Hauling a decent load on a sporty bike has always been a challenge. Modern supersports are often saddlebag- and tailbag-unfriendly; they’ve been so for some time, in fact. That’s why the Ventura Bike-Pack system has been popular over the years: Its mounting system is independent of the bike’s bodywork and universal within the Ventura line so that a series of packs can be made to fit a wide range of motorcycles.
The Ventura system starts with model-specific L brackets that bolt to the bike. For the first-generation (2001-2005) Yamaha FZ1 that was our testbed, the brackets took the place of the passenger grab rails. The L brackets end with two upturned sockets into which fit a variety of accessories. For the tall bags, use the Pack-Rack upper; for smaller loads, use the optional Sport-Rack ($75); when you elect to leave the luggage at home, fit the Grab-Handle ($29).
A new addition to the Ventura line is the Mistral I pack. Swallowing a claimed 47 liters of your stuff, the Mistral features four molded exterior pockets and internal stiffeners so the bag keeps its shape even with a partial load. As with all Ventura bags, the Mistral slips over the tall Pack-Rack and secures with two lightweight straps; the bulk of the bag is carried by the Pack-Rack’s integral baggage shelf.
The fit and finish of the Mistral bag and the mounts are first-rate; installation on the FZ1 took less than half an hour. Inserting any of the upper racks into the L brackets required a bit of jimmying, but they were secure once in place. To accommodate passengers, the pack can be placed facing aft, but the Pack-Rack can be reversed, which loads the cargo farther forward and overhangs the passenger portion of the saddle.
And what a load. Forty-seven liters is a lot for a single rider and sufficient for a couple’s long weekend. If that’s not enough, you can join two Mistrals via a zipper connection. (Really, do you need that much stuff?) Those external pockets make a huge difference, allowing you to sort your gear logically for quick access on the road. Although the Mistral is water-resistant—including protected zippers—the optional Storm-Cover ($31.40) is recommended.
If there’s a negative to the Ventura Bike-Pack system, it’s that you can place a lot of weight high and aft. Turns out, our FZ1 didn’t mind a moderate load with the bag facing rearward, but you could feel the heft in quick transitions. Lighter sportbikes with shorter wheelbases can be expected to be even more tender in this regard. Also, the L brackets alone look pretty geeky, an impression not helped by the less-than-sleek grab handle. But if you’re looking for a lot of capacity without the risk of boning up your bike’s bodywork, the Ventura Bike-Pack is the way to go.
Ventura Motorcycle Accessories
6925 216th St. SW #E
Lynwood, WA 98036
• More capacity than you’ll ever need
• Sturdy bag, nicely organized
• Mounting kits for nearly every modern bike
• Rack-only geek factor off the charts
• Be careful with the aft loading
• Friends will ask you to carry their crap