Thinking inside the box

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid - arti-farty pic!The Rally Raid comes as standard with luggage – Aprilia badged Hepco & Becker ‘Alu-Exclusive’ luggage to be exact. And pretty good it is too … if a little wide. Each of the panniers – from Aprilia £421.02 each (unbadged – £317.25 each) holds a quoted 41L but in fact holds nearer 28L once you take into account the room lost to the foam lining. In fact that lining is one of the case’s endearing features. It not only provides added rigidity to the case, but also makes it very thermally efficient – excellent for keeping stuff cool on long hot ride-outs.Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid Hepco Becker Alu Exclusive hinge

The lid hinges forward about 120° to a stop – a nice touch that prevents the lids dropping down against the pannier body and stressing the hinge. A single locking latch keeps the lid locked tight against the weather seal which, though not completely waterproof does a damn good job (rain for 1,500 miles/24hrs and only let in an egg-cup full).

So far so good … but now the not so nice bits. Firstly, the pannier is only held in place by one latch. A latch that can be easily broken in a low-speed ‘off’, leaving the pannier to fall away to its lonesome fate bouncing down the carriageway. Secondly, fitting water bottle frames etc. That foam liner now becomes a pain .. you either have to remove it, or drill it Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid Hepco Becker Alu Exclusive hingeto fit screws/bolts through . I used a tool that takes a 10mm ‘core’ out, then re-glued it into place – neat, but fiddly. Lastly, the rigidity the foam provides – it’s deliberate . As the aluminium body is thin, VERY thin .. like 0.5mm thin, it needs the foam to hold its shape. That means that in a spill the cases deform alarmingly easily as the aluminium has no strength of its own – not good at all.

This all leads to the question of upgrading the pannier system. I want to use the original frames and just replace the boxes. I don’t want to compromise on space or water-resistance, but I do want to improve on pannier strength – albeit at a slight weight gain. I want boxes that only scuff, not crush like a bag of crisps when the bike drops on its side …. and are relatively burst-proof when faced with a BIG impact – sadly, the Hepco-Becker has neither of these virtues.

Here are the systems I’ve looked at:-

Hepco & Becker – straight swap, different models but mass produced to a budget. Up to approx. £550 per pair.

Touratech – Easy to fit with provided kit but expensive and living off their name. Up to approx. £600 per pair.

Caja Sahel – Hand made and easy to fit with Touratech mounts. Powder coated with tie-down points provided. €450-550 per pair.

Project VND – Hand made and easy to fit with Touratech mounts. Anodised finish with hinged and removable lid. £500-600 per pair.

Metal Mule – Nice, but expensive and needs dedicated mounting system. System from £1,300!

Aprilia Caponord ETV1000 Rally-Raid - CAD panniersOr the other option … design and build your own! Well almost. I’m happy to do the designing bit, but manufacturing is a tad more complex, at least to get a ‘factory’ finish …. and frankly, my aluminium welding leaves more holes than welds. So I’ve enlisted the help of a local metal guru to turn my drawings into reality … and when finished, they’ll look something like this.

500mm Long x 430mm Tall x 250mm Wide (using 2mm aluminium) ….. so the same width as the originals but longer and taller, giving a (hopefully) usable volume somewhere around 47L each. They’ll be mounted to the existing 15mm dia. rails with Touratech mount kits (01-053-0010-0 approx. €47).

Service time

With 36,195 miles now on the clock, the Capo was due its service. Another biggie …. the one with the valve check. Well after an uneventful days spannering, I’m happy that the whole thing went to plan. Nothing’s broken ….. no nasty surprises … just a straightforward service as per the Aprilia manual. Until now I’ve used the Agip oil as specified in the handbook, simply because it’s easily available here in Italy …. this time however, I’ll be running Castrol R4 10w50 fully-synthetic that I bought back from the UK.

As the bike is now 7 years old, I decided on replacing some of the seals and gaskets displaced during servicing – not because they leak, just getting old. These included both cam cover gaskets, the oil filter cap seal and both air box seals. Also on the list was a replacement magnetic drain bolt …. they seem to seize solid in place and take a real beating to get off. As you can see, after several services my old one had seen better days!

The valve check took a couple of hours taking it nice and steady. As it turns out the valves are all in spec at the moment and have hardly moved since the last service. Aprilia calls for the check at 9K mile intervals …. I think I can sleep easy leaving them alone for the next 12K miles as the Rotax engine is notorious for having stable valve clearances – and mine seem to agree. The Iridium sparkplugs came out to make hand-cranking the engine into TDC easier …. they looked fine and went straight back in. Iridium plugs might be expensive, but they do last well!

Although not called for … the fuel filter and fuel tank gasket were changed. Not too hard, but re-using the ‘click-clamps’ on the hoses is ‘challenging’ to say the least! I ended up using a modified set of tile-nippers. As far as I know you have a choice of alternative filters that can be used …. the Ducati item (42540101A) is a straightforward swap, while the  Ryco Z200 / Baldwin BF1049 filters can be persuaded to fit with a little modification (untested by the author).

If you’ve ever wondered what exactly is in that very expensive plastic cylinder …. then here you go.

Last item on the engine to-do list was  balancing the throttle bodies …. and they turned out to still be nicely in sync – fantastic! So as the sun set behind the barn, I left the old girl burbling away happily while I took the dogs for a walk.

Tomorrow, a last quick check to make sure everything is oil-tight and that’s that for another few thousand miles.


Genuine Oil filter (long) – AP0956745
Oil filter ‘O’ ring – AP0650500 (size 62mm O/D, 2.5mm cross section – (£3.90+VAT for 2 from
Magnetic drain plug – AP0241782
Genuine air filter -AP8104169
Air box seal -AP8120615 (comes as a single length you trim to fit)
Genuine FIAAM FT5452 fuel filter – AP8102971
Fuel tank seal – AP8144478
Valve cover seal (x2) – AP0650345