Leather saddlebags have been known to save your paint, your skin, and your motorcycle adventures. How? Because if you have an unscheduled dismount, it can take almost all the pizza rash. And if you have selected the right bag for your adventure, it’ll keep all the items you need in an emergency, plus the essentials.
We have put Suspension Technologies’ Best Motorcycle Bags Guide together to assist you in the selection of the best style of aftermarket motorcycle saddlebags for your cruiser motorcycle. To get the lowdown, we stopped in at The Leatherworks, INC., in California, to get an update on the latest on leather bags.
Which Aftermarket Motorcycle Saddlebags Are Right for Your Bike
Bikes look wonderfully accessorized with motorcycle luggage, and there’s a vast number of motorcycle leather bags and luggage available. A bike without a leather bag? Sad! Here are some of the most popular ones:
So which bag is the right aftermarket motorcycle saddlebag for you? By answering a few simple questions, you can get clarity and hone in on the right motorcycle luggage for your bike and your journeys.
Solo bags look good and fit the design of choppers, Sportsters and Softails
Find the Right Saddlebag for the Right Motorcycle – Answer These 5 Questions
It can be challenging to pick the right bag, just like it is challenging to pick the right suspension. By reviewing the following features, you’ll be able to narrow down the bag(s) for your bike.
- What are your space requirements?
What is your objective? Are you shagging groceries, going on trips or keeping a few credentials? To determine your space requirements, take all your gear/stuff and get your total square inch requirements, and then match it to the size of the bag(s) required to get the job done.
- Looking for plain or fancy?
Each manufacturer has a different set of options to allow you to personalize a bag. There is something cool about opening your custom bag and seeing your flask in a pouch and your cigar holder secured to the side of the saddlebag. Listed below are bag options from the Leatherworks, INC.:
- Colored Studs - Customize the stud color. Add to the lid of the bag and to the face of the bag.
- Conchos - Add chrome conchos to the face of each saddlebag.
- Fringe – Fringe is added around the bottom of the lid and around the face of the bag.
- Color Piping - Customize the piping color. Click to view options.
- Hand Braid - Hand Braid added around the edge of the lid adds a bigger welt around the edge.
- Basket Weave - Add basket weave to the small rear flap of the lid.
- Gun Holster - Add a gun holster inside the back of the bag. Fits up to a 45.
- Hand Carving - Have a design carved onto the flap lid of both bags.
- Which mounting system for the saddlebags?
Saddlebag attachment systems fall into 3 basic categories. They include the following:
- Throw over bags – They fit under the saddle and are positioned in line with the rear wheel.
- Quick release systems – Saddlebags are connected to a keylock system.
- Solid mount – The bags are bolted to the motorcycle.
Easy Brackets – Quick release saddlebag system
- Security choices?
Manufacturers utilize padlock or keylock systems to secure their saddlebags. Keylock systems come with key locks to make the saddlebags lockable. On a padlock system, a small prong accepts a small padlock to lock the bag. Normally, the rider will supply the padlock.
- How will it be used?
One of our Suspension Technologies’ customers rides a Sportster with Apes. It’s great around town, but consistent 70mph cruising creates a lot of wind resistance and is fatiguing. So instead of a saddle bag, he decided to go with a round leather duffle bag secured on the handlebars to use as a fairing. When he isn’t running his duffle bag, he is carrying a tool bag for his custom-sourced DIY basic motorcycle toolset.
Include usage in your saddlebag selection criteria
Another customer decided to only use a motorcycle for transportation. So, he selected a 128 leather saddlebag designed with a deluxe, wide-angle design to follow the contour of the exterior shock. It’s sourced with a long strap, gun holster, and flask pocket. In addition, the bags include easy brackets for quick mounting and dismounting of bags.
He also upgraded his suspension with Black Hills Series shocks and a front end Genesis spring update from Patriot Suspension
The best motorcycle bags are the ones that are selected for your needs
Check Your Fitment - Saddlebags are built for specific motorcycle manufacturers and models. Stock and customized bikes have different placements of turn signals, license plates, and exhaust pipes. You need to check to make sure that everything will clear when you select your bag.
Throw over saddlebags – Theses bags should be combined with saddlebag supports/guards for two reasons. These saddlebags can get sucked into the rear wheel. Also, many cruiser and standard motorcycles have rear coiled/spring shocks that make contact with the saddlebags and damage them in a short ride.
The solo bag – These bags look cool and fit the essentials. Most of them are slim and contoured to the Softail, chopper and Sportster models. A lot of tricked-out bikes run small gas tanks, like peanut tanks, so fuel is always important. Manufacturers often can add a fuel bottle for added range.
Saddle Bag Clearance - It’s recommended a minimum of two inches of clearance between the exhaust and the saddlebags. Manufacturers do not consider damage to saddlebags from contact with the exhaust as a product defect or warranty issue; it is viewed as neglect. Regardless of the style, shape and size bags you want, the motorcycle you ride will dictate what you can use.
Tool Bag Clearance - Check for clearance on tool bags that fit under forks. Forks will compress while riding, and you need to make sure the bags don’t bind your suspension.
Different Harley-Davidson models have different requirements. Listed below are a few bikes that require modifications to accommodate saddlebags.
- Harley-Davidson’s Street Bob - This model will require a turn signal relocation kit. The throw over method will require a back seat.
- Sportsters - Consider a throw over bag on a stock bike or install a quick release unit and move the turn signals for clearance.
- Harley-Davidson’s Wide Glide - The throw over method will also require a back seat. The 2010-2013 models with side mounted plates will need their signals and plate relocated.
- Harley-Davidson’s Super Glide - Requires turn signal relocation kit. A throw over kit will require a back seat. It is recommended that you get a shock cutout or slanted bags if you’re not using a quick disconnect system.
- Harley-Davidson’s Fat Boy - The Fat Boy historically has high pipes and requires short bags; almost everyone lowers the exhaust, so then they can use larger bags.
- Harley-Davidson’s Fat Bob – This model may require the turn signal relocation kit. The throw over method needs a back seat. We also recommend a shock cutout or slanted bag if not using a quick disconnect system.
- Harley-Davidson’s Low Rider - May require a turn signal relocation kit. The throw over kit does require a back seat.
Aftermarket motorcycle saddlebag Care and Conditioning
Leather requires conditioners or it dries out. Low-priced leather especially requires consistent maintenance. As you dive into the leather industry, you will find out there are multiple grades of leather. The higher grade of leather will require less maintenance and have better qualities of water resistance and will stay formed better. The rule of thumb is to apply conditioners on a monthly basis.
“Mink oil and saddle soap were used in the 1940’s and should remain in the 1940’s,” said Aimee Thacher, Owner of Leatherworks, INC. “Two products that we use at Leatherworks, INC., are Bee Natural on browns or tans and CRC Industries’ Tannery on black leather.
The right leather bag adds as much romance as a function to just about any motorcycle. And storage for the right tool, rain gear or first aid kit goes a long way in making a trip a successful one.
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