Saddlebags are great. No matter what kind of a motorcycle you ride, you always need to take something with you. The only bikers that don’t need a saddlebag are the track racers.
Commuters, day trippers, Round The World riders, city bikers, rural riders, you name it ..if you ride a motorcycle, chances are you have stuff you need to take with you. And what better than storing it behind you in some nice saddlebags.
Then you can walk around with the saddlebags slung over your back like in the old days.
But you need to take care of what you are going to buy. Here are a few pointers for those of you who are about to buy a saddlebag.
First of all, let’s be clear. For me a saddlebag has to be made out of leather. Imagine a plastic saddlebag? That’s like serving a hamburger in the Four Seasons restaurant.
But even leather comes in different types:
Top Grain Leather
The most expensive part of a cow. It shows the most of the leather’s grain.
Full Grain (also known as Whole Grain) Leather
It’s a one piece leather, so not split. It is the top leather you can use for saddlebags. It’s heavy and thick.
Split leather is leather that has usually some other material in it. It comes from the bottom part of Full Grain leather, so much cheaper. It is usually thinner.
Leather mixed with another material, usually plastic. If done right, it can be quite good and less expensive while still giving the impression of real leather.
This is the cheapest form, it’s when there is a different material covered by a thin layer of leather.
Waterproof Or Not?
You will need to think about waterproof. If you ride only in the desert, than skip this, but if you stand the chance of riding in the rain, you’ll need to think about this.
Most leather saddlebags aren’t really rainproof. This might surprise you, but it’s a fact. But you can buy waterproofing leather cream that will stop moisture from penetrating your saddlebags. But if your bags fall in the river, all hope is lost.
But if you live in a wet climate, better go for waterproof saddlebags. Maybe they’ll not be 100% leather, but at least you spare socks and phone will not get wet.
The last thing you need to remember is that you can not just buy a nice saddlebag and throw it over the rear of your motorcycle. It’ll come off seconds after you open the throttle. So you need to ensure that you also get the saddlebag support for YOUR bike’s model. Not all models are available for a given saddlebag, so watch out carefully.
However, some bags can be used without supports, but those require it to be tied-down. Called Throw Over Saddlebags, they do allow you a lot of flexibility, but personally, I prefer my bags to be fully locked onto my bike’s support. Perish the thought that the bag leaves my bike while riding. Stuff of nightmares!!
Like everything that is good in life, believe it or not, saddlebags require maintenance. Leather will deteriorate over time. The elements are not nice to them; sun, rain, snow, dust & dirt – all will make your leather turn ugly.
To prevent this from happening, and to enjoy the saddlebags for many years you need to wipe the bag clean and place leather cream over it and then rub the cream in. This keeps the leather soft and supple, AND it makes the leather waterproof.
A few minutes and your leather is good to go for many more weeks.