Review - A1 Hardbags - ST Fiberglass Bags.
Gawd I really wanted to write a good review on these. To be fair, A1 does have these listed at a "discounted price" of $295, due to "paint issues", but there is a lot more than paint issues going on with these bags.
Having a decent fiberglass background in mold-making and automotive & custom painting experience dating back to 1976, I thought I'd give these a shot. I liked the shape and dimensions of the bag as I was looking for something to compliment the fender lines of the C model. And many of us repaint our bags and fairings anyway. So, with the "paint issues" disclaimer noted, I ordered a set.
Unboxing them, there was no denying that the bags had "issues". Bubbles, blisters, fish-eyes, and a couple of good sags thrown in for good measure. The bubbles and blisters ran the size of approximately a quarter inch up to the size of a half dollar. Right away, this tells me a couple of things: Obviously the prep before painting was seriously lacking - possibly not cleaning off all the mold release agent, and possibly laying down too much paint on it so it didn't cure properly. Also noticed some low areas on the face sides of the bags. Got out the DA sander and hit it all with 120 grit, taking off all the factory paint down to the factory gel-coat.
Now here's where it got real disappointing folks. These "paint issues" are also "gel-coat issues". Many of these bubbles and blisters were in the gel-coat. Took those areas down to the fiberglass surface. Guess what? Even a few issues in the fiberglass itself - only a couple though. Thankfully, the thickness of the fiberglass is adequate enough to handle the sanding. Got everything filled and feathered up to 220 grit. Primed them and let them dry overnite.
Next day I got out the Centari 99A black, added some hardener and shot 2 coats on. I know some of you are thinking: "WTF?!? Are you nuts?!? Painting over 220 grit sand scratches?!?" Hold on Grasshopper...there's a proven method to my madness. Nothing better in my experience before a final sanding when painting black than hitting it with some gloss black. This is going to show every scratch, pinhole, wave, you name it. When you wet sand it it's going to act as a guide coat with all the flaws showing the gloss until you sand it out. Let that dry over nite, got out the 220 grit wet dry, and worked my way up through 320 and 400 grits. Finally got them looking like they're ready for final prime and paint. I'll post pictures of it when they're done.
Other issues with the bags? The stay hinges are worthless. They have no business being on a supposed $600 hard bag. Heck, they have no business being on a $100 hard bag. Will be looking for something adequate to replace with. Oh yeah, get them wet and they will show some surface rust. The chrome latch on the rear is a decent solid unit with some decent keys. The front hinges may not be everyones cup of tea, so to speak, but they are solid. The nice thing about all this hardware is that it is put on without using rivets so they are removeable.
I also ordered the universal brackets. Gotta say that they are worth the money. Work with the bags real well. Be advised though, using them out of the box will set your bags way high. I took them to the drill press and went up an inch and drilled another hole, offsetting them close to the corner of the bracket. Drill them to the high side of the corner - you'll have to do this differently for each side. Mounted the bags and they looked much better, but still too high for my taste. Stopped by the local welding fab shop and had them make me up some flat stock adding another 2 1/2" inches to the dimensions at the top area of the brackets. They'll put all the appropriate bends in it and I'll take care of the drilling. This will set the bags where I want them. Thinking of going with some pan-head shaped bolt heads on the inside so there won't be anything sticking out from under the lining.
So are they a $600 hardbag if they arrived in great condition without paint issues? After seeing the paint issues and what's going on underneath; I gotta say NO. Too much potential for failure issues down the road.
Are they a $295 hardbag with paint issues? NOPE. Unless you have the experience with fiberglass, gel-coats, and paint and about 12-16 hours of time to deal with "paint issues" to get them paint ready, you need to probably steer away from these. Realistically, they should probably be in the $189 -199 range, and sold as a kit. Without issues - I don't know. Maybe they are a $300 -330 bag. Hard to say with what I found.
Now, I did try to e-mail A1 with my findings, but for some reason that feature wasn't working with their site. Had I known what the real issues were I would have taped the box back up and returned them. As it was, by the time I got to finding all the issues I was in them a little too far for that to happen. But many hours later I do have some nice looking bags that are done right....once I find the hinge stays.
Scale of 1 -10 as buying them with paint issues at $295: Gotta be in the 4-5 range.