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Leather Saddlebags – Guide to Sizes, Materials, and Options

When you’re preparing for a long trip, it’s important to have the essentials with you.  But if you’re on a motorcycle or horse, where do you put everything?  I will discuss leather saddlebags, specifically for motorcycles and horses, so buckle up!

Leather saddlebags are pouches that attach to the back of a horse saddle or motorcycle. Designed to carry your things while you travel, leather saddlebags come in various materials, styles, and sizes and can cost an average of $50–$900 or more, depending on your needs and preferences.

Do you have a big motorcycle trip coming up and don’t have a way to carry your things?  Did you get a new motorcycle and need a way to haul the necessities for work? Learn more about leather saddlebags to help decide which one is best for you.

What are Leather Saddle Bags?

Leather saddlebags are satchels that can attach to the back of a motorcycle or horse saddle.  Leather saddlebags can be used to carry necessary items like food, a first aid kit, your cellphone, your wallet, clothing, toiletries, a raincoat, and maps. 

They vary in size depending on whether they’re for a quick or multi-day trip or if they’re seated on the back of a horse or the back of a motorcycle.  Leather saddlebags are designed to carry things you wouldn’t be able to carry otherwise.

A Rounded Brown Leather Saddlebag for a Horse - Leather Saddlebags - Liberty Leather Goods
A Rounded Brown Leather Saddlebag for a Horse

The History and Origin of Leather Saddle Bags?

Motorcycle leather saddlebags originated in the 1950s in America and began as throw-overs, or smaller bags designed to carry less.  There was a big boom in the motorcycle industry in the 1960s when people started traveling across the country and needed bigger saddlebags, known as hard mount saddlebags. Companies like Harley Davidson Motorcycle and Indian Motorcycle produced motorcycles with struts for mounting saddlebags that didn’t require any permanent changes like drilling holes. 

Other motorcycle companies like Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha changed their designs to make room for saddlebags. Fiberglass saddlebags were introduced in the 1980s to accommodate more luggage for cross-country rides, but motorcycle riders seem to favor leather saddlebags to this day as they are more customizable.

Archaeologists Bar-Oz, Nahshoni, Motro, and Oren documented finding ancient remains of leather saddlebag attachments that dated back to the Middle Ages between 1650 and 1550 BCE in Israel.  In 1227, Mongols would carry cooking pots, yogurt, water bottles, dried meat, and other types of essentials in their saddlebags for long expeditions, as described by author Morris Rossabi.

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What to Look for In Leather Saddle Bags

Whether for your motorcycle or horse saddle, there are a few qualities to look for in leather saddlebags.

Pouches 

Pouches on leather saddlebags can be a single pouch or a double.  A single pouch is perfect for a short commute or a leisurely Sunday.  Double pouches are good for long trips, when you’re bringing a friend, or when you have a job to do.

Made to fit work supplies like a small briefcase and a lunch, or even a stack of books for the student, panniers are great for getting around town with what you need for work or school.

Color 

Leather saddlebags come in multiple colors, from natural leather tan to black.  You’ll want to pick a color that looks good with your motorcycle but will also stand up to the weather.  There are single colors, contrasting colors, and even exotic finishes like distressed and Indian desert.

Size

Size is significant when it comes to leather saddlebags.  There are several sizes for short and long-distance trips, from small to extra-large.  Smaller sizes are perfect for day trips or a trip to and from work.  Larger sizes are good for when you need to bring a few more things, like across town or on an overnight trip.  Extra large size is perfect for multi-day excursions across the state or country.

Design 

Leather saddlebags fit uniquely between soft and hard saddlebags.  They can be made of natural or synthetic (weather-resistant) leather.  There are quick-release buckles and covers, tassels and studs, steel reinforcements, and motorcycle-type-specific designs.  You’ll want to pick a design that attaches easily and doesn’t require any modification but doesn’t interfere with any hot or moving parts.

A Black Leather Motorcycle Saddlebag with Rivet Ornamentation and Leather Tassels - Leather Saddlebags - Liberty Leather Goods
A Black Leather Motorcycle Saddlebag with Rivet Ornamentation and Leather Tassels

Popular Leather Saddlebag Types

Leather Saddle Bags for Horses

For the horseback riding enthusiast, there are leather saddlebags in single and double pouches in several sizes.  These are made to fit at the back of the saddle or even around the saddle horn. 

These bags are handy for many things for a long trail ride or a long day working cattle.  Carry your first aid supplies, extra water, snacks, tools for fence repair, sunblock, and anything else for a long day in the saddle.

Motorcycle Leather Saddlebags

For the motorcycle riding enthusiast, there are motorcycle leather saddlebags in single and double pouches.  These are made to fit on the back of the motorcycle on either side and behind the driver.  For a cross-country trip, you can even combine to have three pouches.  These are great for carrying all essentials — from snacks and water to clothing and toiletries. 

