The first sissybar I ever owned was bolted onto the back of my 1968 Schwinn Stingray bicycle. The thing looked like a glorified coat hanger, but I found I could securely strap textbooks to it for a worry-free ride to class, and that was good enough for me. Fast forward to present-day cruiserdom (not a huge leap when you think about it), and those inverted U-shaped metal brackets are still sprouting off the back of many a heavyweight bike.
For many passengers, the backrest's importance as comfort-enhancing accessories is unparalleled, and the sissybar's role as a mounting point for cargo has expanded as people realize what an asset a sissybar bag can be and more such bags have become available. These specialized bags now come in a variety of shapes, sizes, materials and configurations. However, they should be used primarily to carry light itmes because attaching anything heavy at such a high point on the motorcycle will have an adverse effect on low-speed handling.
Look for these key features when you're considering a sissybar bag for your bike:
Mounting systems: Think about attachment pointsis your sissybar tall enough for the bag? Too wide? Will the bag sit on the passenger seat or does it require a dedicated luggage rack? Also consider a universal mounting system for versatility. Rigid vs. soft: At least some type of structure is a good thing to have in a bag; it makes for easier packing and unpacking. Rigid bags are also more supportive backrests when you flip them forward to rest on the passenger seat. Weatherproofing and durability: Many bags come with their own rain covers, but material construction can make a big difference in surviving the elements. Leather has visual appeal, but heavy-grade nylon is probably a better choice for all-weather durability. Capacity: Bigger is not always better, especially when mounting something tall and heavy on the back of your bike. Cargo can severely affect a motorcycle's center of gravity, resulting in poor handling or, worse, loss of control. Keep the heaviest part of the load low and as close as possible to the bike. Convenience: A host of welcome features are apparent in the latest luggage designs on the market. Two of our favorites are backpack straps (make sure they're padded) and roller wheels (the lower the profile, the better).
Dowco Rally Pack Universal Luggage System
Dowco's Universal Luggage System is a compact, two-piece combination that includes the company's Jumbo Pack (with bungee net included) and its top-mounted Roll Bag. Both units are made of Cordura nylon with interior foam padding for shape retention and insulation, with reflective horizontal stripes for visibility. The Jumbo Pack offers a respectable 1.5 cubic feet of volume inside its clamshell-style, zippered lid, and a small pouch on the front provides convenient storage for items such as maps. A nylon grab handle allows easy offloading, and web belts with adjustable plastic buckles on either side lash the bags together, doubling as backpack straps for carrying convenience. The unit secures to most sissybars via three straps that adjust with hook-and-loop closures, and strategically positioned D-rings provide additional attachment points. The Roll Bag likewise has a zippered clamshell opening and adjustable straps on the back that can be mounted independently of the big bag. The bungee net also works with both bags, and the Roll Bag's heavy-gauge vinyl liner attaches into either bag as waterproof protection for your valuables. The whole enchilada goes for a reasonable $110, but each piece is available separately, too.
Dimensions: 17 inches high, 14.5 inches wide
Kudos: Manageable size and shape; good value
Concerns: Medium capacity
Harley-Davidson Universal Roller Bag
It's hard to disagree with the fact that rolling motorcycle luggage is an idea whose time has come&151especially with the heavy loads cruiser riders often carry. Designed to sit on a passenger pillion or luggage rack, this universal-mount sissybar bag made by Dowco for Harley-Davidson boasts a water-repellent Climashield fabric exterior and solid interior trim. Bound seams and wire-reinforced welt give the impression of durability within, and a comfortable rubber handle, glove-friendly adjustable buckles and a large external pocket on each side score points for convenience. The roomy 1.8-cubic-foot interior features internal organizer pockets for small items and a zippered pocket for loose trinkets. The rear attachment is a big sleeve that unzips from the body and slips over the sissybar; it's tightened with adjustable straps on either side. The Roller Bag accepts cargo through a front zip opening, and a metal handle telescopes out of the top so you can guide bulky gear to your room on the slick rollerblade wheels. A hidden rain cover tucked in the bottom of the bag provides additional protection against the elements.
Dimensions: 17.5 inches high, 16 inches wide and 10 inches deep
Kudos: Smooth-gliding wheels; clean design
Concerns: Small front opening; pricey
Harley-Davidson Genuine Motor Accessories
Kuryakyn Full Dresser Bag
This voluminous one-piece unit is designed by Bagtec and distributed by motorcycle aftermarket giant Kuryakyn. The bag's tough 1200-denier Cordura exterior is coupled with a fully lined interior for weatherproofing and durability, and the unit secures onto backrests seven to 14 inches wide via an adjustable attachment (essentially a large Velcro sleeve). A plastic internal shelving system is the main feature of the Full Dresser: You can load the bag from the top, but the shelving allows you to pack items in individual areas as well (the plastic shelving stiffens the bag sufficiently for back support, but add soft towels to prevent irritation). The front cover features two-way zippers so you can access any part of the bag, and the Full Dresser is also designed to unroll for additional space up top, eliminating the need for a roll bag. The bag's dimensions yield a cavernous 2.5-cubic-foot total capacity (expanded), which includes five external pockets. A built-in pouch also contains a rain cover, and nifty roller wheels on the bottom allow you to easily transfer your tonnage to a hotel room.
