Nothing beats a purpose built soft bag custom made to fit your exact make and model. Companies like Touratech and Giant Loop have conquered this market by creating functional, quality products that are easy to install and fit perfectly. But just because you’ve acquired a bag that’s not supposed to fit your bike doesn’t mean you can’t use it.
Whether you found a cool soft bag at the Goodwill or a perfectly preserved saddlebag on the skeletal remains of a mule, there’s usually a way to make it work. All you need is a little creativity mixed with a good dose of resourcefulness. And some patience! For a prime example of this we turn to Dual Sport Alchemy’s favorite backyard engineer, Frank Morton.
Besides having a nice collection of motorcycles, Frank has a collection of horses too. Horses are just like motorcycles – if motorcycles were four times heavier, had a mind of their own, and crapped on the trails. Frank had an old equestrian saddlebag from Morgan’s (pictured) which he decided to put to use on his DR650. He got some two sided velcro to strap the front of the bag to the frame and what appears to be a dog collar to fasten the back. After one ride he discovered the bags flapped around in the wind like a cheap toupee. This issue was solved by cutting 26 gauge sheet metal to fit inside each bag. He curled the edges of the metal to prevent them from ripping the nylon and bent them into an ‘L’ to help the bag retain its shape. Then he simply drilled a hole in the sheet metal where it could meet his side cover bolt, replaced that bolt with longer one and double nutted it, adding yet another fastening point. Done!
You don’t need to restrict yourself to used equestrian saddlebags either. I’ve also seen some creative DIY work with backpacks. But before you go this route, check out your local Army Surplus Store for military messenger bags. They’re usually made out of heavy-duty waxed canvas, have straps that can be cut down and sewn together, and plenty of loops and rings for fastening points. Then hit the hardware store which can offer a treasure trove of supplies for attaching a bag to your bike. D-rings, carabiners, T-nut fasteners, grommets, velcro, zip ties, and a variety of other things that can be used to bolt on, strap, or clamp down your bag.