I recently got a set of saddlebags from Viking Bags to try out, and after putting down about 1000 miles with them on, I wanted to share some of my thoughts — the good and the bad. For reference, these are the Viking Lamellar Large Leather Shock Cutout Hard Saddlebags, and I run them on my 2015 Harley-Davidson Dyna Street Bob.
These bags retail for $534.95, but are currently on sale on the Viking Bags website for $384.99. This includes the bags, mounting kit, and all the hardware you need to install them (there are no racks involved), which makes it one of the more affordable hard bag options on the market.
Ok, I’m going to be honest here. Installing these bags was a major pain in the ass. They don’t come pre-drilled, so you have to measure and drill them yourself. Not only is the measuring part practically impossible to do by yourself (the installation instructions recommend having a friend to help you), it’s also a challenge to even figure out where on the bike to place them since they don’t come with any guidelines. I’ve never had hard bags on any bike before, so for me this meant a lot of guess work. I realize these bags are designed to fit on more than one model, but it would still be helpful if they came with some type of drilling chart or fitment recommendations. It took me a few tries to get it right.
If you’re running stock turn signals and license plate (which comes side-mounted on the Street Bob), you’ll also need to relocate those. This was not an issue for me since I’m not running the stock setup, but if you are, this is something to consider when choosing saddlebags.
These bags come with a cutout for shocks, which in theory sounds like a really good idea. I found this cutout to be less than ideally shaped, however. I’m running Burly Brand’s 12.5″ Stiletto Shocks, which are fairly close to stock size (they’re not piggybacks or anything else out of the ordinary), but I had a hard time fitting the cutout around them, even using the spacers that came with the bags. For my setup, I found that the cutout section is too wide and not deep enough, which affects fitment and available storage space.
These are pretty good size bags (4860 cubic inches, according to the specs). The shock cutout definitely decreases the storage space and make the bags look bigger than they actually are, which I wasn’t too happy with at first. But I’ve still been able to fit a whole bunch of stuff in them, including a bulky rain suit, leather pants, an extra helmet visor, multiple water bottles, and plenty of snacks (always bring snacks!). There’s enough room for most things you’ll need for a long weekend away, even with the cutouts.
Now we’re getting to the good stuff, what sets these bags apart from just your regular, run-of-the-mill cheap saddlebags. First, they are waterproof. I haven’t been able to test this out yet — I’ve ridden with them through snow-covered roads and a pretty gnarly desert wind storm so far, but no rain — so I’ll just take Viking’s word for it. Second, they are lockable. This is probably my favorite thing about these bags. They lock on default when you close them, and you need a key to open them. I just keep the key on the same chain as the fob for my bike so it’s easily accessible. I feel completely safe leaving stuff in the bags while going to dinner or parking it outside a hotel room overnight. It’s also nice to not have to deal with leather straps or any other time consuming ways to open and close your saddlebags.
We can pretend that functionality is the biggest selling point when it comes to choosing parts for your bike, but we all know that looks are equally important. And I honestly love the way these bags look on my bike. The lines are clean and complement the motorcycle. They don’t look bulky or out of place. Again, I’ve never had a bike with hard bags before, and it’s not something I was ever planning on getting. That is, until we decided to go on a 4500 mile road trip this summer and I realized I would need more storage than just my sissy bar.
All in all, I’m a fan of the Viking bags. Installing them was a little annoying, but once they’re on, you won’t have to deal with that part again. (These are not detachable bags, so once you put them on, they’ll need to stay where they are.)
One thing I was worried about was lane-splitting, since the bags do add some width to the bike. But I rode 600 miles through Mexico a few weeks ago, and even while splitting lanes across the border the bags did not feel in the way at all. And I didn’t hit any cars, so that’s a bonus. They are so practical, I’m honestly not sure how I ever went on long rides without saddlebags before.