1. With years of expertise developing and sourcing motorcycle touring gear, when Aerostich suggests a product, wise people listen. Case in point are these Ortlieb Low Profile Dry Bag Saddlebags. Made from exceptionally strong but lightweight and abrasion-resistant reinforced PVC, these bags are unlike anything else featured here. A total of 34 liters of storage capacity means they can swallow a lot of gear, and swallow they do because instead of a zippered top or side panel they feature a 19.5-inch-wide access flap that simply rolls open and shut. Laterally and centrally positioned quick-release straps keep the bags closed, and their PVC construction combined with the roll top closure makes them waterproof and dustproof. The backside of each bag features a thermo-molded pad to protect your bike’s paint finish, and an inner organizer pocket features a large zippered pocket and two hook-and-loop pockets for securing smaller items. 3M Scotchlite reflectors aid nighttime visibility, and carrying handles make them easy to transport off your bike. Definitely the most intriguing bags we’ve seen in awhile. $217.
2. River Road’s textile Spectrum Medium Slant Saddlebag gives a nod to tradition by combining old school leather saddle straps (complete with laced adjustment panels) with RoadTex 1680 denier nylon, treated with a PVC coating to repel water. The medium-sized bags feature box-style lids for easy access and lockable zippers for secure storage. The interior is fully lined, and each saddle bag has its own custom-fitted liner bag for extra protection for your gear and added packing convenience. Zippered side pockets give extra storage space for smaller items like wallets and mobile media, and the bags are zippered to the saddle strap so you can remove the bags individually. They also feature heat-resistant bottom panels to guard against muffler burns. Quick-release straps aid in secure attachment of the bags while a removable neoprene layer protects your bike’s finish, and supplied waterproof rain covers ensure your gear stays dry. $179.95.
3. Cortech’s 2.0 36L Saddlebags are constructed from 1680 denier ballistic polyester with 1800 denier three-lined twill Jacquard weave side pockets. (Jacquard weave gives better material control during the weaving process for extra strength and wear resistance.) The bags feature expandable main compartments for 36 liters of storage capacity. Twin-zippered top panels with hook-and-loop flaps keep contents secure while giving easy access to the main compartments, and zippered side panels provide easily accessible storage for smaller items like maps, iPads and the like. There’s a protective heat shield on the lower section of the bags, plus Phoslite reflective piping for nighttime visibility. Internal support panels help keep the bags’ shape, and a quick-release mounting system lets you add a Cortech Super 2.0 Tail Bag in seconds. Protective non-slip, non-scratch side pads protect your bike’s finish, and supplied rain covers keep things dry when the going really gets wet. Nicely proportioned and good looking, these bags should work well on just about any bike. $159.99.
4. If you’re looking for the ultimate in old school touring style with top-shelf quality and utility, you’ll fall in love with Fox Creek’s Throwover Saddlebags. Made with high-quality, super thick 3.6-4.0mm top grain cowhide (Fox Creek calls it Crazy Horse leather, the thickest they use) with a heavy stiffening panel riveted and sewn into the back side, these heavy-duty saddlebags will hold their shape while gently relaxing over time. The top-opening flaps secure with riveted leather straps to chrome-plated, riveted buckles. All stitching is nylon to ensure the bags stay together rain or shine, and the leather is oil and wax treated for long-term exposure to the elements. With roughly 30 liters of storage capacity they’re big enough for weekend jaunts, yet small enough to leave on your bike for everyday utility. Handmade in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia, Fox Creek Leather products are among the best we’ve seen. Available in brown (shown in Slideshow) and black. $300.
5.The Summit Saddlebags from Wolfman Motorcycle Luggage are no-nonsense throw-over saddlebags. Yet while they may be short on catch phrase extras, Wolfman’s expedition quality, made in the U.S.A. bags are long on utility and durability. Made of 1680 denier ballistic nylon and featuring 40 liters of cargo space they can hold a lot of gear, made easier with the Summit’s double-zippered side-opening panel. Attachment is basic over-the-seat with straps running to the passenger pegs and rear of the bike, and plastic form panels in the bags ensure they hold their shape under all conditions. A non-slip, non-scratch backing protects your bike’s finish, and there are D-rings on the side of the bags for attaching a Wolfman Wolf Tail bag or any other bag you might have. The zippered outside pockets are large enough to carry an iPad and more, and there’s reflective piping to aid nighttime visibility. A rain cover is extra, but the plastic paneled and PVC-lined interior should make these bags pretty water-resistant as they stand. $187.99; rain cover $27.49.
6. We’ve always liked Tourmaster gear, and Tourmaster’s Elite Saddlebags don’t disappoint. Made from heavy-duty 1680 denier ballistic polyester with 840 denier patterned panels, their 36 liters of storage space makes them perfect for most touring needs. Hard bag-style zippered and gusseted side openings mean you can really cram in your gear, and interior form panels make sure the bags hold their shape. A removable neoprene pad on each bag protects your bike’s finish, and supplied rain covers for each bag keep your gear dry when the weather turns wet. The zippered side pockets are amply sized and feature mesh inner pockets for storing smaller items like wallets, keys, mobile media and your registration papers. There are neoprene covers for the saddle straps when needed to protect painted surfaces, and the removable saddle straps can be mounted under the seat of some bikes. Quick-release straps aid attachment, and the bags feature protective heat shielding on the bottom panels, along with reflective triangles on the rear of each bag for improved nighttime visibility. They also feature quick-release straps to add a Tour Master Elite Tail Bag. $189.99. MC