Nelson-Rigg CTB950-SLR Solar King Tourer Sissybar and Roll Bag Review
[This Nelson-Rigg CTB950-SLR Solar King Tourer Sissybar and Roll Bag Review was originally featured as a web-exclusive from American Rider magazine]
Taking the Nelson-Rigg CTB950-SLR Solar King Tourer out of the box was like sitting in a new car you can’t
afford at the auto show. It looks really nice from a distance—clean, smooth and stylish…a definite upgrade from your old faithful Ford parked in the driveway—but it’s not until you get into it and really start touching things that the fun truly begins. Oooh power windows! Oooh iPod charging dock! Oooh convertible backseats for more cargo room! What’s behind this panel…holy crap! A mini fridge?!
Then you sink back, breath in that new car smell and your mind begins to wander dreaming of a world where you can take a camping trip or carpool a soccer game without having one leg against the windshield and a Colman stove where no stove has gone before.
Ok, so the Nelson-Rigg Solar King Tourer doesn’t come with power windows or a mini fridge and we don’t expect, or recommend, you ever try to carpool a soccer team on your Road Glide…but the Solar King Tourer does have a solar MP3/cellphone/PSP charging station (hence the “SLR”), convertibility that allows you to carry a little or a lot of cargo depending on your daily destination, and we do recommend you go camping on your Road Glide.
Going back to our auto show reference, let’s do our initial walk around to survey this bag from the outside considering style and presentation, then let’s do a hands-on investigation of it’s in depth functions, functionality and overall what makes this sissybar bag not only cool but really convenient.
The outside: How this bag looks and feels
This bag is like the Toyota Prius of touring luggage. Made of fade-resistant deep black UV-treated Tri-max polyester, the Solar King Tourer starts out with the long haul in mind. There is a pleasing symmetry to this bag. With two pockets on each side, two clips in the front, two clips in the back, two pockets in the front and the roll bag on top, every part of this bag feels like it was put there for a reason with thought. Minimal bits of reflective stitching and pocket flap detailing add tasteful bits of added safety without making you look like a crossing guard. When bad weather comes to rain on your parade, the CTB950-SLR comes with a pullover, cinch-bottom rain cover that can be zipped into a condensed adaptation to fit the sissybar bag alone, or expanded to fit over the large sissybar bag with the roll bag addition. The roll bag also comes with a basic smooth black weather cover that adds extra coverage, support, and style as it makes the whole bag appear unified as one streamlined element.
Much like the Prius, I’d describe this bag as classy and clean-cut more than flashy or ornamental. Also like the Prius, the Solar King Tourer’s fun really starts on the inside. I love the Solar King Tourer because it is easy to install, easy to use, convertible, multi-functional and it takes my passenger into consideration.
Installation: How long does it take? Do I need tools, a jumbo jet or a handy man?
In the box you’ll find the large sissybar bag, the roll bag, the roll bag stiffener, the roll bag weather flap, four double-ended male connector clips, two double-ended male connector/loop clips, two shoulder straps, two rain covers (one for the roll bag alone and one for the whole enchilada) and the SLR series solar kit.
Sissybar bag only
If you’re not taking the roll bag and you don’t need the solar panel, the sissybar bag comes out of the box ready to go in three easy steps. Four self-stick straps (trademark name Velcro), line the back of the sissybar bag under a zip-on, zip-off vanity cover. Step one, simply un-zip the vanity cover to reveal the straps, set the Solar King Tourer sissybar bag on your luggage rack and tighten the four straps around your backrest. Step two, take a double-end male connector/loop strap and circle the nylon strap around the backrest, luggage rack or other secure body part, bring the male end through the loop to make a tight noose and then clip the male end into the female connector attached to the bag near the straps. Pull tight. This gives the bag extra security against wind and weather and in case the self-stick straps fail. Step three, close the padded vanity cover and zip it up to cover the straps, clean up the look of your bike and give your passenger a comfort boost (the vanity cover is lightly padded for extra convenience). Five minutes and you’re done. No tools needed.
