VikingBags recently sent us their new motorcycle backpack, the VikingBags AXE for a review. Kurt put it through its paces for a couple of weeks and here’s his findings.
If you’re not familiar with VikingBags, they’ve made a name for themselves by building some solid and stylish saddlebags aimed primarily at the cruiser segment that utilize sleek internal fibreglass frames wrapped in premium materials.
What you get is a great looking bag with all the appeal of smooth black leather, but with none of the “droop” that factory bags often suffer from.
The VikingBags backpacks follow suit in that regard, utilizing a semi-rigid internal plastic shell wrapped in cruiser-friendly black leather and tough nylon cordura fabric.
After living with the AXE for a few weeks (rain or shine), here are my takeaways from VikingBags’ latest addition.
The AXE utilizes a single opening for the interior, accessed via a solid YKK zipper, which organizes your gear into four sections.
The first is a securely padded laptop pocket, which fits computers up to 15” wide.
A second compartment stitched to the outside of the laptop section provides a convenient place to store a tablet or secondary electronic device.
Next is the main compartment, which makes up the bulk of the AXE’s claimed 488 cubic inches of capacity. It’s decently roomy inside, and was able to house all my roadside tools, a spare tube, water, snacks, and rain gear.
A sizable elastic divider separates the fourth and final compartment, giving you a place to stash any items you want quick access to.
The first thing I noticed about the rugged-looking exterior were the three D-ring mounting points.
These rings secure the well-built helmet carrier, which folds up and stores in a sleek stash pocket underneath the bag when not in use. They can also double as anchor points if you want to strap your AXE (backpack) to the back of your bike.
Storage-wise, you’ll find two external pockets on the sides of the bag. VikingBags advertises these as “water bottle” pockets, but in reality they were too small to fit my iPhone, and struggled to zip shut over my not-so-fat wallet. There’s another small padded pocket on the backside of the bag that I’m sure serves some purpose, but I wasn’t able to cram my phone into that one either.
Aside from that, the exterior lines are as clean and sleek as you could ask for.
What I Liked About the Vikingbags AXE
The VikingBags AXE is a style piece first and foremost, and it achieves that aim well.
Its mixture of different black-on-black materials looks right at home on the back of just about any motorcyclist, and the cruiser crowd will especially appreciate it.
The semi-rigid outer shell does a good job keeping the bag out of the slipstream at highway speeds (think OGIO No-Drag) and adds a touch of support in the process, similar to an interior frame. It does make the bag feel tall though, so it may feel oversized on riders under 5’10” or so.
Initially the combined waist and sternum straps did a good job of keeping the bag snug to my body while riding. Their adjustability made for an all-day comfortable pack, but they had some issues as well as you’ll read below.
VikingBags was also thoughtful enough to include a rain cover for the bag. It’s a good thing they did too, because without it the AXE has absolutely no business in even light showers (see below).
At its usual $134.99 price, I’d have some serious complaints about the VikingBags AXE, but at its current sale price of $89.99, it’s actually a decent deal as a clear weather commuter.
What I Didn’t Like
The first and most glaring issue I had with the AXE were the buckles.
VikingBags advertises the AXE as featuring Duraflex-brand buckles for “added strength,” but the waist buckle cracked on me the first time I wore the bag.
That could be a fluke, but even at a glance the main buckle isn’t nearly as strong as the Duraflex Mojave buckles I’ve got on my ULA Circuit backpack, which I’ve never had an issue with.
I haven’t been able to confirm whether or not this is a Duraflex buckle, but VikingBags customer service has been top-notch in resolving the issue and had a replacement bag on the way within 24 hours. The buckle doesn’t look any sturdier, but so far the new bag has held up just fine.
My second gripe with the AXE is the weatherproofing.
The waterproof covering that shipped with the bag makes a huge difference, but after riding through a brief (two minutes tops) shower I found that some water had already seeped in through the main zipper.
Your average gear will get a little damp after a regular rain shower, and overall you’d probably be fine. However, for a bag that’s meant to carry a laptop inside the main compartment, I can’t say I’d be comfortable carrying mine through even light showers.
I recommend carrying the cover on you at all times, because riding through a storm without it means serious trouble (ask me how I know…).
Not only does water immediately make its way into the main and side pockets, but due to the plastic inner shell, it also pools in the bottom of the bag and will sit there until you dump it out.
Final Thoughts On The VikingBags AXE
The VikingBags AXE is a stylish backpack that fits right in with the usual cruiser crowd (especially folks with a set of Viking saddlebags to match).
Its well-balanced ergonomics and adjustability make it supportive and all-day comfortable, but the questionable buckles, sub-par pockets, and debatable weather resistance make it a bag I couldn’t justify spending my own money on.
I think with a little more time in R&D, VikingBags could have had a real winner here, but for all the AXE’s high style, I’m not convinced anyone ever actually lived with it before sending it to market.
Still, if style is your top priority and you only ride when the sun is shining, it’s a handsome bag with decent utility that should stand up to a fair amount of abuse.