It seems that much of the Harley-riding world is well on the way to becoming a nation of big bagger blokes and babes. I too enjoy loading up the Geezer Glide and heading out halfway across the country. But let’s not forget that there are plenty of garages—including mine—that house a Dyna, Sporty, or a Softail. These “little” bikes need love too. And they deserve it. Depending on how they’re set up, each of these H-D models will take one on a very comfortable overnighter, weekend jaunt, or—depending more on rider stamina than anything else—much, much farther down any given road. They are far more than the proverbial “bar hopper.”
But let’s suppose that, like yours truly, once the bagger was in the barn, your non-touring bike (in this case my 2000 FXST Softail Standard) suffered a bit of neglect. But you love it, enjoy riding it, and recall fondly when it used to take you regularly on 200- to 300-mile days. Nevertheless, there it is in the corner with a tarp thrown over it. What to do? Answer: get busy finding parts and bringing back a little pride to your old love. More importantly, let’s get that baby back on the road.
With our Softail, we started with a modest budget and the premise that when done, we wanted a retro-meets-modern, streamlined ride. But it had to also be one capable of taking us overnight as well. To that end, we decided to leave the cumbersome—and not very stylish—over-the-rear-fender saddlebags up in the rafters.
Instead, when it came to stashing some gear on the Softie, we thought that a much better—and much better looking—alternative was the Solo Bag available from Garage Leathers in New Jersey. These handsome, handmade heavy leather bags attach directly to the rear frame of the Softail on either the right or left side. And, since we already have a tool roll on the bike, the Solo Bag easily holds the personal necessities for an overnighter. (In our case, that’s an extra pair of socks and underwear, a sweater, toothbrush, flask of vodka, and a bag of spicy jerky—but you may pack differently.)
Robert Camardo, the head honcho and moving force behind Garage Leathers, explained that necessity was, indeed, the mother of his invention. “This whole thing started when I ordered a bag off the Internet for my rigid,” Camardo told Thunder Press. “It was horrible and the company that sold it gave me a hard time about sending it back. So I hung it up in my garage for inspirational purposes. Long story short, I made my own bag with a crazy latch I came across. It was a big hit locally and I kept tweaking the bag till it was perfect.”
As a result, Robert reports that he has “been making bags for myself and friends for about two years” and for the public over the last year. When he started, Camardo thought his customer base would be primarily rigid riders. But it turns out that about 70 percent of the bikes sporting his Solo Bags are Softails.
The Garage Leathers Solo Bag comes with everything needed, including four leather straps, to do the uncomplicated install. Robert even tosses in a tin of leather dressing to keep the Solo Bag looking good. Attaching the bag to the frame requires more patience than time and you want to be sure to leave the buckles and loose ends of the attachment straps inside the bag lest they get hung up in the bike’s moving parts.
To get the right fit, Camardo advises, “The best way to position the bag is to have someone sit on the bike so that it’s straight up and down, not leaning on its stand. Step back 15 feet or so, line it up and make adjustments if needed.” Once on, the Solo Bag oozes real old-school cool and charm.
Garage Leathers’ Solo Bag comes in black, brown, and natural and offers a variety of unique buckle closings. There are also bags for Dynas (2000 and up) and Sportsters (2004 and up). Robert says he has some new products—fork bags and seats—in the works as well.