Dimensions: 16 inches wide, 11 inches deep and 28 inches high (folded height is 18 inches)
Kudos: Roller wheels; long tow strap
Concerns: Little reflectivity
Marsee Products 50-Liter Cruiser Bar Bag
For 2004, the updated Marsee Cruiser Bar Bag gets additional reflectivity and a more versatile attachment system allowing it to also be mounted backward on the passenger seat. The capacious unit is made of sturdy 1050-denier ballistic fabric with heavy-duty water-repellent coating and plastic inserts for rigidity. The Cruiser Bar Bag is a two-piece systeman upper roll bag and a separate lower main bag connect to each other via a convenient zippered on/off mounting system. The main bag features a large lidlike opening to the main compartment for easy access, and offers three external pockets and a carry handle. The bag converts to a backpack with straps that tuck away, or each piece can be carried individually. The mounting hardware is adjustable so the bag can fit a variety of sissybars and seats, and a soft, weather-protective cover is included. The entire unit fits cruisers equipped with sissybars and a luggage rack, but it also mounts horizontally on many rear seats. The detachable roll bag sports two outside pockets plus a main compartment. The Bar Bag's dimensions accommodate approximately 50 liters.
Dimensions: 22 inches high, 17 inches wide and 8 inches deep
Kudos: Comfy, zip-off backpack straps; cinching waterproof liner
Concerns: Somewhat wide
Nelson-Rigg CTB-900 Deluxe Tourer
One of the bigger units in its lineup, Nelson-Rigg's CTB-900 brings durable UV-treated Tri-Max polyester and full foam construction to the table. It attaches to backrests using the company's "Full-Nelson" mounting system, which means it can rest either on a luggage rack or the backseat. A foldout rigid plate prevents the bag from sagging when the main compartment expands. There are four side pockets (two are expandable) and a large organizer pouch on the front to keep track of your phone, maps and keys. The heavy-duty zippers offer oversized pulls for easier manipulation with gloves, and security loops on the bottom allow the bag to be cable-locked to the bike. Reflective webbing adds conspicuity at night, but the really trick feature is the integrated pocket on the back that unzips to reveal padded straps, turning the CTB-900 into a comfortable backpack. A heavy-duty combination lock and included internal rain liner are also welcome additions, and the roll bag that's part of the system can be mounted separately.
Dimensions: 14 inches long, 18.5 inches high and 8 inches wide, unexpanded; 10 inches wide, expanded (other styles and sizes available)
Kudos: Integrated design; good features; backpack straps; large capacity; rain liner
Concerns: Backpack straps could be a bit more padded
Rev-Pack's Rest Pack supports the adage that sometimes simpler is betterit's one of the best-selling products ever designed by the company. The uninsulated, heavyweight Cordura nylon item is really just a large sack designed to fit over backrests at least eight inches high. This works especially well on cruisers, but it's universal enough to look good on any motorcycle with a backrest. The Rest Pack's attachment sleeve can be slipped over the sissybar for forward placement on the passenger seat, or the pack can be mounted to face rearward (ideally with a luggage rack) and secured with horizontal straps. The bag holds 1.24 cubic feet in its two zippered compartments, and a smaller pouch up front stashes sundries. Two external side pockets offer storage for road-trip essentials, and metal D-rings on each corner offer multiple attachment points. A rubberized panel on the bottom protects paintjobs (a urethane rain cover is available separately). But you have to be a careful packerinside is an undivided space without rigid inserts. Still, the bag is a super value.
Dimensions: 14 inches wide, 18 inches tall and 11 inches deep
Kudos: Large capacity; good value
Concerns: Unstructured interior can cause chaos within
River Road Classic Bike Pack & Travel Case (as shown)
This is yet another iteration of the pack and roll-bag combination that's so popular with motorcycle luggage, but with the River Road unit you'll have to buy each piece separately to make a whole unit. The River Road main bag, the Classic Bike Pack, is crafted of thick, rigid synthetic leather with pipe edging for traditional good looks and easy maintenance. The square-ish trunk appropriately sports a box-top lid that secures with hook-and-loop fasteners, and the two straps feature classic metal buckles on the outside and quick-release plastic buckles underneath. The inside compartment is plenty spacious and holds more than two cubic feet of cargo; large pockets on either side and a big pouch on the front hold smaller items for easier access. The main compartment is unstructured and undivided, however, so pack carefully. The spacious, separate roll bag fits to the top of the main compartment via a simple D-ring attachment and measures 16.5 x 8.5 x 10 inches. If you like rough and ready, this might be the bag for you.
