Why do I need a tank bag?

I’ve been riding motorbikes for 41 years, but only riding on the road for 34 years, and I’ve never used a tank bag. Our next two wheeled adventure is the first long distance ride I have done with a pillion, and its purpose is to plan a new tour of France and Spain for our customers, but starting and ending in the UK. Having ridden long distances on my own, I am used to travelling with essentials in my adventure suit pockets, and if I need something else, I jump off the bike and get it from one of the panniers. Its different when you are travelling with a pillion. You suddenly have to consider them. Its not ideal to make both of you get off the bike to get a document out of a topbox simply because its bigger than a coat pocket.

BMW tank bag
The genuine BMW tank bag

Why a tank bag?

Certain things need to be conveniently located on me or the bike. With 2 panniers and a top box, it was unrealistic for my pillion to carry a backpack. Particularly a motorbike friendly waterproof backpack. I already have a handlebar bag. That isn’t waterproof and also isn’t big enough for what I need close to hand. I really didn’t want a tank bag, but it looked like the best and only option. I had also considered crash bar bags. Whilst they are unobtrusive, and generally waterproof, they aren’t big. They are also not easy to reach on a BMW R1250 GS Adventure. It would mean reverting back to at least the pillion getting off the bike each time.

Despite not wanting one, a tank bag seemed to be the best option. Directly in front of me, I would have easy access to our documents, passports, money, cards, addresses of hotels, phones and charging cables.

BMW Tank Bag

Which tank bag?

There are dozens, possibly even hundreds. So how do you choose the right tank bag? There were certain things which the tank bag must have. Being waterproof was essential, as we are travelling in all weathers. I also didn’t want a tank bag with a mounting ring because the fuel tank on the BMW R1250 GS Adventure is plastic with metal thread inserts for the fuel cap screws. I didn’t want the bag to put any strain on those thread inserts. And because the fuel tank is plastic I couldn’t use a magnetic tank bag, it had to be a strap mounted tank bag. The bag also has to look nice. Function is important, but so is how something looks.

These requirements reduced the choice from dozens to just 3.

The Mosko Nomax looks a great tank bag, but its multiple small compartments and relatively flat shape makes it look wrong on the GS. In the same way that putting a soft tail bag on the tank wouldn’t look right. It would do the job, and probably do it really well, but it wouldn’t look like it was the correct bag for where it was placed.

The Touratech Ambato was my first choice, as it is made for the bike, specifically shaped for its fuel tank. I added it to my basket, and just as I was about to pay, I thought i’d read the specifications once more. The Touratech Ambato is only water resistant, not waterproof. To make it waterproof, you have to buy a flappy yellow raincover for an extra £30. And nobody had one in stock, so it would have to be shipped from Germany.

Decision made, lets buy it!

So the best option was the original BMW tank bag, designed by the manufacturer to be a perfect fit on my bike. Its waterproof, one large compartment, which is expandable, and one small compartment. It even comes with a carry handle plus a removable shoulder strap. Perfect. I contacted my BMW dealer, Barrie Robson Motorcycles (York), to buy one, and they told me its a discontinued part so I couldn’t order one. But being the wonderful dealership that they are, they did a stock search at every BMW dealership in the UK and managed to locate 2 of these tank bags for me.

I made the call to Reiten Motorrad in Suffolk, explained that we leave the UK in less than a week, and they took payment over the phone and arranged next day delivery. As promised, the tank bag arrived the next working day.

BMW tank bag resting on the tank

What is it like?

The bag is clearly made to a very high standard. Fitting it to the bike is really easy. Remove the riders seat. Remove two screws from under the seat, one from the front of the fuel tank. Replace the three screws with the 3 longer versions complete with brackets and straps which were all supplied with the tank bag. Refit the seat and attch the tank bag using the 3 clips and adjust the straps for a secure fit.

Once fitted, it has made getting on and off a little awkward. This is because the front of my jacket rubs on the tankbag when mounting the bike. Once I am on the bike, I don’t really notice it. Its obviously there, and its a big thing to have sat on an already big fuel tank. But it doesn’t restrict the steering or affect how I ride the bike. I have noticed one thing though, it restricts the amount of airflow to my chest, making the chest vents in my jacket less effective.

At the moment, I have placed the following items in the tank bag and its only half full.

  • Waterproof linings from my riding suit
  • Satnav carry case
  • USB cables
  • Insulated and windproof neck tube
  • Sunglasses

In the clear map pocket, I will put documents like ferry bookings, hotel addresses, a summary of the route should the satnav stop working.

BMW Tank bag fitted to the tank

With the tank bag fitted, we are just 4 days away from heading to the ferry for a 10 day tour of France and Spain. Are you travelling on the Portsmouth to Cherbourg ferry on the 19th May 2022? If so, come and say hello.

BMW tank bag fitted to the tank
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