The term “backpack” was coined in the U.S. in the early 1900’s, though similar over-the-shoulder hauling devices have been used since ancient times. Some hunter-gatherers used backpacks to carry equipment and, if lucky, their prey. When captured game was too big, they’d sever limbs and distribute the pieces among the group’s packs to carry back to camp (thanks, Google). It’s too bad they didn’t have the extremely capacious Sissy Bar Backpack from Harley-Davidson’s Premium Luggage Collection, because they might’ve saved themselves the mess on occasion.
I became so picky in my pursuit of a quality riding backpack that I’ve spent nearly two years hunting the right one. Last summer I had had my sights set on H-D’s High-Visibility Backpack and purchased it after not finding anything else up to task. After twice returning it due to tears in the shoulder straps (same place both times), the hi-vis pack was deemed unworthy like the rest. Hence my skepticism about trying out another H-D rucksack, even though on paper the Sissy Bar Backpack offers a tantalizing list of qualities including a padded laptop sleeve, padded shoulder straps, sternum strap, tons of storage in numerous compartments and much more we’ll get to in a bit. The best of all its merits is you don’t have to lug the load on your shoulders while riding if your scoot has a sissy bar. I was sold.
The backpack’s appearance is simple and clean, with just a 3”-wide reflective Bar & Shield logo branding the front zippered compartment. Constructed of black Ballistic Nylon with 3M Scotchlite reflective piping, the bag is 18.5” tall, 14” wide and 13” in depth, with a whopping storage capacity of 1,600 c.i. There are five zippered compartments: a small front pouch containing the included rain cover, a roomy front compartment for storing smaller/easy-access items, the cavernous main storage, a padded MP3/phone pocket with headphone port (also great for sunglasses), and the padded laptop sleeve. There are also two exterior mesh water bottle sleeves flanking both sides.
Specs state the laptop/tablet sleeve fits up to 17” laptops, though my 15” MacBook almost stretches it to the limit. That being said, I’ve used the bag as a carry-on for recent trips and am utterly astounded at how much I’ve packed along with the laptop without causing overbearing weight for the shoulder straps or myself. To aid in carrying the heavy loads, there is also a heavy-duty handle atop the bag should the shoulders need a rest.
In order for the backpack to attach to the sissy bar, the shoulder straps have to stow away somewhere. Releasing the quick-release buckles where the straps meet the bottom of the bag allows them to tuck inside the stealthy Velcro-secured pocket between the laptop sleeve and ergonomic back-support pad. Once stowed, the adjustable quick-release buckles then attach around the sissy bar base before securing the bag’s wide and extremely strong Velcro strap around the passenger backrest pad and sissy bar. The bag mounts over the rear fender with logo facing forward (toward the rider), or aft if you have a luggage rack. If sporting a solo seat sans pillion pad and luggage rack, I do suggest using some sort of “buffer zone” between the bag and rear fender to avoid damaging the paint, such as H-D’s Rear Fender Bib (part #52036-08), which does the job just fine. (Note: I’ve mounted the bag with and without pillion pad, as well as with and without passenger backrest, and have found that no pillion with the backrest provides the most secure arrangement for my Dyna’s setup.)
After finding what so far has been nothing short of a great riding backpack, there are a few nitpicks that should be brought to light. For starters, the zippers to each compartment do not set/lock in place and consequently rattle. A lot. On one hand it lets you know the bag is still there when riding, but on the other hand it sounds like you’re sporting spurs and reincarnating the Wild West simply walking through the office. The next nitpick is that if you don’t have the bag filled with a decent amount of cargo, it tends to sag forward and not hold its shape very well. Perhaps a set of adjustable side straps to regulate the bag’s depth in correlation with payload could remedy the problem in the future (a feature that was actually on the aforementioned High-Visibility Backpack). Lastly, while the heavy-duty handle looks nice and offers the shoulders a break from carrying the load, the nylon material that attaches the handle to the rest of the bag could stand to be shortened a half-inch on both sides. The weight of the handle makes it fall forward (particularly when the backpack is not fully packed) and causes the nylon to twist/tangle on both sides, thus causing the aforementioned forward sagging of the backpack.
Regardless of the few nitpicks noticed in the five months of almost-daily use, I’ve found what is simply a great backpack for the daily commuter and weekend traveler all in one package. The Sissy Bar Backpack also comes with a one-year limited warranty.
Harley-Davidson Sissy Bar Backpack
Premium Luggage Collection part #93300007