Converting Harley-Davidson Throw-over Panniers to SW-Motech’s SLC Side Carrier System

My set of Harley Davidson Sportster leather throw-over panniers look fantastic when fitted and certainly draw admiring comments when I pull up. However, they are a pain to fit requiring removal of the seat and multiple fingernail-ripping straps to secure in place. The rear pillion seat also becomes unusable.

As I use my bike for daily commuting, I decided to switch from Harley’s system to SW-Motech’s LC system complete with a rather nice-looking set of their black waxed canvas gear. For my everyday commute these are much more practical and attach with an elegant click and come away with an equally slick press of a button. Constructed predominantly from waxed cotton they are also easy to clean.

Which has left me wondering what to do with my now redundant (but expensive!) leather panniers looking down at me forlornly from the shelf….  After a bit of research, I found out that SW-Motech sell a conversion set allowing just about any bag (or even object) to be attached to their SLC system.  These kits come in a variety of sizes and all come with lots of additional hardware including a back plate to give added support/shape.  My leather panniers already have a back plate making the rest of the kit redudant and an expensive way to get just the SLC bracket. A quick email to SW-Motech confirmed they don’t sell the bracket on its own.  What they do sell is a Café-racer style number plate for approx. half the price of the conversion kits and complete with that coverted bracket 😉.

First step was to slice off the throw-over flap.  Cutting leather, even heavy grade like these panniers is simply down to using a very sharp blade.  Snap in a new scalpel and you will find the blade slices through as smoothly as butter.  I used the straight edge afforded by the back plate to draw the blade along to leave a smooth edge that is all but invisible.

Turning to the metal securing loops. These are rivetted in place so require grinding to remove. The back plate is plastic so work quickly to avoid things getting sticky and leaving a ragged hole. I applied masking tape to the inside to plug off the holes and filled with automotive epoxy. A good trick is to zap the glue in the microwave for several seconds to make it runny allowing it to flow nicely into the holes. This does significantly reduce the setting time so work quickly!

Taking the line off my SW-Motech Legend bags I marked off 9 cm from the top to ensure the panniers would line up correctly on the bike (and avoid the exhaust).  The brackets use 6 bolts and as the number plate kit (being lightweight) only supplies 4 so you will need to order some additional M5x12 button-head bolts and M5 Nyloc nuts.   Don’t forget to use washers on the inside!

If anything, without the throw over flap to distract, these leather panniers now look even better. They have a decent 17 litre capacity and as they now simply click into place are much more useable.

Very happy with the end result and could almost pass as designed this way.
With the SLC system the rear pillion seat remains free and the panniers just click on and off as needed.