In Defense of Tank Bags

In Defense of Tank Bags

Lately, I’ve noticed comments on several enthusiast site forums about tank bags.  Most of them are negative, listing all sorts of ominous outcomes to the use of a tank bag on a motorcycle.  Since I’ve own three Triumphs, including my current T 120 Bonneville, I think I’m allowed to use a British slang term in response.

Utter bollocks.

I’ve been riding motorcycles for 50 years, and began using a tank bag in 1971. I’ve used them on two Hondas, a Yamaha, a Kawasaki, three BMWs, four Triumphs, and many others I’ve probably forgotten. I’ve racked up several hundred thousand miles on these motorcycles all over the United States. The majority of those miles within a day’s ride of Seattle, which means I’ve also used tank bags in the rain. A lot.

Here are some of the issues mentioned.

“My bike has soft paint, and a tank bag will scratch the tank.”  The claim of “soft paint” comes up often, and may be true. I’ve never seen an article detailing the relative hardness of paint. By brand?  Can anyone educate me?

Having said that, in all these years and over all of those miles, I’ve NEVER suffered a paint scratch or other issue caused by a tank bag.  This includes over a dozen tank bags of many brands, although probably fewer manufacturers. Many aftermarket suppliers create items for others to brand.

This includes almost 50,000 miles each on a 2006 Triumph Speed Triple and a 1977 Yamaha 750 triple.  On both of those bikes I could see, toward the end of my ownership, some abrasion to the sides of the tank from the knees of my leathers, but nothing at all where the tank bag touched the fuel tank.

I’ve used magnetic bags where possible, and harness versions on bikes with fiberglass, plastic, or other material tanks.  In the case of the Triumph, I actually replaced the Triumph tank bag with a new one after the original began to look awful.

“If you leave the tank bag on in the wet, the water will damage the paint in time.”   This may be true.  There’s a simple solution of course. At the end of the ride for the day – remove the tank bag and dry the tank with a towel.

“It spoils the looks of the tank.”  Well, this is a point.  Always subjective, of course, but yes, this is a weakness.  I bow to this on short local rides when I am sure I will not need a change of gear and do not plan to purchase anything, because a Bonneville tank, in almost any color, is simply gorgeous.

And why use a tank bag?  Well, for stuff!  For many years I’ve worn leathers when possible, and mine have no pockets. So the wallet and phone for one. Also a hat. And sunglasses.  And a spare key.  And I smoke a pipe, so tobacco and a lighter. And maybe a map.

OK, so some motorcycles are not really meant for a tank bag. Most Harley’s use the top of the tank for the ignition switch and other things. On a Goldwing the tank bag, even if you could get one on, might interfere with the Boeing 747 dash board in front of you. And others.

But for most bikes a tank bag is a very handy thing, and relatively inexpensive.  Almost a must have accessory, in fact. 

After heated grips.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!


Copyright 2017                      David Preston

About david

I am a 73 year old motorsports nut who lives in Snohomish, Washington. After a 31 year career as an English teacher, I segued into a self-created job in the motorsports business. Now retired, I was involved in customer relations for Ride West BMW in Seattle, after almost 10 years of similar work for the Cycle Barn MotorSports Group. I own, at the current time, a Triumph Rocket 3 (2020) and a 2016 Ford Focus ST. What else would you like to know?
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4 Responses to In Defense of Tank Bags

  1. Gary Horn says:

    My Honda Shadow Spirit isn’t really designed for long-distance travel. Since I mostly just bop around the 7 county metro area, I chose not to use a windshield. So, saddlebags and tank bags would make it look dumb. I opt for a backpack, and that’s worked great for me.

  2. Patrick says:

    This is a thing…? You bring up a point that may get overlooked…

    Personally, as a precaution, I don’t put my wallet or phone in my tank-bag or keys that I may need… I carry these in the pockets of my jacket. The reason for this, is more-likely-than-not, my jacket will not get left behind by accident or get thrown-off into nowhere-land and/or out of reach if I have an accident. My jacket will most likely come with me.

    Another great thing about the chest-pockets on my jacket is they cover my heart… So with my wallet and or phone inserted I create a more protective shield (since I don’t wear crash gear undergarments like racers wear today, outside of the stuff used in my jacket.)

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