How to fit Holan crash bars

After a long wait (almost two months), I finally got the Holan crash bars for the AT. I have already fitted handguards, so all that remains now before I can offroad with peace of mind is a pair of knobbly tires.

I picked up the bars from the shipping company and as I was taking the tools out to the front yard I was readying my mind for whatever challenges Holan was going to throw at me this time – missing bolts, nuts or washers? misaligned mountings? – both from personal experience with the panniers and from what I usually read on forums, I was sure something was not going to go as planned. And I wasn’t wrong.

The surprise came as soon as I unpacked the upper crash bars. Holan makes two models, the ‘standard’ one and the ‘Pro’ one. The main difference, other than a slight difference in shape and the position of the bar that crosses under the headlight, is that the ‘Pro’ one has two additional mounting points that fit in the radiator mounts of the motorbike. Whether you want them or not, if you are buying them through the Spanish distributor, these are the only available option, but surprise motherf***er! Mine did not have the extra mounting points. They sure were shaped like the ‘Pro’ ones, but that bit was missing.

I had chosen Holan because I liked the fact that they covered as much of the fairing as the products from Honda, Touratech and Hepco & Becker for considerably less money, but also because they already included mounting points for the fog lamps. As for how sturdy they are, only time and crashes will tell. None of the alternatives (except for the Motortek ones) have the mounting points to the radiators, and having waited two months, I was not very keen on sending them back and face another two months wait, particularly when my holidays are coming up and I need the bike equipped for the trip, so I decided to keep them and ask for the difference to be reimbursed (the ‘Pro’ ones are 25€ more expensive). Time to fit them and see if there were other ‘surprises’ in store (other than the known fact that Holan does not include instructions).

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Instructions

The good news about both the upper and lower Holan crash bars is that they do not require the exhaust manifold to be removed, as they do not attach to the upper bolt in the engine mount, making things a lot easier.

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I decided to start with the engine crash bars, as they only have two mounting points each and the process is very straightforward. At the back both use the mounting point for the piece of plastic that keeps your boots from scratching against the frame. Remove the Allen bolt and pull the plastic out on both sides of the bike.

IMG_9548Holan provides two longer Allen bolts with a washer to replace the OEM ones. (I like the fact that they seem to be of considerably better quality). Nothing missing so far.

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At the front, the right one uses one of the bolts that connect the cradle frame coming from the bottom of the engine to the vertical beam between the radiators.

IMG_9551The OEM bolt is long enough, so no replacement bolt is provided. It is a bit tricky to remove with your fingers and to put back in place with the crash bar, but both to loosen it first and then to tighten it again there is enough space to work with a spanner without any problems.

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There have been reports of problems with the plate at the back end of the right engine crash bar touching and bending a bit the plastic that protects the clutch housing. Some people have just left it that way, others have filed off a bit of plastic (number 2 on this picture, which is from a DCT model). I had no such problems.

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The left crash bar mounts on the lower bolt of the front engine mount, and this is shared with the upper left crash bar, so you need to fit both at the same time.

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At this point, the easiest way to proceed is to line up both upper crash bars, insert all bolts, nuts, spacers, and washers without tightening them and then tighten them one by one. It is much, much easier if you have a friend to help you hold the bars while putting everything in place.

Here was where I had the second and only other problem. The upper and lower crash bars are sold as separate products; you can buy and fit one or the other independently or both at the same time. The thing is, Holan does not make any special provisions for those who are going to fit both, which means that when it comes to the lower bolt on the front engine mount, they provide a longer bolt with the lower crash bars to accommodate the flange at the front of the bar, and another bolt of the exact same length with the upper crash bars to accommodate the flange at the bottom of those bars. See where this is going? When you put both flanges together in the same point, neither of the bolts provided separately is long enough.

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I had to leave things half mounted and go try to find the right bolt. More than an hour and three specialised shops later, I got one.

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At the top, the two halves of the upper crash bars are held together with two Allen bolts which are colour silver and stand out quite a lot against the black bar. It might be a good idea to either paint them or replace them with black ones.

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The other mounting point for the upper crash bars (unless they are the ‘Pro’ ones) is under the headlight. Two plastic spacers and two bolts and nuts are provided. In my case, everything lined up without any problems and did not have to modify or bend anything.

