Gear Review – Viking AXE-22 Saddlebags

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Review of the Viking AXE Saddlebags for Sports Bikes by Gary Ng.

Pros:
_ Good shape retention and overall construction
_ Great value for the price
_ Solid exterior nylon construction
_ Strong, adjustable straps to attach to bike and auxiliary side straps to secure the bags in place
_ Main compartment is expandable with an extra 3” of storage space
_ Includes rain covers

Cons:
_ Does not have reflective piping nor top carry handles as advertised by manufacturer
_ Does not have double zippers to lock the contents (not that that would really stop someone form stealing everything)
_ Rubber material that rests on the fairings isn’t that soft and can still scuff your fairing finish

Quick Conclusion: This is a budget-friendly, well-made set of removable saddle bags good for occasional trips and light commuting. They are easy to put on and take off. It doesn’t have a lot of the features that its more expensive competitors have in the $120+ price range but at nearly half the price, it has the essential features riders will need for from a set of removable saddle bags.

Click here for Viking’s main site, or here for more details on the AXE-22.

Full Review:
We’ve gotten to spend a little over two months with the Viking AXE-22 saddlebags mounted on a 2007 BMW F800ST. They carry an MSRP of $109 but can easily be found on the internet for $50 to $60. While they do not have many of the bells and whistles of similar (and more expensive) saddle bags from other, more well-known brands, they offer all of the essential features you’d need from non-mounted saddle bags and for the price, they are a tremendous value and very well built.

Construction:
The AXE-22s are the soft-case, removable saddle bags that are a part of the AXE series of soft-case luggage from Viking Bags designed for use on streetbikes and sportbikes. They are tapered at one end to accommodate for most sport style exhausts. Overall they are very well-built with a durable Cordura nylon that decently holds its shape under load. The most we ever put in each bag was 15 pounds. Like most removable, soft-case saddle bags, the bags primarily attach to sportbikes with 2 velcro, horizontal straps that lay across your rear passenger seat / pillion.

The straps are adjustable to the width of your motorcycle. Again, like most saddle bags, there are auxiliary straps made from nylon webbing with quick-disconnect clips that loop around your frame to provide extra security and stability while riding. Installation is easy and takes less than 5 minutes.

The outside section of the saddle bag that rests against your fairings is made of a textured rubber that is supposed to protect your fairing’s finish but we found that it can still noticeably scuff the finish. Other companies use a soft neoprene that we prefer.

Storage:
The AXE-22s use standard zippers and a 16” hinged zipper opening to secure your contents inside. The main compartment provides plenty of space for weekend-getaway essentials. An additional zipper that runs along the perimeter of the bag can be undone to allow the main compartment to expand 3” and go from a 22-liter capacity to 26 liters. This is a very useful feature typically found on much more expensive saddle bags.

To give you an idea of the storage capacity, at different times we were able to fit a 2 gallon gas can, or an XL Shoei Multitec Helmet, or a 6 pack of beer bottles, or a 12 pack of beer cans, or a pair of tennis shoes, or a 13” laptop, or enough clothing for a weekend trip (1 pair of jeans, 3 pairs of underwear, 3 pairs of socks, 3 shirts, 1 light jacket).

Unfortunately, we could not fit our size 11 riding boots.

The AXE-22 has a smaller side zip pocket that allows for storage and easy access to smaller items such as maps, documents, keys, sunglasses, gloves etc.

Unfortunately, the bag doesn’t use double zippers anywhere on the bag so you can’t actually lock any of the bag compartments. We did a lot of riding and while we have generally not found theft to be much of an issue, it would be nice to be able to throw a small lock on the main compartment for some added security.

Differences from the website:
The manufacturer has some high quality pictures of the saddlebags on their website. Unfortunately, those pictures did not exactly match what we received. We feel the need to point out that there are a few differences between that actual bag we received from the manufacturer and the bag that is shown / described on their website:

1. There are no top carrying handles on the bags (as listed and pictured). This makes the bag really difficult to carry around when it’s off the bike. If your plan is to leave the bags on the bike all the time, then it’s not that big of a deal. However, if you’re taking them on and off frequently or travelling with these bags and are taking them into your hotel / motel / tent nightly, then is becomes a pretty big pain in the ass to carry these bags (especially if you have 30+ pounds of gear in them).

2. There is no reflective piping on the bag (as listed). In fact, there isn’t any reflective material on the bag anywhere. Reflective material is pretty expensive to produce and is a feature on almost every saddlebag above $100. Considering these bags can be found new for only $60, I’m not surprised there isn’t anything reflective and for the price and we’re not really too mad. However, we don’t like that the manufacturer lists it as a feature when it’s clearly not true.

3. “Heat resistant bottom…” (as described) We suppose plastic is isn’t flammable so we guess they can call it heat resistant. We haven’t exactly tested this one out ourselves, but are a little skeptical.

We contacted the company about the differences between the actual product and what’s listed and pictured on the website and they did not provide any answers or information except to say that the bag we were sent is the most current model.

Conclusion:
Overall we are impressed with the sturdy construction and ample (and expandable) storage capacity of these saddle bags – especially for the low price. We are not impressed with the company’s customer service (or lack thereof) nor do we like the fact that the product that arrived was different than the product that is advertised on the website.

Personally, as a rider who frequently needs to haul a lot of gear and takes long trips, I look for a more fully-featured bag. However, for the rider who is on a tight budget or maybe only hauls a lot of stuff only once or twice a year, this is a fantastic option. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles but has all of the essential features that a rider needs from a set of removable saddle bags – and then some!

Learn more about Viking Bags here.

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