Sissybar bag + Roll Bag
The Solar King Tourer comes with an optional roll bag that can be attached to the top of the sissybar bag for added luggage room. The roll bag comes flat, like a standard duffle bag. To give the roll bag it’s rigid, hard shell, you have to install the roll bag stiffener. This was the most complicated part of the test because you really have to use some muscle to get the stiffener (a rigid, flat piece of plastic) all the way into the roll bag at all four corners. Once it’s in, though, it’s seriously in and it’s not going anywhere. It took me less than five minutes to get the stiffener into the roll bag but I really had to work for it in those five minutes. From there it’s all cake and pie. The roll bag attaches to the sissybar bag with four two-ended male connectors, which conveniently plug into female connectors permanently attached to both the roll bag and the sissybar bag. Plug them in, leave them there, take the roll bag on and off whenever you want, and never worry about losing a connector. The weather flap, which comes with four male clips attached to it, attaches easily to the sissybar bag via a second set of four female connectors attached to the sissybar bag.
The SLR Series Solar Kit: General Overview
For me, the SLR solar kit that comes with the Solar King Tourer is like the extra cheese on an already awesome plate of nachos. The kit includes a solar panel, a rechargeable battery and seven cables to fit your device of choice (MP3, GPS, PSP, cell phone etc. The SLR kit does NOT charge laptop computers). There are several ways to use the SLR kit including Mother Nature (the sun), your computer via USB and a wall outlet. My favorite is Mother Nature. Put the solar panel in direct sunlight with the battery attached, blue indicator lights on the battery will indicate the battery is charging. You will know when the battery is fully charged because all the blue lights will remain on. Once charged, plug the included USB “OUT” cable into the battery and attach one of the six adaptors to the other end of the cable to charge your device of choice.
The SLR Series Solar Kit: Field Test
In my field test I went with the Mother Nature option because it is the most intriguing to me. The idea of charging my iPod while I am racking up miles on the road or taking a hike in the middle of the Grand Canyon just sounds really awesome. The package says it should take Mother Nature 5-6 hours to fully charge the solar panel depending on the sunlight. In my field test it took the SLR solar panel over 8 hours to fully charge sitting on my patio table in direct sunlight. Granted, it is March, so maybe the “quality of sunlight” isn’t ideal. Once charged, the battery pack worked like a dream and was definitely worth the wait. At 9:20am I plugged the SLR battery pack into my dead iPod. At 11:00am my iPod was completely charged with only a small dent of power taken from the battery pack (battery-pack power is indicated by five blue lights; all five lit means full battery power. The iPod used one light of power).
In my real-life field-testing I also got to test the fragility of the SLR solar panel and battery pack. The package says not to allow the panel or battery to get wet. In my patio table test, the battery and panel both ended up getting wet with a minimal amount of dew—not a lot, but enough moisture that I had to dry them off. The good news; they still work! Although I have learned from my mistake and do not plan to let the panel or battery meet water again, it is good to know you don’t have to baby an item you plan to travel with.
My only complaint about the SLR kit is that it did not come with an adaptor to fit my phone or my boyfriend’s phone (relatively new Samsung brand phones from Verizon and ATT). On the bright side, purchasing the Nelson-Rigg car adaptor plug-in for the SLR kit can easily solve this (Product No: SLR-CIG; MSRP $12.95). With the car charger adaptor, as long as you have a car charger for it, you can charge any small device your heart desires with the SLR battery pack.
Packing and toting Field Test
To field test the CTB950-SLR I packed for two fantasy trips: a 5-day northeast camping jaunt from Los Angeles, California, to Sturgis in South Dakota (1,330 miles) and a shorter weekend trek from Los Angeles to the Rally in the Valley in Primm Valley, Nevada (237 miles).
