Product test: Wolfman Beta Boulder bag

When Rob headed out to BC to ride Yamaha’s new FZ-07 this spring, he figured he’d keep the bike for a few extra days and do a tour. Great idea! Except, the bike isn’t a factory tourer, and doesn’t come with accessory luggage.

Enter the Wolfman Boulder Beta. Like many of Wolfman’s products, the Boulder Beta is rackless and universal – you don’t need to bolt on any accessory bits to make it work with a motorcycle, and it will fit any motorcycle out there, within reason (more on that later).

Since the Wolfman is really just a voluminous kit bag that’s been tweaked a bit for motorcycle use, Rob could pack everything he needed for his tour into the bag and use it as luggage for the flight over too (thanks to the handy large carrying handle to boot).

Wolfman’s got a great rep for making tough luggage, so we figured it all made sense. We called them, they sent the bag, and a few days later, we were underway.

ROB’S EXPERIENCE

The Boulder Beta fit the FZ-07 well.
The Boulder Beta fit the FZ-07 well.

When I was invited to the FZ-07 launch on Vancouver Island in the spring, I managed to convince Yamaha to let me ride off with one of the bikes for a quick tour afterwards. But since the FZ-07 didn’t come with luggage, the Boulder Beta was ideal for putting on the back of a bike that would have issues with a regular pair of soft saddlebags.

The “n” shape of the bag, copious straps and its ability to carry volume higher up means that the side bags don’t drop down to get close to the wheel. You do need to be careful of any high pipes though the FZ’s low slung exhaust was fine.

Lund_mile1It’s quite a quick set up (about 10 minutes on the FZ-07) and then thanks to the internal bags, it can remain undisturbed for the duration of your trip. You need to pack smart and keep anything heavy (tools, etc) low and forward but despite a full load I didn’t notice any adverse effect on the bike’s handling. However, the bag does take the passenger spot, so you may have the choice of bringing the better half or luggage.

Once you have it loaded, any looseness can be taken up by several compressions straps and a large upper rear zipper allows easy access to all three zones easily and quickly. You could add a small padlock to this for some security but any soft bag is going to be more susceptible to a thief, so I bought a backpack with me for my laptop, camera and other valuables. The upper storage section of the Boulder Beta when full also doubled up as a convenient resting platform for my backpack, ensuing my shoulder didn’t take the strain over the days.

B.C.'s weather proved a good test for the waterproofness.
B.C.’s weather proved a good test for the waterproofness.

Also, being in BC I managed to do a rather thorough test of the waterproofing. The Boulder Beta sensibly does not try and be waterproof unto itself, rather it comes with three dry bags (one for each side and the other for the top bit) which not only help divide up gear nicely and enable easy unpacking (one bag can have all you hotel gear for example) but were also 100% waterproof.

To summarize, the Wolfman Boulder Beta not only works well but is well made and tough. Wolfman have a good reputation and anything else we’ve tried from them has proven to be good quality. Honestly, I can’t find anything to complain about. Well recommended for the rider who wants to strap on luggage capacity when they need it, though not suitable for two up touring.

ZAC’S TAKE

I picked the Boulder Beta up a few weeks after Rob got back and had a couple chances to use it this summer as well, on a couple of different bikes.

The Wolfman bag worked very well on Zac's DR350, proving itself as a reliable, waterproof bag that could haul a surprising amount of equipment.
The Wolfman bag worked very well on Zac’s DR350, hauling a surprising amount of equipment.

First off, I used it on my Suzuki DR350. Now, the 350 is not a big bike; despite folks like Austin Vince using it as an adventure bike, it’s more suited to dual-sport work closer to home. However, I did manage to pack the Wolfman aboard the Suzuki, with room to spare.

It went on very quickly; unlike some of the soft luggage out there, there isn’t a proliferation of buckles and straps going in every direction to confuse things. Two straps reach to the pegs, two straps reach back to the rack or frame, and that’s it. Put the bag on the bike in a loose fit, pack it, then tighten the straps (I found it best to tighten the rear first, then the forward straps). No instructions were read throughout this process!

Packing the Beta is straightforward – put gear in waterproof liner bags, put liner bags inside Boulder bag, zip shut. Unlike some of the competition’s similar luggage, I found the zipper was easy to close after packing. If you don’t have the Beta packed to max capacity (a problem I never had!), then there straps around the exterior of the Beta that can be used to tighten the slack up, so you don’t have your soft luggage flapping around in the wind. You could also use those straps to keep an extra drybag attached.

Riders with high exhaust pipes need to be careful about mounting the Beta bag too far back. An exhaust guard (like the excellent one from Giant Loop) is recommended; otherwise, keep the bag forward and use your extra rack space to strap on a dry bag.
Riders with high exhaust pipes need to be careful about mounting the Beta bag too far back. An exhaust guard (like the excellent one from Giant Loop) is recommended; otherwise, keep the bag forward and use your extra rack space to strap on a dry bag.

I was able to pack everything I needed for my Magdalen Islands trip into the Beta; It took the combined capacity of the BMW F800 GS’s aluminum panniers to swallow that load. As a result, I think this bag has enough capacity to keep most touring riders going down the road for weeks, if you’re a prudent packer.

If you need to pack a lot of camping equipment, you might need to strap on an additional dry bag or something, but the Boulder Beta has extra straps for that very need and with some thought, you should be able to make this bag take care of most of your needs.

(Of course, that’s coming from a guy who packs pretty light).

While the Boulder Beta is a universal fit, you need to exercise some common sense. This bag just won’t work well with some bikes. Take, for example, my brief experiment with Honda’s CBR500R. There just isn’t enough room on the pillion seat to mount the bag comfortably, pushing the rider far enough forward that a chance encounter with a pothole endangered my family jewels.

The Boulder Beta isn't waterproof, but Wolfman's dry bags do a handy job of keeping out the H20, as well as offering you a bit of organization.
The Boulder Beta isn’t waterproof, but Wolfman’s dry bags do a handy job of keeping out the H20, as well as offering you a bit of organization.

I expect the same would apply with most sport bikes, and other machines with minimal pillion space. I am pretty sure if you asked Wolfman staff, they’d steer you towards smaller bags with similar styling for those machines.

In summary – I am a big fan of Wolfman products, and this bag meets my expectations for a product from the company. It’s tough, waterproof, and offers a very universal fit, within sensible guidelines.

At roughly $450, it isn’t cheap. However, try bolting a set of racks, then a set of aluminum panniers on your adventure bike, and you’ll probably spend much more. Their biggest competition in the price department here is likely their own lineup; their Rolie bags are much more affordable, although they don’t offer the same capacity.


GALLERY

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