Best Motorcycle Saddlebags: Pack Your Gear Effectively
These top motorcycle saddlebags make bike trips more practical
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BY Noelle Talmon / LAST UPDATED ON February 27, 2020
Riding a motorcycle gives people a great sense of freedom, and that's why so many riders choose to take a lot of trips on their bikes. Traveling long distances (or even just a few hours) is much easier if you have the right storage space on your Honda, Harley, or other model of bike.
With the right luggage, you will have no problem packing gear for a weekend away or for a much longer adventure. Check out the best motorcycle saddlebags available in the buying guide below.
The bags are polyester and come with rain covers. They have a protective heat shield and feature a reflective triangle for nighttime riding.
- It's easy to install and remove the bags
- They have a lot of storage and they're very high-quality
- They're a great deal for the price.
- There is no way to lock these bags using the included zippers
- You may need to add a bracket to keep them away from the hot exhaust
These bags are made of canvas and vinyl and have two large pockets that are reinforced for durability. They're versatile and can be used on motorcycles, mopeds, and bicycles.
- They're very inexpensive yet rugged and sturdy
- They drape nicely over the saddle and are large enough to hold groceries or a spare jacket
- They will burn if they're not secured away from the pipes
- They may need to be modified to sit correctly on the bike, and they're not designed to carry heavy objects
These saddlebags are 100 percent waterproof with a UV coating. They come in two colors and are a universal fit. The mounting hardware is made of aircraft-grade aluminum.
- They are heavy-duty and high-quality
- They hold seven gallons on each side and feature lightweight liners that help you remove and pack items in each bag
- They're pricey
- The straps may fail and are difficult to quickly fasten or unfasten
- The straps are also difficult to maneuver in the dark
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Benefits of Motorcycle Saddlebags
- Convenience. It's much easier to carry items in a saddlebag than in a backpack, which can weigh your body down when you're riding. When you get off your bike, you can leave items in your saddlebags and not have to carry them around.
- Security. The best quality motorcycle saddlebags are designed with security in mind. They feature a locking mechanism, so when you're away from your bike, you know your gear is protected from thieves.
- Necessity. If you're taking a long-distance road trip, you need bags to hold all your gear. The best motorcycle adventure saddlebags are large enough to accommodate a variety of items, from tents and extra jackets to several changes of clothing.
Types of Motorcycle Saddlebags
People who ride cruisers often lean towards soft bags, which are made of leather or synthetic materials. Even the best soft motorcycle saddlebags are not typically waterproof and require waterproof liners or storm/rain covers in order to keep your belongings dry in inclement weather.
These bags are typically less secure than hard bags because they don't feature a locking mechanism. Plus, it's not hard to cut into them with a knife. Ideally, these bags should detach easily, so you can remove them if you're staying somewhere overnight.
Many dual-sport or adventure bike riders and some cruiser riders use hard bags, which tend to be more expensive. The best motorcycle hard saddlebags are much more secure and weather-resistant than soft bags. They typically need mounting brackets for installation, and sometimes a modification is required, depending on the bike's model. They are rigidly constructed, so there's only so much gear you can stuff into them compared to soft bags, which are more flexible and easier to cram full of stuff.
In addition to traditional saddlebags, you can purchase a sissy bar, tail, or tank bag for your bike. Sissy bar or stackable bags are designed for touring and often feature two bags strapped together that are attached to a sissy bar.
Tail bags complement saddlebags and can be either hard or soft and are designed to stow smaller, more accessible items. Tank bags are great for short trips and for carrying smaller items, such as a wallet or cell phone. Many have clear map pouches, and they're easy to install and remove since many are affixed with strong magnets.
Tourmaster has been around since 1979 and has distributors all over the world, including places such as Canada, Japan, and Venezuela. The company designs products for serious riders, such as heated gear and accessories, jackets, pants, boots, and a wide range of luggage options. One example is the Tourmaster Black Elite Saddlebag.
Nelson-Rigg USA, Inc. is based in Santa Ana, California, and was founded in 1972. The company is widely known for producing some of the best accessories, apparel, covers, and luggage, such as the Nelson-Rigg Yellow/Black Sierra Dry Saddlebags.
