Motorcycle Soft Luggage Tips

Gear Driven

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Brand new from Willie & Max are the Revolution line of bags.

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Price and availability confirmed at time of publication. Subject to change, please visit the product website for the latest prices and availability. 

Spring and summer are on their way, and if you’re like us, that means it’s time to get out for a good road trip on your favorite mount. But what if your most comfortable bike (or maybe the only one that’s reliable enough for a few hundred or a few thousand miles) didn’t come equipped with room for your necessary gear? Since we’ve covered tank bags before (see the May/June 2007 issue), we decided this time we’d highlight some choices for saddlebags and tailbags.

1. Brand new from Willie & Max are the Revolution line of bags. The Revolution series saddlebags come in two sizes, and both throwover styles and hard mount styles. Though shown here on a metric cruiser, we’re betting the Belted Large Synthetic Leather Throwover (SB1903) shown here would be perfect for an old Norton, Triumph, BSA or Moto Guzzi. As for the hard mount set-up, it looks to be adjustable in such a way that may allow for mounting the bags on a variety of different bikes, both newer and older, and we’re looking forward to testing out the system in the near future, as the bags are so new that, at press time, they were not even being shipped yet. The bags feature reinforced backs, and their powder-coated wire frame and reinforced gussets are sturdy and designed to last. Chrome buckles feature a hidden quick release system for fast access to your goodies inside. Front and rear closure snaps aid in lid security at high speeds. The new Revolution series Tour Pack also comes in two sizes and features a reinforced back, along with a powder coated wire frame and reinforced gussets to retain bag shape and look for the long haul. Large saddlebags measure 20.5in x 11.5in x 6in. Large Tour Pack measures 13.5in x 15.5in x 9.5in. Price: $189.99 (throwover saddlebags), $139.99 (Tour Pack). More info: www.willieandmax.com

2. Maybe the most versatile bags here, the Tour Master Cortech Tribag Saddlebags and Tailbag make a great combination for helping to turn your commuter bike into a great tourer. They go on easy (yet it’s good to spend a bit of extra time making sure they’re just as snug as you can get them), mount safely and securely, and fit well. These bags were the most handsome on editor Backus’ GPz and looked great on several bikes we tried them on. If you’ve got a Seventies or Eighties bike that is at all sporting in its design, these are the bags for you. Listed at a capacity of 20ltr per side, with another 30ltr of capacity in the tail bag, there’s plenty of space here for a weeklong solo trip with a bit of careful packing. The saddlebags feature a total of three compartments per side, with two zippered side pockets on each bag that are great for smaller items like a wallet, sunglasses, maps, etc. The main storage compartment features a heat shield to protect the bags from pipe burns and also uses a U-shaped zipper that allows easy access even when paired with the Tribag Tailbag. The tailbag can be used with or without the saddlebags, as it features a quick-release mounting system for use when traveling with the saddlebags and hide-away bungee hooks for when you use it by itself. The bag features two front pockets and two end pockets, along with one large center pocket that’s accessed from the top. All three bags come with rain covers. We look forward to putting some good miles on this setup come warmer weather, and if you’re in the market for bags, these are a great option. Saddlebags measure 14.5in L x 11in W x 8.5in H. Tailbag measures 17.5in L x 12 in W x 10in H. Price: $159.99 (saddlebags), $89.99 (tailbag). More info: www.helmethouse.com 

3. Next in our review are these Onyx Saddlebags and Tailbag from Firstgear. These bags are good looking and well made, and are also expandable, which is nice because it means you can keep them un-expanded and thin when on the bike but not bulging full of gear. Two outside pockets on each saddlebag are perfect for smaller items, and once opened the left bag has a mesh pocket on the inside of the lid, while the right has a lined pocket. Both saddlebags have a heat-resistant base to protect them from accidental exhaust contact, and the outer pockets are lined with a grey-colored material to make it easier to find small objects, especially in the dark. Each saddlebag holds nearly 41ltr when expanded. The tailbag is another nice piece of kit, and it holds a little more than 46ltr when expanded, making both the saddlebags and tailbag a little bigger than the Cortech pieces we mentioned earlier. All three bags come with rain covers. Saddlebags measure 18in L x 9in W x 12in H when compressed and 18in L x 12in W x 12in H when expanded. Tailbag measures 17in L x 11in W x 11in H when compressed and 17in L x 11in W x 13in H when expanded. Price: $129.99 (saddlebags), $79.95 (tailbag). More info: www.firstgear-usa.com

4. We ordered a set of Slanted, Braided Saddlebags (NBR15) from Custom Classics Saddlebags, along with a matching Trunk Bag finished with the same braided design, and were wonderfully surprised with their quality. These are heavy-duty leather saddlebags that are reinforced with a plastic frame on the inside. Made from premium quality 10-12 ounce leather, all of the stress points are riveted to make sure the bags last a long time. We ordered the less expensive bags with no pockets inside them for the ultimate bargain (less than $200 bucks for real leather!) but for  just $40 more, you can get the same bags with divider pockets built in. They looked great on our long-term Royal Enfield Bullet test bike. The Trunk Bag was also a great piece of luggage, though it does work best on a bike that has a luggage rack behind the rear seat. It features a small pocket on each end plus the large middle compartment and comes with an extra set of rubber bungee straps. Saddlebags measure 18in x12in x7in, and Trunk Bag measures 14in wide and 12in tall. Price: $199.99 (saddlebags) $229.99 (trunk bag). More info: www.ccsaddlebags.com