For those of us who purchased a Sportster without the touring package and are now kicking ourselves in the ass because we need storage space, fear no more! We don’t necessarily need saddle bags to carry our stuff. We can get by with backpacks, a sissy bar, or an easy to remove/install swing arm bag.
I love the naked look of my bike, so installing hard case saddlebags was a big no-no. The easiest way to carry my stuff was to get a backpack. There are two types of backpacks you can buy: motorcycle specific bags or “fashion” backpacks. Each have their pro’s and con’s, so here are my thoughts:
I purchased this backpack for my boyfriend last year and used it a few times myself. The bag comes in at ~$180, and is a true motorcycle bag. It’s designed to prevent drag, is water resistant, will not wear down by wind shear, has comfortable neck straps, large interior compartments, a fleece compartment for an extra face shield, and is ergonomic.
The most practical components are the zippers, which are on the interior of the backpack against your back. So even if you forget to zip it up, contents will not fly out all over the place (which has happened to my boyfriend before lol). The chest and hip straps are also great to have as they help secure the pack to you.
As someone who is petite, this bag was uncomfortable for me to wear, but I still found it practical on days where I needed to carry more stuff. For the averaged-height guy that doesn’t want to install saddlebags, this backpack is a solid investment if you need to carry extra clothes, boots, gear to work everyday.
What I ride with every time I’m on my bike is a black faux-leather backpack with 2 side pockets, an exterior zipper with secured clip, and a zipper on the back.The straps are 1 inch wide and are adjustable, although are already showing wear and tear so they probably won’t last another year. There is only 1 compartment in the bag, but if you release the clip on the exterior zipper, you can expand the pack to fit a little bit more. It’s not a name brand bag, in fact I picked it up at Nordstrom Rack for ~$40, and is made in China. It probably won’t last long, but it works for when I’m on and off the bike.
Now this backpack is not practical at all for people who want to carry tons of stuff, so be warned. BUT, I can still fit in a pair of shoes, my work clothes, a water bottle, a face shield, and some odds and ends into the backpack. It’s a good sized backpack for me, but I definitely have to be mindful of what I can carry. The only issue that worries me is that there is no chest strap to secure the backpack to me, but since my new jacket is leather and the straps are thick and faux leather, they grip on to me and don’t slide off. Worst case scenario, I’d have to MacGyver a chest strap with a carabiner or a string to keep it secured.
So if you are going to buy a backpack instead of installing saddle bags, make sure it fits you comfortably, can hold as much as you need to carry, has secured zippers/clips, and is thicker material than cloth (like the JanSport backpacks) because those can be affected by the wind and deteriorate quicker.
I’m toying with the idea of installing a sissy bar for longer touring trips, so having an easy to bolt on and off sissy bar is my best bet.
I’m planning a trip this Spring exploring the Pacific Northwest, so I want a sissy bar that is tall enough to strap on a large 50-60 Liter backpack. So far, the one’s I like are the Burly Brand tall sissy bar and the Gasbox Bolt-On sissy bar, which are similar height but not in price.
I’m planning on installing one in the next few months, so keep your eye out for a post specifically on the sissy bar installation and review!
Swing Arm Bag
Blockhead did an awesome review of the Willie & Max Swingarm bag on his Youtube Channel that has me convinced I need it in brown for my Iron.
It’s sleek enough to keep the Sportster slim in profile, but it adds practicality. I like the way they look, so I might trade in my backpack for one of these once it falls apart on me.
How do you guys carry extra items when you ride?