SW-MOTECH is based in Rauschenberg, Germany, and the company produces a wide range of luggage options for riders, including tank bags, saddlebags, tail bags, side cases, and carriers, and luggage racks. One of its top products is the SW-Motech Blaze H Sport Saddlebag Kit for 14-17 Yamaha FZ-09.
Kuryakyn is based in Somerset, Wisconsin, and has been in business since 1989. The company produces a wide variety of power sports accessories, from handlebar controls and mirrors to storage covers and air cleaners. One of its top storage solutions is the Kuryakyn GranThrow-Over Saddlebag.
Motorcycle Saddlebags Pricing
- Under $50: You don't have to spend a lot of money to find the best cheap motorcycle saddlebags. Items in this price range are generally soft bags made of PU leather or heavy-duty canvas. However, they don't typically have locking mechanisms, so they don’t provide much security.
- $50-$100: If you spend a little more money, you will find bags that are a bit more heavy-duty with added features. For example, they may include heat shields to protect the bags from hot exhaust pipes.
- Over $150: The best motorcycle saddlebags for the money aren't necessarily the least expensive. If you want durable, high-quality luggage, you're going to have to make a sizable investment. Some bags in this category cost several hundred dollars, but they're often waterproof and highly secure.
Materials and Durability
Motorcycle luggage comes in a variety of different materials, and some are more durable than others. Common materials include leather, synthetic leather, nylon, and plastic. The best leather motorcycle saddlebags are designed with style in mind, but they may not last as long as their synthetic counterparts. Plastic saddlebags, on the other hand, are more likely to crack over time, which isn’t very attractive.
Size and Fit
The main purpose of a motorcycle saddlebag is for it to hold all your stuff, such as riding gear, tools, and other equipment. The size of the saddlebag is usually limited by the size of your bike. Obviously, larger bikes can accommodate bigger bags, while sportbikes with oversized exhausts must be equipped with smaller bags. If you can’t buy custom-built bags, choose a product that isn't oversized because it will neither fit well nor look very good.
We've already touched on this, but it's worth repeating. Lockable saddlebags are desirable because they keep your gear from being stolen. While many thieves avoid targeting bikers because the consequences can be swift and powerful, it still happens from time to time. Lockable bags are particularly important if you're traveling away from home and leave your bike outside unprotected overnight.
- Waterproof: Every bike has been caught in the rain at one time or another, and many carry rain gear for that very reason. Well, it's also important to protect the equipment in your saddlebags. There's nothing worse than having to deal with sopping wet clothing, tools, and other gear after a downpour. Some bags aren’t waterproof, but they come with rain covers, which are nearly as effective.
- Quick-Release: If you happen to purchase a set of saddlebags that aren't lockable, look for products that have or are compatible with a quick-release bracket system. This will enable you to remove the bags quickly and easily from the bike. This is a practical solution when you're traveling and want to keep your possessions secure by removing them when they’re not unsupervised.
Best Motorcycle Saddlebags Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Make sure the straps, belts, and buckles on the saddlebags work efficiently and properly. Some are more user-friendly than others and are easier to open and close.
- Make sure to balance the loads in your saddlebags. Do not put several heavy items on one side when you can even place them between the two sides.
- For extra support, affix a metal bracket to your motorcycle to support the bags and prevent them from hitting either the exhaust or the rear wheel. Either of these scenarios can be very hazardous.
Q: Are hard or soft saddlebags more secure?
A: Hard cases are made of metal, plastic, or both and are more secure than soft bags, which you can cut with a knife. Hard bags also often feature locking systems.
Q: Do soft saddlebags have any advantages?
A: Yes. They are usually less expensive than hard bags and weigh less. You can use them with many types of motorcycles, and they are less likely to get damaged if your bike falls over.
Q: Are motorcycle saddlebags a universal fit?
A: No. Some saddlebags are specifically designed for certain makes and models. There are brands, however, that are made to fit a variety of different bikes.
Q: What is a throw-over style saddlebag?
A: Throw-over saddlebags fit most metric cruisers and Harley-Davidson bikes. They usually have an adjustable yoke in the center that you expand or contract when you fit it over the rear fender. They are adjustable and are affixed by a few attachment points.
Our pick for the best motorcycle saddlebag is the Tourmaster Black Elite Saddlebag. It's easy to use, high quality, and provides a lot of storage.
For a more budget-friendly option, consider the Stansport Saddle Bag.