Thursday, June 20, 2013

Luggage review

Unless you ride a fully-loaded bagger you will from time to time face the problem of carrying all the stuff you need whether for a 2-day weekend or a longer trip. Of course there’s always the Easy Rider mode of travel with a rolled-up blanket strapped to the handlebars and a old duffle bag tied to the sissy bar but most of us want something more substantial to carry and protect our worldly possessions.
That’s why I’ve been looking at luggage specifically designed for use on a motorcycle.
The first thing I discovered is motorcycle luggage can be very expensive indeed! The second thing was there’s so much choice out there it’s hard to decide, and no one offers week-long test drives to help you choose where best to spend your hard-earned cash. So when Viking Bags offered up a Viking Phat Sissy Bar Bag in return for a review I jumped at the chance.
When I opened the box my first reaction was that the bag seems bigger than the catalogue photos would lead you to believe. It seems to be very well constructed and comes with a rain cover and several straps, including a shoulder strap, a set of backpack straps, and 4 tie-down straps for attachment to the bike. (After experiencing lost straps and broken clips on other equipment a couple of spare tie-down straps would be a nice addition to the package.)
But first things first. How much will it carry?
I put together what I would normally pack for a week on the road (or longer,  assuming a laundromat visit at least once a week). I don’t do camping any more and rely on roadside hotels/motels for a hot shower and a good night’s sleep so I obviously didn’t include all the equipment that is necessary to be completely self-sufficient.
Here’s what I packed into the bag.

As you can see there is still space for some rain gear and all the Harley-Davidson tee-shirts you’ll be buying at every stop en route. The side pouches would easily hold your toiletries, a few incidentals, a small camera, a couple of cigars, and even a mickey or two of your favourite tipple. Or you could stuff them full of socks and underwear, leaving more main storage room for larger items.  (Major caveat: if you are travelling with your significant other all bets are off. Her stuff will more than fill the bag, you will be wearing the same clothes you left home in for a week, and you'll be spending several hours at the laundromat wrapped in nothing but a towel as you wait for your jeans and tee-shirt to get clean. Best get her her own bike and luggage.)
Attaching the bag to the bike was straightforward using the straps provided with their quick-connect snap fasteners. I tried it on both my solo seat configuration as well as with the back rest/luggage rack combo. The back rest/luggage rack offered the most support for the bag but both options worked well and getting the bag on and off the bike took only a minute or two. If more capacity is required all the extra D-rings (there are 17 on the bag) would make it an easy matter to attach another small bag, or sleeping bag, on top. This is another place where extra straps would come in handy, but bungee cords would also serve.
Solo seat configuration.
Rear view
Mounted on luggage rack.
Mounted behind rider on 2-up seat.
Getting at the contents with the bag on the bike is generally good. Once it’s tied down access to the main compartment is through the front flap only so you should pack anything you might want to get at up front and centre. The side pockets are always accessible.
So what’s the bottom line? I like this bag. At 3045 cubic inches it has more than enough capacity for any solo trip. Its flexibility in terms of being able to use it in various configurations is also a plus. Only a long-term test will determine how well it stands up to days on the road, sand storms, and rain showers but I wouldn’t anticipate any issues with this bag and would feel confident taking it on a long trip.
Finally, the price is right. At $149.00 it’s one of the better values out there in my opinion. (An even better value at the current sale price.) And if Viking Bags were to include a couple of extra tie-down straps it would be a slam-dunk. 

10 comments:

  1. nice bag. it seems to be a happy medium between a small roll and large expandable 3 section. great info, thanks.

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    1. Ms. M. - Agreed. It doesn't look as cumbersome or top heavy as the larger bags, so a nice compromise I think.

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  2. Looks like a pretty nice bag. I have heard good things about Viking Bags.

    Good review - great exchange for the bag. I bet it will serve you well for many years.

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    1. Trobairitz - I'd never heard of Viking before they approached me, but I'm glad they did. I'm looking forward to getting many miles out of this bag.

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  3. I like you new bag. Looks great on your bike and looks like it has plenty of room!

    I have an older bike and I have had a devil of a time finding anything to fit. My biggest problem is that I can't find a luggage rack for it and that would have made things so much easier, because it could have rested there instead of the seat and making the fit better. I am still searching for saddle bag brackets.

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  4. Dave, that looks like it would work on my Vespa too, certainly in place of the topcase. If I decide after this summer's trip that touring is for me, I'll have a serious look at that for sure.

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    1. David, I think you'd be impressed.

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  5. Nice! I just reviewed an Ed Hardy leather vest from Viking Bag's brother company, Motorcycle House. Cool of them to reach out to us. The bag looks awesome, sturdier than my present T-Bags model, but until that thing falls apart (probably never), I'll keep it.

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    1. Adrian - Sorry but your comment got flagged as spam and I just found it. Agreed, nice of them to reach out.

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