Dimensions: 23 inches wide, 16 inches high and 12 inches deep
Kudos: Simple and sturdy
Concerns: Rough finish; rather bulky
River Road by Tucker Rocky
See a motorcycle dealer
Saddlemen Super Taos Sissybar Bag
Saddlemen's full-featured Super Taos showcases a clean design sporting durable 1000-denier ballistic nylon with rigid construction and internal bracing to help maintain shape when the bag is empty. This bag features the SaddleStow series' universal mounting system, a strap arrangement that adjusts to fit virtually any bike with a backrest. The mounting straps securing the Super Taos to the bike can be quickly disconnected via side-release buckles so you can leave the system in place for quick reinstallation. The top clamshell opening unzips a one-cubic-foot compartment, with a roomy mesh pocket up front for miscellaneous items; four zippered side pockets provide additional storage space behind the actual pockets, and an expansion gusset in the main bag opens up and out for added capacity. The included top-mounted Standard Sleep Roll Bag attaches easily to the top of the main bag with plastic buckles, and D-rings along the side of the bag provide alternative attachment points. Backpack straps are sleekly hidden in a zippered pocket that also houses mounting straps.
Dimensions: 19 inches tall, 15 inches wide and 6 inches deep, unexpanded; 21 inches tall, 11 inches deep, expanded (other styles and sizes available)
Kudos: Comfy backpack system; clean, full-featured design
Concerns: Smallish capacity
T-Bags Universal Lone Star
The Universal Lone Star is refined, intelligent luggage that reflects T-Bags' long history of producing quality motorcycle cargo. The two-piece unit features tough 1680-denier nylon skin with rigidly designed foam insulation and a bottom plastic insert to prevent sagging. A small clamshell flap zips open on top to reveal a large 1.6-cubic-foot compartment, with two roomy side pockets on either side to swallow water bottles and other touring necessities. The two-piece unit also offers the company's patent-pending Universal Expandable Mounting System (in essence, a zippered sleeve), which allows adjustability on different backrest combinations up to 14 inches wide without the use of Velcro straps. The bag does need to rest on a luggage rack or a passenger seat when mounted, however. Eight bungee loops along the side allow for additional attachments, and a separate organizer compartment sports pockets for smaller loose items. An included semirigid roll bag can be mounted independently or secured to the main bag's integrated buckles, and a built-in, bungeed rain cover unfolds to protect the bag in wet conditions.
Dimensions: 19 inches high, 16 inches wide and 9 inches deep (other styles and sizes available)
Kudos: Integrated design; lots of trick features
Concerns: Main opening is small; no backpack straps
Tour Master Cruiser II Sissybar Bag (Large)
Tour Master's newest motorcycle luggage series, the Cruiser II Bag collection, features synthetic material construction that looks and feels like heavy-grained quality leather, but is claimed to resist stains, mildew and rust. The bags have been reinforced for better shape retention in 2004 and are now backed with neoprene pads to protect your bike's finish. The Large Cruiser II bag features well over two cubic feet of carrying capacity. A new quick-release buckle system hidden behind traditional chrome buckles and straps allows easier access to the box-style lids (which are redesigned with rain flaps for protection against wetness). Two large side pockets provide plenty of extra storage space, and a front pocket adds easy accessibility for wider items like maps. A universal mounting sleeve on the back can be secured to a variety of sissybars with adjustable hook-and-loop straps and a top flap. The removable barrel bag features a large compartment and external pockets and mounts easily to the top of the main bag with D-ring clips; padded backpack straps are included for off-bike carrying options. Each bag comes with its own rain cover (other styles and sizes available).
Dimensions: 14.5 inches high, 24 inches wide and 12 inches deep as shown (other styles and sizes available)
Kudos: Great value; huge capacity
Concerns: Little reflectivity
See a motorcycle dealer
Willie & Max BlackHawk Max Pax
The new Max Pax from Willie & Max isn't so much a sissybar bag as it is a trunk for your bikethough the attachment system is designed for backrests and sissybars. The good-looking black synthetic leather construction is trimmed in gray synthetic leather, and it represents a step away from the company's traditional designs as it has no straps or buckles to close the bag. Instead, it uses a hook-and-loop tab closure for the rounded, clamshell top lid, which allows quick and convenient entry into the reinforced bag (internal plastic inserts provide shape retention). The low, wide unit comes in 10 different versions to match your bike's style and luggage, each featuring a distinctive Willie & Max insert. Cargo capacity is a respectable 0.7 cubic feet, and the Max Pax attaches to most sissybars with a two-inch-wide hook-and-loop strap, with four laces for securing it to a luggage rack. The Max Pax must be supported by a fender luggage rack.
Dimensions: 13 inches high, 9.5 inches wide and 10 inches deep (other styles available)
Kudos: Clean and simple; wide and low
Concerns: Is that all there is?
Willie & Max
For additional evaluations of, comparisons of, and shopping advice for motorcycle gear and accessories, see the Accessories and Gear section of MotorcycleCruiser.com. To find a particular product we have evaluated, see our Accessory & Gear Finder.