Tankbags, tankbags and tankbags: There are a gazillion of them to choose from! For such a simple piece of motorcycle luggage, how different can they all be?
For some riders, all of this is moot because they ain’t gonna put one of them contraptions on their bike no matter what! The primary drawback of anything that rests directly on the paint of your motorcycle is that…well…the darn thing is on your paint! And “yes,” “absolutely,” and “of course,” all the tankbags that I’ve owned and/or looked at, do come with a smooth or felt-like material on the bottom to protect the paint, but in the day-to-day, real world of attaching and removing a tankbag every time you get gas, small amounts of dirt or sand may sneak their way in between your tankbag and your fuel tank. And for some souls any minor scratch or scuff is worth a good round of cursing.
Having said all that, and having used them for many years on uncountable trips…I have found I couldn’t live without ‘em. (And I do my best to help keep that paint tidy with regular washing and waxing).
Motorcycle tankbags come in many sizes and configurations and they are an easy way to add storage capacity. But besides size, why so many different models?
Size, for most riders, is probably the one thing that matters the most when it comes to tankbags. So there are tons of different capacity options all by itself. But after that, the next consideration will be thus:
Are you a magnetic kind of rider or not?
And in this case, we aren’t talking about how many members of the opposite sex are drawn to you. Regardless of how high that factor may be, you still need to resolve whether you can even use a magnetic tankbag. Or…should you opt for the strap-on system?
You motorcycle fuel tank will be the main determinant. Is it steel? It might be. But then again, it might not be. Some tanks are aluminum or use some other composite material. Other tanks are plastic. Test a small magnet to your tank to be sure. If you don’t have a steel tank, you are in the market for a tankbag that has a strap-on attachment design. Note, there are some tankbags with both strap-on as well as magnetic attaching systems, which is useful if you ride different motorcycles, and/or if you expect your tankbag may outlive your current ride.
OK, so after checking out the sizes and ascertaining whether or not you are a magnetic rider or otherwise, what else is so different about all these models?
Well, almost all are going to have some sort of see-through pouch for displaying a map right on top of the tankbag. But the size of that map pouch can vary considerably. This may not seem like a big deal, but a small map pouch means forever folding and cutting every map in the future you will want readily visible. A larger map pouch just makes adding and/or changing out various maps much more manageable.
Anything else about that size issue? Yes, indeed. A bunch of tankbags are expandable. Merely zip open a pleat and voila, instant storage expansion. Some tankbags even allow entirely different sections to be added and removed at your leisure to accommodate different rider storage requirements. At least I find that when I’m riding across country, or when I’m going motorcycle-camping, I need a little more storage than when I’m blasting around for the afternoon.
Pockets are another common feature on tankbags. Some models have pockets on the inside. Some on the outside. Many have both. Some have pockets specifically for electronic equipment. Some have pockets that allow for wires to be gracefully routed through the bag. Pocket design and selection alone comprise a number of different ways that tankbags differentiate themselves. And of course those pockets do allow for greater segregation of various rider travel items.
Handles on tankbags are very common. Which allows for easy transport away from the motorcycle. However, some tankbags also have a single, over-the-shoulder strap, which can be desirable, especially for larger bags. And there are some tankbags that have a dual, shoulder-strap system, so that the tankbag can be transported away from the motorcycle in much the same way as a hiker with a backpack. For some riders, this feature alone will narrow their selection process down to only those that meet this backpack-carry criterion.
OK, we talked about the bad and a little about the good. Is there an ugly side to all this?
I consider motorcycle crashes to be ugly. And a safety feature to keep in mind regarding tankbags is what you put inside. Most items are relatively innocuous: tankbags are a convenient place to store small items a rider may wish to have ready access to, especially maps, extra gloves, sunglasses, earplugs, hat, extra shirt, snacks, etc. However, a rider should be cautious about storing certain items that could be an additional threat to rider safety in the event of a mishap. Things to avoid storing in a tankbag include: tools, sharp items, heavy objects, or anything you just wouldn’t want intimately forward in the event of a frontal collision.
An additional storage consideration for those using magnetic tankbags is to avoid storing cameras, film, digital media, or anything susceptible to magnetic damage or corruption.
Oh! One more thing, if you can, try the darn thing on your own bike before you pay for it. You may like the idea of a lot of storage, but such a large tankbag may actually be too big for your motorcycle tank. It could be too long or it could be too wide. Heck, in some cases, the slope of your tank may be such that certain bags just look too unbalanced. The point is, if you can, just check it out on your own bike.
Having said all that, if you are selecting a tankbag from your local dealership, the reality is they are only going to stock a limited selection. So your choices won’t really encompass the mass of models that are available out there. And that, to some people, is a good thing!