INCREASE YOUR LUGGAGE CAPACITY AND HEAD OUT ON THE HIGHWAY. Motorcycle saddlebags represent the easiest way to increase your bike’s storage capacity. Tankbags (that sit on your gas tank) are even easier to add and remove, but most do not have the storage capacity of saddle bags. (However, there are some tankbags that are HUGE).
If you don’t already have saddlebags and you want to go on a trip, then you will be interested in most storage space – especially if you take a passenger, and even more especially if you are going motorcycle camping. Having said that, when I was a kid, I just strapped a duffle bag to my bike and headed out.
TWO PRIMARY TYPES OF SADDLE BAGS
Most saddlebags can be categorized as:
1. Hard bags
2. Soft bags
HARD SADDLE BAGS
These names are not very tricky. Hard bags are hard, whether manufactured from a plastic composite or metal. Generally speaking, hard bags maintain their shape better over time, are more water resistant, and require minimal maintenance to keep them in good shape (just wash them while washing your bike).
Hard bags are more secure than the majority of soft bags, since they typically include locking covers and many of them can be locked to the bike itself. However, hard bags require special hardware that needs to be attached to your bike, which hold the bags themselves. In this way, hard bags are also typically more expensive than soft bags.
Make sure you get the right mounting hardware for the hard bags, that are specific for your motorcycle model.
A number of motorcycle manufacturers sell touring bikes that come with saddlebags straight from the factory. More often than not, these are hard bags.
SOFT SADDLE BAGS
Soft bags are made of leather or textile. Some may be water resistant. But soft bags are less likely to stay dry on the inside when riding all day in the rain, compared to hard bags. (However, there are exceptions).
Soft bags are lighter, more flexible, and are, in most cases, less expensive than hard bags. Most soft bags require no special mounting hardware, although there are some exceptions. They also require more care and attention to keep them looking good.
As a bit of a twist, there are some hard bags that are made to look like soft bags, since, particularly for some cruiser riders, soft bags might be considered more stylish. In other words, you can get the look of leather saddlebags and have the security of hard bags.
CONVENIENCE OF SADDLEBAG LINERS
Most hard bags can be unlocked from your bike and easily detached for carrying, much like regular luggage.
On the other hand, its not unusual to use a liner for hard bags, which can be even more easily removed, since the bags do not need to be unlocked and detached from your motorcycle. In other words, you just open your bags, pull out the liners and then re-lock your cases.
It may not sound like a big deal, but when you’re on the road, and you’ve just put on a lot of miles, being able to quickly unpack can be a great advantage.
Additionally, when it comes time to pack things back up and hit the road again the next morning, it’s easier to toss those liners into your hard bags than to re-secure hard or soft bags.
Of course liners can also be used for soft bags, if you have a type that is securely attached to your bike.
EITHER TYPE OF SADDLE BAGS INCREASE WHAT YOU CAN CARRY
Regardless of whether you use hard bags or soft bags, both are the best ways to increase your motorbike’s storage space.
Except, that is, if you happen to have a chase van traveling along with you that is carrying everything as if you were traveling in a motor home. And whether that truly represents a real motorcycle touring experience … well … I’ll leave that up to you to determine.