can place under our side stands when we park in grass or sand. For the Yamaha XT660R and Z models they make a nifty foot extender, which Mike now has on his bike. For the Bonneville they had nothing of course. It's also tricky to make something as the side stand is very close to the mufflers and we have a centre stand fitted as well. Tomasz had a look and came up with a foot extender idea, which they made while we were there! It's bolted on, so no welding on the bike and it's removable, and works a treat!

Tomasz and Aleksandra, the lovely people behind Nomada cases, who against the odds persevered and now make the best pannier systems in the world. 
It's a true family firm, which makes a small but growing range of panniers with frames and mounting kits for most adventure touring bikes. If they don't make a pannier frame for your bike then they can also supply you with the hoops to make your own frame.

At the moment Tomasz and Aleksandra are looking for a new workshop. They have so much work that they need bigger premises. When I asked if he had considered moving production abroad, like most of the bigger pannier brands have, Tomasz answered decisively 'no!' we will stay in Poland, providing income for Polish families and producing a Polish product. If you're interested in Nomada cases then contact Nomad-ADV.com

Finland near the Arctic Circle, the thumbs up says it all!



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