Motorcycle tank bag has many enthusiasts but have also some opponents. I will try to highlight main features that they offer.
Personally, I think it is the most essential part of your luggage when going touring. The simplest reason is that they offer you some extra space for things that have to be accessible fairly quickly during your short breaks. Among the most obvious like wallet, credit cards, booking confirmation print outs, water, snacks, mobile phone, pens etc., you can keep things like wipes for helmets visors, night (clear) helmet visor, ear plugs, sun glasses and others little items that can come handy as you stop for a little break.
They have normally small packets so you don’t have to pack everything in one place. And most of all, they are of soft luggage so they can stretch easily if say your spouse persist on buying a souvenir. However with some, you may not feel so comfortable.
With the majority of bikes unfortunately your motorcycle tank bag will cover the inlet of your tank restricting the access when needs fueling. You'd need to take it off every time you fuel your bike and the
best you can do is to take only two straps off from a side and lift the bag to open the tank.
Many of the tank bags extend up to 20 litres of volume or more and you would think the bigger the better for touring. You need to also bear in mind that they may restrict your view on the dashboard. On the photograph below I show the tank bag I use. This is 13 litres with the capacity of 21 litres. However, I don’t extend it to full capacity as it’ll restrict the view on the dashboard and most importantly my sat nav.
I don’t use maps that you can fit under the plastic screen on any tank bag. See cheap motorcycle GPS systems here. You may perhaps find that on some bikes you’ll be ok with the full extension of the bag but most likely not on sport touring motorcycles.
The tank bags are attached with a use of magnets, straps or magnets and straps. Some people just don't like them for different reasons. They don't feel comfortable enough riding with them, specially if they try to drag the knee. Some claim that the magnets aren't strong enough and as the tank bag slips it scratches the tank. This is probably true with the bags that are attached only with magnets as they don't have the straps which prevent that happening. Also, if you've extended it and packed it tight, right to the limit it may feel unstable, despite the fact that you can't see anything on the dashboard. Therefore, don't get excited if you have one with large capacity. Pack it sensibly just for frequently used things and enjoy using it.
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