Motorcycle Saddle Bags – The Fascinating History Behind Them

As one adage teaches, “We cannot know where we are going until we know where we have been.” While saddlebags help us to get where we will go, where have motorcycle saddlebags “been” in the past? We cannot fully appreciate today motorcycle saddle bags, without knowing about the history of these convenient sacks. Learning this history provides us with a deeper appreciation for both motorcycle riding and motorcycle culture.

Saddlebag basics.

Today, motorcyclists have made saddlebags the most popular way to tote everything-but-the-kitchen-sink, when they travel. Two primary types of saddlebags exist:

1. Throw-over saddlebag

2. Hard-mount saddlebag

Motorcyclists began using throw-over saddlebags during the first years of the 1950s. Within time, hard-mount saddlebags evolved from the throw-over saddlebags.

Better bags for bigger bikes.

In the 1960s, the motorcycle business started to skyrocket, which spawned the development of luggage for bikers. In particular, hard-mount saddlebags became more popular than throw-over saddlebags. Motorcycles began to grow in size, while cyclists’ journeys grew in distance. Cyclists in America were not content to ride around town. They began trekking from city to city, and even from shore to shore. Thus, they required motorcycle luggage that was more durable and trustworthy.

Through a single practice, both the form and function of motorcycle saddlebags improved. Many motorcyclists drilled numerous holes into their cycles’ rear fender. This allowed them to bolt the motorcycle saddlebags onto the frame of the bike. The motorcycles’ function improved, as they became more reliable. Furthermore, this practice made the saddlebags more attractive. Ultimately, the improved appearance and practicality of the bags made them more popular among motorcyclists.

The big business of saddlebags.

As is often the case, an industry improved upon and commercialized the original concept of the first attachable saddlebags. They began manufacturing motorcycles with struts, which allowed cyclists to avoid drilling into the cycle frame, before bolting on saddlebags. Within time, manufacturers improved the struts, so bikers could attach additional accessories to them.

Japanese motorcycle manufacturers began to improve further upon the saddlebags’ usage. They altered the overall designs of their bikes, to accommodate for the saddlebags. In addition to changing the frame of the motorcycle, they also focused on more minor details. For instance, they modified the structure of their motorcycles, by ensuring that the turn signal did not obstruct the position of the saddlebags. That had been a particular problem with smaller cycles.

Hardness or flexibility?

Then in the 1980s, motorcycles continued to become bigger, and riders continued to take longer voyages. The industry responded to this need, by producing fiberglass saddlebags. Manufacturers oftentimes bundled these saddlebags with the motorcycles, which boosted the sales of the cycles. The increased durability and flexibility of the new saddlebags further improved the quality of motorcycling.

Today, leather saddlebags have generally become more popular than the sturdier fiberglass saddlebags. The reason is that the former provide bikers with more opportunities to customize their motorcycles. In fact, even the color of many of today leather saddlebags complements the color of the motorcycle.

Motorcycle saddlebags have evolved greatly from their humble beginnings. Yet they have retained their main function of adding convenience to motorcycling.