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Now we only have to wait and see how they fare when I start dropping the bike.

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How to fit a Holan Nomada Pro II pannier system to the AT

If you are only looking for instructions on how to install the pannier system on your bike, scroll down until you find the INSTRUCTIONS section. If you are bored at the office and fancy reading the whole story, read on.

This Polish pannier system costs about 200€ less than the equivalent offering from Touratech and includes a right pannier with an exhaust cut, something that the German manufacturer seems to refuse to make for any bike other than BMWs. They are mostly (more on that later) a match for the German quality, so taking into account the added benefit of the exhaust cut, where does the difference in price come from?

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Instructions, apparently. The Poles do not include a single piece of instructions for their products. You get the panniers, the support hoops, a few metal tubes bent in different shapes and a bag of bolts, nuts, washers and spacers and are left to do your best to guess how it all fits together onto your bike. Not that Holan is trying to save the Amazon by eliminating the need for printed instructions, mind you, there is not even a PDF on their website. Really Holan? Really? Is it that hard?

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Better be a Meccano fan, then.

Holan panniers usually come with the mounting points already fitted at no extra cost, which is another advantage over Touratech, but in my case I got a pair that the Spanish dealer had in stock to avoid the long wait for the panniers to be shipped from Poland, and I was aware that I would have to fit the mountings myself. That was not a problem, though, as I had experience on my old Touratech panniers, the only drawback was that it is a time consuming process.

The first racks that Holan made did not have any mounting points to the back of the subframe to avoid the need to drill through the fender, but they flexed too much and the design was modified to include an extra mounting point. This single picture of the new rack had made its way to the web, but that was all the information I had:

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I assumed that it would require the same process as the Touratech, GIVI and Globescout systems, drilling a couple of holes through the rear fender to attach it to the end of the subframe. Two things did not look quite right, though.

First, looking at the picture above, those two bolts seemed to be too far back to fit through the fender at the end of the subframe, they were more like under the rear light or license plate.

Second, with the bits and pieces already scattered in front of me, the H-shaped plate where those bolts mount was too wide and too flat to fit under the fender, which has a pronounced inverted U shape. Maybe it fit on the other side of it, under the seat?

I decided to loosely mount the hoops on the attachment points on the passenger footpegs and the front of the subframe to try to figure out how the new parts fit together, and after a few minutes of fiddling it dawned on me. They attach under the rear luggage rack, not the subframe! So the good news is, the Holan system still requires no drilling.

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From that moment on, it was only a matter of figuring out where all the bolts, nuts, washers and spacers went. Here is how to fit it:

INSTRUCTIONS

Remove the seat. It is not necessary to remove the pillion seat, although it is advisable to avoid getting it dirty by accident, particularly if you have the red one.

Remove the two bolts that hold the luggage rack and passenger handles to the subframe that are closer to the front of the bike. The Holan rack attaches directly to these points, a solution which I prefer to them hanging from the existing points for the OEM luggage.

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Remove the passenger footpegs. You will need to completely remove them, as one bolt will hold the rack mounting point and the other requires a spacer.

If you have a top case or luggage rack, you will also need to remove it (not my case yet).

Important! If your panniers come with the mounting system already fitted, you can start installing the rack on the bike now. If you need to drill the holes to mount them, do not mount it on the bike yet, you need the hoops to take measurements to mark the drilling points on the panniers. I explain this process further below, so read that now if you need to, then come back here once your mounting system is fitted to the panniers and you are ready to fit the rack on the bike.

The easiest way to make sure that everything lines up as it should before you start tightening bolts is to mount all the parts onto the bike and fit all the bolts and nuts loosely, then start progressively tightening them. More often than not, something will not line up and it will require pulling, pushing or bending.

In my case, and at least one other member of the Spanish forum, the mounting point to the subframe for the exhaust side hoop required extreme force to line up with the hole. Not wanting the bolt’s thread to get damaged later, I put it on a bench vise and bent the mounting point slightly backwards with a precision correction tool (also known as ‘hammer’). After that everthing fit without any problems.

The lower mounting point attaches to the upper bolt of the passenger footpeg. Because this will cause the footpeg to be slightly further outwards than before, you need to use the provided spacers in the lower bolt. Don’t remove the washers that come with the footpegs.

