Rigid Saddlebags - The Hard Way

If you're truly serious about racking up the miles, you've probably considered purchasing a set of hard saddlebags. That's understandable-in the days before purpose-built touring bikes roamed the planet, hard luggage was at the top of every long-hauler's must-have list.

There are fewer players in the aftermarket hard-bag business these days, but the designs they produce are more practical and hard-wearing than ever, rivaling the integrated luggage you'd get on a full-dress touring bike for capacity and convenience. The recent popularity of so-called "rigid bags" has expanded the touring accessory menu even further-these stylish, customizable cargo containers usually feature a soft outer material such as leather supported by stiff plastic inserts or an internal frame. Since they're easier to manufacture, they're also more affordable than true hard bags.

To rig hard or rigid bags, you'll need mounting hardware made specifically for your machine. Oftentimes the bag manufacturer will offer matching brackets with the luggage, but don't count on it. Installation shouldn't be too difficult, though it will likely require relocating your bike's rear turn signals; check with the manufacturer to confirm before you start shelling out greenbacks. Then, once the hardware's in place, simply bolt the bags into the brackets.

It's a good idea to look at waterproof and lockable bags. It also helps if they are detachable, so that when you arrive at your destination you can carry your luggage inside.

Another foible to be aware of is the illusion of capacity-while hard bags may appear huge on the outside, some are oddly shaped to better match your bike's lines, leaving you with nooks and crannies on the inside that aren't particularly useful. Unlike soft bags, they won't expand as you keep cramming stuff in. Plus, mounting brackets can position the bags pretty far out, adding significant width to your motor-cycle, so you might want to familiarize yourself with the extra girth before setting out. Be sure to measure pipe and strut clearances as well. Even with the bags off, you're often left with brackets that might not exactly score fashion points at your next cruiser function.

But nothing's perfect, and if you want the greatest convenience for long-haul touring, you need to at least contemplate hard or rigid saddlebags. We've included several examples of both in this buyer's guide, so take a long, hard look.

Lock Your Leathers Soft Leather
Saddlebag Security System-$150
It's great if your bike accepts them, but hard bags aren't always a viable option. Sometimes the cost is simply too prohibitive or there are no units available for your particular bike. After a bit of research, Don and Cathy Cousins of Lock Your Leathers found there wasn't anything on the market that effectively secured soft leather bags, so they developed a hasp-type locking device as a solution. A patent was obtained in 2000, and Lock Your Leathers was born. This simple yet effective saddlebag security system provides protection for valuables stored in your bike's bags. It's easy to install and use, and the front hinge helps to hold the bag's shape. A flat plate ensures that a thief cannot reach in from the side to remove valuables. Your peace of mind is probably worth the $150 investment.