I remember my annual visit to a local Harley-Davidson dealership to drool, uh, daydream about one day owning one of these beautiful iron horses. The pilgrimage had been so consistent that I felt like Norm of the ‘Cheers’ sitcom. ‘Hey Rick!’ everyone would shout as I entered the doors of the hallowed dealership. One day as I entered those doors, there was an aura in the air that this would be the day. ‘Hi, Rick! Is today going to be the day?!’ he said smiling and hugging my shoulder. I pulled out the picture of what I wanted and handed it to him. ‘Have you got this?’ I said. Looking at the picture, he says, ‘As a matter of fact, I do.’. On that day I became a Harley rider.

So, there she was, a soft tail cruiser anyone would be proud to have. However, it didn’t take me long to figure out I needed more storage for those road trips around South Carolina. So, I parted ways with $400 and mounted some Harley leather bags.

Leather or hard saddlebags? The ‘throw over’ saddlebag first appeared in the early ‘50’s. In 1960 motorcycle luggage evolved to accommodate bigger and better motorcycles. The bag de jour was a leather bag due to their ability to be easily customized. Soon, enthusiasts found a way to permanently mount them to their bike’s rear fender and hard bags were close behind. My wallet was too small to accommodate hard bags, so soft bags soon adorned BJ.

Soon the leather bags earned their stay as I was consistently filling them with things I would need on trips around the state. However, as time passed, and my needs changed, hard bags became increasingly attractive to me. Compared to leather bags, hard bags were larger and capable of keeping enclosed items dryer during stormy weather. The price tag on the hard bags kept pushing me away until I discovered eBay.

Discovering eBay had a double-edged sword effect. One, prices for hard saddlebags were a fraction of the cost that Harley Davidson bags cost. Secondly, although cheaper, most were made in China, something I didn’t like, but finances forced me to do it. Mine came assembled with the hardware attached, saving me the nightmare of trying to put them together. I was also able to purchase the frames from eBay that would accommodate my bike for $40.

Back to the leather bags. If you leave home anticipating dropping your bike or getting run over by a rampant 1500 Dodge RAM, then I recommend leather bags.  So, what do I put in my saddlebags?

So, what’s in my bag? My first long ride was a two-day adventure to Branson, MO to see my mother and sister. As I was packing for my EPIC journey, my thoughts revolved around tools. Should I take a patch or plug kit for flat tires? What tools would I need if I broke down? Wait a second! Me, patching a flat tire on the side of the road or fixing a broken down bike. HA! Double HA HA!

Determining that my H.O.G. membership card and a credit card would be a better source of help than any tool I could put in my bag, I replaced them with my Surface PRO II wrapped in plastic to protect it against water. My left saddlebag was filled with clothes. The canvas travel bag mounted on my bike seat was filled with a pillow and my ¾ helmet, doubling as a backrest.

Eventually, I didn’t like how the leather bags looked on my bike. Every time I looked at the bags from the rear of my bike, I could see Sally Fields white Nun hat with wings, only black. Oh, the agony!

So, I purchased used hard bags. Hard bags are great, but I soon found out that they are highly susceptible to damage. But the way they looked on BJ was worth the gamble. Freshly painted vivid black by a friend in the Pee Dee area, I placed them on BJ. I was set, ready to cruise my favorite biker establishments profiling my new bags! Anyone would be proud.

Mounted a whopping 20 minutes, I was cruising, uh, creeping through ‘malfunction junction’ when a teenager driving his mom’s KIA Soul stood on the brakes of the KIA. Remember the slow-motion scenes during the Matrix movie? The entire incident entered into a slow-moving Matrix-like scene. It’s as if I had plenty of time to evaluate each decision in the time frame of a few seconds.

Getting up and propping against the cement wall, the first thing I could think of was, are my bags ok. Looking around, I see them both lying face down on the asphalt. Well, ‘what a fine mess this is Ollie.’ My freshly painted bags were now mere road kill on the highway. Did somebody say eBay? So, dejected with a broken wrist, I decided to rebuild BJ. Make her better and prettier. Thank you, State Farm and HP, for making it possible.

I once read the best way to keep your kids from buying drugs would be to buy them a motorcycle. They would spend all their money buying motorcycle parts. I agree. After years of owning a Harley, I might add that HD stands for ‘Hundred Dollars.’ Are you feeling the need for speed? Do two wheels float your boat? Does the roar of a Harley-Davidson get you excited? Set yourself free! Stimulate the economy and support your local Harley dealership. Buy the d**n motorcycle!


Ride Safe Ride Often