Vintage Leather Saddlebags

Vintage leather saddlebags carry the classic design and look from the early days of motorcycling cross country.  These look aged but stand up to the elements and protect their contents.  Multiple sizes and colors are available, with double or single pouches and throw-over or bolt-in designs.  These would look great on the back of any motorcycle!

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Western Leather Saddlebags

Western leather saddlebags are just what you’d imagine on the back of a cowboy’s saddle.  These come in various shades of brown, often with bold leather tooling to match the saddle.  They’re the perfect addition to any Western saddle and can carry anything the cowboy needs while on the horse for a long day.

A Dark Brown Rectangular Saddlebag on a Horse - Leather Saddlebag - Liberty Leather Goods
A Dark Brown Rectangular Saddlebag on a Horse

Bicycle Leather Saddle Bags 

Bicycle leather saddlebags, also known as panniers, are perfect for the commuter.  These fit on a bicycle rack over the rear wheel and have two pouches available in several sizes.  Made to fit work supplies like a small briefcase and a lunch, or even a stack of books for the student, panniers are great for getting around town with what you need for work or school.

Custom Leather Saddlebags

For the ultimate in custom-made, there are custom leather saddlebags.  Available in throw-over or bolt-on, these bags come in several shades of brown as well as white and black.  These are made to fit any motorcycle and can even be customized with straps, studs of different colors, and fringe.  Want carving and locks?  They have those available as well.

Tooled Leather Saddlebags

Tooled leather saddlebags have designs hammered into them with special leather embossing tools.  Much time and work go into tooling leather saddlebags, giving them a unique look worth every penny.  These are not only a great way to carry the necessities but to support a custom leather work artist and look great on the back of your motorcycle.

Handmade Leather Saddlebags

Handmade leather saddlebags are high quality and truly unique.  Only the best craftsmanship goes into these bags for a streamlined look and the perfect fit for your motorcycle.  No detail is overlooked with these-they’re finely stitched and detailed like no other leather saddlebag.  Built to last and look great for the long haul.

Faux and Vegan Leather Saddlebags

If you don’t want real leather, faux and vegan leather saddlebags look like the real thing.  Made with high-quality materials to stand up to weather and time, these beautiful saddlebags boast everything the leather ones do at a lower cost (in more ways than one).  From classic brown Honda to black studded Harley Davidson, these faux and vegan leather saddlebags are the next best thing.

The Average Cost of Leather Saddlebags

Type of Leather SaddlebagAverage Cost
Horse Leather Saddlebag$75–$900
Motorcycle Leather Saddlebag$60–$800
Bicycle Leather Saddlebag$50–$400
Custom Leather Saddlebag$300–$700
Leather Saddlebag Prices

Saddlebag Care and Maintenance

How to Clean Leather Saddlebags

Leather saddlebags are made to stand up to weather, so cleaning them is fairly easy.  All you need is microfiber towels, warm water, and some leather cleaner or mild soap.  Mix the water and soap, then dampen the microfiber towel.  Rub the saddlebags gently, especially where there’s visible dirt.  A soft-bristled brush can also be used to remove the deep dirt.  Allow to dry, then condition the leather.

The best way to keep leather saddlebags looking great is to store them properly when not in use. 

How to Condition Leather Saddlebags

Conditioning leather saddlebags just takes a microfiber towel and a good quality conditioner.  After cleaning the leather saddlebags, rub the conditioner in with the microfiber towel and let it absorb for a few minutes.  If the saddlebags still feel dry, apply a second layer.  Then buff off excess conditioner with a dry microfiber towel.  This will help extend the life of leather saddlebags.

How to Store Leather Saddlebags

The best way to keep leather saddlebags looking great is to store them properly when not in use.  Hang them up on a rack to maintain the shape of the pouches and keep them off the ground.  Cover them with a saddlebag or motorcycle cover while in storage to prevent any sun exposure or dirt and dust accumulation.  Then clean and condition every six months to keep them looking great.

If you are interested in making your own leather saddlebag, check out this helpful video demonstration of constructing a leather saddlebag using latigo leather.

Benefits of Leather Saddlebags 

I did some in-depth research on the benefits of leather motorcycle saddlebags and learned the following:

  1. Increased carrying capacity
  2. More freedom for long road trips
  3. Security of contents
  4. A little pricey, but it lasts a very long time with proper care
  5. Adds flair and a custom look to your motorcycle
  6. Many sizes available
  7. Easy to mount

Final Thoughts

Leather saddlebags are a great addition to any motorcycle, saddle, or bicycle.  For those daily commutes to work, for a day trip, or even traveling cross-country, leather saddlebags can help you bring exactly what you need.  Which style will you consider first?

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