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At the back, mount the lower bracing bar that connects the bottom of the hoops together with a washer on both sides of the bolt. The side with the more open angle is the exhaust side.

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To fit the extra mounting point under the luggage rack you need to use the eight special spacers. Put four on the holes on the luggage rack from the top (narrow side down) and drop the long Allen bolts with the rounded head into them.

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Now comes the tricky part – you need to fit the other four washers (wide side up) up the bolts, fit the H plate without them falling (and with the welded threads facing up) and start screwing the self locking nuts. Do not tighten them completely.

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To finish, attach the L shaped mountings from the top of the hops to the H plate under the luggage rack.

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They fit with the angle facing to the ground so that they clear the indicators. In my case, Holan had not included the two bolts needed to fit them to the H plate, so I had to find a pair from my personal stock.

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The only thing left to do now is to go around the rack and progressively tighten all the bolts and nuts. All the nuts provided are self locking, but it is always advisable to check everything has settled in properly after a few days riding and to put a drop of thread locking glue in them to make sure that nothing comes loose.

FITTING THE PANNIER MOUNTS

For those of you unlucky enough to get the panniers without their mounts already fitted, here is how to do it.

With the old Touratech Zega panniers, or any others that do not have rounded or cut corners, nor an exhaust cut, it was possible to play a bit with the mounting points to find the best position – a bit further back, or closer to the front, higher or lower… in order to do this properly the best method was to mount the racks on the bike, check exactly where you wanted them (usually with a passenger) and then remove the panniers to use the hoops to mark the exact drilling points with the panniers lying on their side on the floor. In this case there is not much room for lateral movement, and you can’t choose the height as that is determined by the exhaust cut, so you can take all the measurements to drill the holes without the need to mount the rack on the bike before.

Take the pannier with the exhaust cut, lay it on its side, place the hoop on it and measure the distance across to both edges.

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There is a bit of room to mount it slightly forward or backward, but not much, and mounting it in the middle means that you minimize the risk of making a mistake then transferring these measurements to the other pannier (see my previous post about that) and that you will be able to swap left and right if in the future you buy a bike with the exhaust on the other side (providing Holan makes a rack for that one, that is).

Then measure the distance from the top of the hoop to the lid. And write all these numbers down.

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With the hoop in the exact position you want, place the plastic pucks on their correct position on the inside of the hoop (you will need a friend to hold it down in position for you to make sure it does not move a millimeter, or alternatively, put some weight on it). Take a long thin pencil or even better, a metal punch, and mark the position of holes of the plastic pucks on the pannier.

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Remove everything and drill the holes (5mm for the small bolts, 8mm for the big ones).

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Clean the metal shavings with a bigger diameter drill and mount everything in the following order: from the inside – the reinforcement plates (small) and the bolts; from the outside – the reinforcement plates (long) the plastic pucks, the metal plates (at the bottom) and the rotating locking plates (at the top). Make sure the 8mm holes at the top are wide enough for the rotating locking plates to turn freely.

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In my case, I had to add a spacer for the locking knobs inside the pannier, as they are too close to the head of the small bolt, and no spacers were included in the kit.

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The hoops have a small metal bump onto which the rotating locking plate fits to make sure they do not turn as you are tightening them. One of them did not fit (the cut on the plate seemed to be too short) so I had to lengthen the cut a bit.

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All in all, two bolts and four spacers missing, a mounting point on the rack that required some “aligning”, a cut on a locking plate that needed lengthening and no instructions. If you like DIY, have access to tools and want panniers with an exhaust cut, these are a very good choice. For 200€ more, and if you forego the exhaust cut, the Touratech ones come with instructions. I don’t know about the latest models, but my old Zega ones (first generation) still required drilling (more holes, actually) and the rack also needed bending. No missing bolts or spacers, though. If you want the full GSA look, try Globescout. Instructions, anodized ,no drilling and supposedly excellent quality. They are 300€ more. Oh, and Holan prices include shipping.

Time to load up the beast – which luggage system to choose?

Soft luggage or hard luggage? The debate has been going on and on forever, and I am not going to further it here. To cut to the chase – both.