For the longer camping trip I expanded every pocket possible (the larger sissybar bag body and bottom two side-pockets) and packed assuming I would not have a washer/dryer. Without straining the zippers I was able to comfortably fit into the sissybar bag the following list:
– 2 pants
– 6 shirts
– 3 long underwear shirts
– 5 socks
– Fleece pajama pants
– Pullover sweatshirt
– Scarf, Hat, Gloves
– Tennis shoes
– Backpack for carrying my items around Sturgis when I got there
– Bathing suit
– Sleeping bag
– Mess Kit
– Toiletries including: Sunscreen, Aspirin, Dental Floss, Toothbrush, tooth paste, hand lotion, face wash, bar soap, wet naps, chap stick (Note: These are all full-size items, not travel size, and they all fit into one expanded side pocket)
– Make-up bag stuffed for a girl’s night out
– Reading book
– Road Snacks
– Expandable Nelson-Rigg rain cover for bag
– Guidebooks and maps
– iPod + charger
– Cellphone + charger
– Solar panel charger connected to iPod
If you are out of breath reading it, imagine how I felt packing it! The Solar King Tourer is the clown car of touring luggage! Completely empty the unit is surprisingly lightweight considering its size: I can comfortably carry it with one arm and lift it over my head without strain. After I packed the Grand Buffet of luggage into the sissybar bag I thought for sure the weight would be ridiculous—but it still wasn’t. Of course a baby elephant worth of gear has some weight to it, but I, a 5’5 medium-size woman, was still able to lift the bag myself, put the bag on my back using the attached backpack straps (these hide neatly in a zippered pocket behind the vanity cover and self-stick straps when not in use), and wear the bag as a backpack without major issue. I wouldn’t recommend walking around Sturgis all day with a baby elephant worth of gear on your back, but I would not take any issue with carrying this bag backpack-style for a mile to my campsite if I were to pull off the road and have to hike in a minimal amount. The backpack straps really make this bag easy to take with you after you dismount the bike.
I love the versatility this bag offers. I personally chose to use the roll bag as my “emergency” items bag, filling it with a roadside tool kit, a towel and a rain suit in preparation for bag weather. You might choose to use this bag as your camera case or to pack a single night’s worth of clothes and necessities for convenient hotel-room access (so you don’t have to go digging around in your neatly packed saddle bag until you reach your final destination).
In it’s expanded state and its compact state, the visual appearance of the CTB950-SLR remains about the same. For my shorter fantasy trip to the Rally in the Valley I did not expand any of the three expandable pockets and only used the space I had available in the bag’s most compact state. This meant leaving at home 3 everyday shirts, 2 long underwear shirts, the pajama pants, the sleeping bag and the mess kit. Really a minimal loss, but remember the baby elephant bag was not packed to stretch any zippers: there was definite room for cramming if you’re the kind of person who likes to take the refrigerator when you travel. I like that the Solar King Tourer adapts to fit the needs of my individual tour—it’s a big bag when I want to camp, but when I am only out for a weekend journey it can condense so my minimal gear isn’t banging around in the bag with lots of empty space.
In Conclusion and my Favorite Part
The CTB950-SLR Solar King Tourer has lots of five-star elements in my mind. I like how the female clips are attached to the bag but tuck away neatly in little pockets when not in use. I am very impressed by the amount of load the expandable pockets can carry and I love the backpack straps that can be hidden for a clean look when not in use. My favorite part of this bag is definitely the SLR solar panel system, though. The SLR is to the CTB950-SLR what the hybrid system is to the Prius—it takes an already cool item to the next level. Although the solar panel took longer than expected to fully charge in my field test, I found when the panel was charged that it worked really well and was able to fully charge my iPod quickly, with little battery loss. For anyone who is into motorcycle camping, like I am, the SLR ensures being in the middle of nowhere will not stop you from kicking out the jams or calling AAA for a mountain-view flat fix.
Design wise, the Solar King Tourer does a great job incorporating the solar panel in a way that allows the solar panel to be exposed to the sun at all times while you are riding, thus allowing you to log some miles while your phone charges instead of watching a pot boil in your hotel room for an hour. I also appreciate that the solar panel is removable so I can pack it in a daypack and use it when I am on foot.
I would recommend the Solar King Tourer to anyone who is serious about touring. It’s a good-looking bag that adapts to fit your travel needs as they change from tour to tour. I found the Solar King Tourer to be easy to navigate, almost entirely self-explanatory, easily installed, convenient, lightweight, transportable and good looking. In conclusion, I found the Solar King Tourer to be a lot like a new car you can’t afford in the sense that it looks good, it smells good, and it has options that raise the bar. What’s the difference between the Solar King Tourer and a new car? I can afford the Solar King Tourer.
What you’ll find in the box and how to order your own
The CTB950-SLR Solar King Tourer comes with an expandable sissybar bag, a roll bag, a roll bag cover that unifies the roll bag with the sissybar bag, rain covers for both the sissybar bag and the roll bag, two detachable shoulder carry-straps and the SLR solar kit. For more information on the CTB950-SLR Solar King Tourer please contact Nelson-Rigg online at www.nelsonrigg.com or call at 714-850-1811.