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The Jesse Luggage Story

Jesse Luggage has been pushed, pulled and tested world-wide by riders from all corners of the globe. Built for the conditions the world hands you, this is the ultimate luggage system for your motorcycling adventures – from weekend rides to that round-the-world trip of a lifetime.

Al Jesse explains how it all began…

The whole idea of making aluminum luggage and touring accessories really started on my trip through Africa way back in 1985. I had flown to London and purchased a brand new BMW R80ST, which I planned to ride through Europe and into Africa, following that year’s Paris-Dakar route.

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While traveling, I envisioned a sensible set of luggage; big enough to pack everything I wanted with me, sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of harsh riding conditions, secure enough to keep out the dust and rain and the eyes of the curious, and versatile enough to be used for any kind of riding. After ten months on the road, I returned to the US and started playing in my garage. I came up with a rough design and headed down to Central America to test them out.

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After making about a dozen truly handmade sets of luggage for travelers passing through my California home, I was approached by Andy Goldfine of Aerostich fame. He was putting together a catalog of adventure motorcycle gear and wanted my panniers in it. I was skeptical that these handmade cases could be produced in any quantity, but was convinced that it was worth a try. I put together a few sets and took them on the road to the National BMW rally in Durango, Colorado. It was there I discovered that people liked my idea and I started to realize that I was going to make some panniers!

While testing, I decided that a few things would be very important to work into the design of the panniers. The weight must be kept low and centered. The boxes themselves must be narrow, in order to fit through some of the spots I found myself in. The brackets must be strong – stronger than anything I had seen up to that point. I like top-loading boxes, as I could stuff them full of the essential items I needed to carry with me. I wanted more carrying capacity than I had in the panniers that were available at the time. I started working with a 2mm thick pliable aluminum, which I found to be very durable, and easy to repair if necessary. I added a hinged lid that I could use as a table or a holding area. Stainless steel fittings and bolts were necessary to keep things from rusting.

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After spending three years in Iowa, building and refining the luggage and manufacturing process, my wife Julie and I moved to the sunny warmth of Arizona. Here we have continued to improve the panniers and top-boxes and the process of making them. For example, the Odyssey II range features hinges machined from 70 series aluminum with stainless steel dual pivots for proper operation and seal. The handles are also machined from aluminum and have the cam-over and lock mechanism in one clean piece. The opening to the box is wider to make for easier packing, and the lid itself is packable with the use of our spring-loaded lid packer.