The AT is supposed to be a decent offroad machine, so the choice should have been clear – soft luggage, but I will also use mine as a long distance, 2 up, touring machine with the occasional excursion into unpaved roads, which requires the extra capacity and added security of hard cases. So the decision was made to buy a set of aluminum panniers for the upcoming trip this summer and use my Ortlieb bag for solo excursions into the dirt. If I do another long solo trip I might buy a pair of saddlebags and strap them to the racks of the aluminum panniers.

With that settled, the question was – which ones?

I had a Touratech system on the V-Strom and was very happy with it – those boxes had withstood countless falls and drops and I had always been able to bang them into shape. The V-Strom and the AT have the exhaust on the same side, which means that I could simply buy the rack and keep using the old boxes, but a few things stopped me from doing so.

IMG_6520Firstly, when drilling the holes for the mounting points on the panniers for the old bike I made a measuring mistake that meant that one of them was mounted further back than the other. Not by a big margin, mind you, but it is noticeable and something that still annoys me to this day.

Secondly, having the exhaust on one side only meant that one of the boxes had to be smaller than the other, and the rather fat ass of the V-Strom meant that I had to go for the smallest combo that Touratech sold to keep things as narrow as possible. For the AT I wanted a system with a cut on the exhaust side, GS-style, to maximize luggage space and keep the boxes close to the bike.

IMG_6700Last but not least, the old boxes had all the ‘medals’ (i.e. country stickers) that the other bike had rightfully earned, and it seemed plain wrong to have them on the new, yet unproven bike. I know this sounds stupid to a lot of people, but I believe that the AT has to earn its wings.

2013-09-02 20.40.19It was time to do some market research, then.

The only two companies I found that manufactured a system with an exhaust side cut were Holan, based in Poland, and Globescout, from Turkey.

Both offer excellent products of the best quality, but I went for Holan because they are a bit cheaper and have a dealer near Barcelona. Unfortunately, things were not going to be so easy.

The moment I got my new bike I ordered a top case from them because I need a minimum of luggage capacity to go to work every day, and I thought I would save the money for the panniers and buy them a month or so before the summer trip. However, it seems that Holan, having been one of the very first companies to put luggage systems for the new AT in the market, have been flooded with orders and have a huge backlog. At the time of writing these lines I still have not received the top case or the crash bars I ordered. This made me fear that the panniers would not make it in time for the summer.

To make things worse, another AT owner and member of the Spanish forum who had placed an order earlier than me received his luggage system and his impressions were not good at all.

The AT is a tricky bike to mount luggage racks on. It is designed for the OEM plastic cases and that’s it, no easily accessible mounting points have been designed for anything else, meaning that luggage manufacturers have had to get creative. It is easy to attach a rack to classic points on the passenger footpegs and the front of the subframe, but not to the back of it. The solution that Touratech and GIVI have found is to drill through the plastic fender to access two mounting points at the end of the subframe and attach the back of the rack there from below.

GIVI instructions

Touratech instructions

Holan decided to add a reinforcement bar from the top of the loops to the passenger footpeg and forego the rear mounting points. According to them they had tested the system with the technical department of a Polish university and it worked fine. However, with the system on his bike, the forum member I mentioned above was far from happy. He reported that the setup had a lot of flex, even unloaded, and that he would not dare take his bike offroad for fear of the whole thing coming off the bike.

That was not looking good, so I started looking into the Globescout option. I got on the phone with them and they confirmed that their system also required drilling to access the subframe, which was reassuring, but it was noticeably more expensive than Holan, and if I wanted to have a matching top box I would have to cancel my order and get one from them, which was twice the price of a Holan one.

I was starting to consider forgetting about the exhaust cut and get a GIVI system when I saw a link posted on the forum to a French blog that said that Holan had admitted the design flaw and modified the system with an additional mounting point at the back and posted a picture of the supposedly new system. The people on the forum said that they had got in touch with Holan’s dealer in Spain, but they could not confirm whether or when that modification would be available.

IMG_4001-1After a lot of unanswered phone calls to Twin Trails, the Spanish dealer, I finally managed to get someone on the phone who told me that the racks were already shipping with the additional mounting point. Not only that, he already had some in stock, and if I wanted the 45L panniers with black lids, he also had a pair. It was the size I wanted and I did not mind the black lids instead of aluminum ones, so I jumped at the chance. A week later, they were delivered to my doorstep.

More on fitting the system to the bike soon.