There are times when you simply refuse to give up on something. It seems excessive to you, and possibly silly to others, but you just won’t. let. go. I discovered using the Vario top case from my 2005 R 1200 GS was one of those things. I didn’t want to give up the utility of a top case, but the simple fact was the 2005 Vario top case wouldn’t attach to the BMW Vario mounting plate for the 2015 R 1200 GS I bought earlier this year. No combination of case or mount from BMW seemed compatible, so I set about trying to find an adapter of some sort.
After several weeks of looking and buying used top case mounting plates, I nearly gave up. A preliminary conversation with a friend who makes custom …well, just about anything, really had me nearly convinced, but there wasn’t any way he would be able to make a plate to enable me to use the 2005 Vario top case on my 2015 GS in time for my trip to the MOA Rally in Great Falls, Montana. As my thoughts of using a duffel bag on the trip filled me with concern—how would I secure it?—I gave Google one more try.
That’s when I discovered what a fickle beast Google can be. Chances are if you need something, it’s probably already out there on the internet, you just can’t find it because you haven’t stumbled across the proper combination of key words yet. For my search, those key words were “r1200gs,” “generic” and “top case rack.” After a little scrolling, there it was: “2013 & UP BMW R1200 GS & R1250 GS Slider Rear Rack.” Slider rear rack? What on earth is that?
Steve Rank at Back Road Equipment had a great idea: A simple, flat plate to bolt onto the back of a motorcycle and allow the rider to utilize any top case they might want to use. The plate itself is a 16” by 12” piece of US-sourced 6061 aluminum, and at 3/16” thick, it feels tough and sturdy. The hard anodized surface looks great in gray and is sure to stand up to the abuse I’ll inflict upon it.
Purchasing a slider rack includes four machined aluminum spacers that go between the slider rack and the luggage rack already on the motorcycle, plus four bolts to mount the rack to the bike. BRE includes one set of generic pucks—more on those in a moment—and their bolts and washers to enable you to mount a top case to the rack. BRE sells puck kits to enable you to use as many different cases as you’d like, including pucks specially modified for Pelican 1450 and 1500 cases.
The slider rack has four keyhole-shaped cutouts for the pucks; they slide into the larger end, then you slide the whole case forward into the narrow ends of the keyholes. Once the case is fully engaged, you swing an arm into place to lock one of the pucks in place; the design of the pucks and the precise quality of the rack do the rest. The swinging arm has a small hole in it to enable the use of a padlock for added security.
Installing the rack is easy—line up the spacers and rotate them until they provide a level plane, then bolt the rack into place. The holes in the top of the rack are countersunk flat with the top of the rack; I feel having them countersunk at a slight angle to match the angle the bolts go into the bike at would give a more finished look to the final install. Be sure not to use any (blue/medium) threadlock on the rack mounting bolts until you’ve got the pucks on your cases, though.
The pucks themselves mount to the bottom of your top case; they’re made of a hard plastic (possibly Delrin, based on the feel) and are threaded to accept a long bolt with a 5mm Allen head. Wide washers spread the force of the bolt out on the inside of the top case. Each puck has one wide side, and that’s the side which goes against the bottom of the case. The narrow side engages the keyholes on the rack.
Modify the adage “measure twice, cut once” to be “measure five times, drill once” and you’ll be set. Getting the pucks in place is a precise operation, and you’re well-advised to go slow and be overly careful. If you make a mistake, you’ll end up with extra holes in the bottom of your case, because the pucks have to be exactly in the right positions—there is no slop in the keyholes on the rack, which is one of the things making this such a good solution.
I purchased an additional set of pucks for a Pelican 1500, as I had recently bought a used 1500, and practiced on that case before tackling my hugely expensive Vario case. Following the downloaded instructions, I mounted the modified pucks to the 1500 and got them nearly perfect. To fully engage the pucks on my 1500, I have to put a bit of force into sliding the case into place. It requires the same bit of percussive force to disengage the case.
I discovered one …I don’t want to call it a mistake, but let’s call it a prudent modification to BRE’s instructions. BRE recommends using a 1/4” drill bit to create a pilot hole when mounting the pucks; I discovered a 1/4” drill bit is nearly the same size as the hole in the puck. As a result, if I wasn’t perfectly perpendicular when drilling my pilot hole, I ran the risk of damaging the threaded hole in the puck. I chose to go with a 1/8” bit for my pilot holes. Similarly, the instructions say to use a 21/64” bit for the final bolt hole; my inexpensive bit kits don’t have that size, so I used a 5/16” bit; the final hole was a bit snug on the bolt, but worked fine. (By the way, 5/16” is 20/64”, so it’s pretty close. 1/4” is 16/64”—quite a large pilot hole compared to the final hole needed!)
I’m sure my imprecise use of the 1/8” bit for pilot hole drilling is the reason one of the pucks on the 1500 is slightly off, so I was extra careful in drilling pilot holes for the pucks on the Vario case. As a result, the pucks on the Vario case really are exactly where they need to be, and it slides easily in the keyholes. Because I didn’t want the case hanging off the back of the bike too much, the front of the case (farthest to the rear of the bike) covers the lock hole, and the rear pucks are on a part of the case with a ridge. (I don’t have the capacity, tools or skill to modify the pucks.) I had to only partially tighten the rear pucks before putting the Vario case on the slider rack, lock it in place, then fully tighten the rear pucks. Because this tightened the case to the rack, I don’t feel as if I need to use the padlock hole; an angry gorilla probably couldn’t get the Vario disconnected from the rack with the rear pucks tightened down. I didn’t want the case hanging off the back of the bike too much, so the front of the case (farthest to the rear of the bike) covers the lock hole. The Pelican 1500 isn’t as tall as the Vario, so locating it to accommodate a passenger was no problem. Neither of these things is a slam on BRE—it’s not their fault my execution isn’t perfect in all regards. The important thing is I can use either case at any time, and both are relatively secure from casual theft.
Overall, I’m impressed with the quality of the BRE Slider Rack, especially since it has slots for straps should I want to use it without a top case. The design is simple, the construction is sturdy and the price—$169.95 for a rack, set of generic pucks and all necessary hardware—is hard to beat. Additional puck sets are available for $45.95 each, and specially modified pucks for Pelican 1450 and 1500 cases are available. Visit BRE on the web at backroadequipment.com.
PROS: quality construction, good looks, simple mounting process, enables using cases across multiple bikes
CONS: mounting the pucks to a case requires precision and patience, padlock hole easy to obscure depending on case size
Note: There is (or will soon be) a video of this install and product on the MOA’s YouTube channel, visit http://bmwmoa.club/YouTube and click on the Motorcycle Test Kitchen! playlist to watch it.