5 Factors to Ponder Before Purchasing Motorcycle Saddlebags

Compared to other modes of transportation, motorcycles offer limited options for carrying personal belongings. Without a built-in storage compartment or a sidecar, your best bet is a backpack, which can become uncomfortable on long rides. Fortunately, there's a classic solution inspired by frontier travelers: saddlebags.

Motorcycle saddlebags, much like those used by pioneers, attach to both sides of the rear motorcycle seat, adding convenient storage space and a touch of western flair to your ride. Available at motorsports shops from various manufacturers, it’s important to consider a few key factors before purchasing the perfect pair for your motorcycle.

1. Can Your Motorcycle Handle Saddlebags?

Before anything else, ensure that your motorcycle can support saddlebags. Saddlebags are often designed for specific motorcycle models, so double-check compatibility. They typically attach or drape over the rear seat, an area often occupied by turn signals and exhaust pipes. You might need to adjust turn signals for more space, but ensure there's at least two to four inches of clearance from exhaust pipes to avoid damage not covered by warranty. Saddlebags come in throw-over and bolt-down designs, with bolt-down being more secure if your motorcycle can accommodate it.

2. What Size Do You Want Your Saddlebags?

Once you confirm compatibility, consider the size of the saddlebags. They vary in size to fit different motorcycle types and carrying needs. Determine what you’ll be transporting—whether it’s groceries or supplies for a long trip. Larger saddlebags suit more substantial loads, while smaller ones are perfect for odds and ends. Ensure the size complements your motorcycle’s proportions to avoid imbalances that could affect handling.

3. What Should Your Saddlebags Be Made Of?

Material choice impacts durability and maintenance. Classic leather is popular for its resilience, lightweight nature, and stylish look, but it requires regular maintenance. Faux leather is an alternative that may or may not compromise on quality depending on its make. Hard materials like fiberglass, aluminum, or plastic offer robust protection and minimal upkeep, though they can be heavier and impact handling.

4. What Extra Features Can Saddlebags Have?

Extra features can enhance the utility of saddlebags. Consider security locks to protect your belongings from theft, as simpler closures like buckles or zippers aren't secure enough. Some saddlebags come with built-in locks, while others might require after-market modifications. Additionally, saddlebags made of harder materials might have built-in tail lights or turn signals for better visibility and safety. These features can also be added separately but having them built-in saves time and effort.

5. How Much Do Saddlebags Cost?

Finally, consider the cost, which varies based on size, features, and brand. Branded options, like Harley-Davidson, can range from $295 for faux leather to $950 for real leather. Smaller brands and generic options might be more affordable, with prices starting around $114.99. Keep in mind that lower-priced options may lack support or warranties.