Gear review: Suzuki Tank Bag
Here's the thing about a tank bag –– any tank bag: once you get one, you will find it extremely difficult to live without. That's something to consider very seriously; there is no turning back. They are that useful: gear so incredibly essential you will wonder how you ever got by without it.
Ostensibly, the Suzuki V-Strom tankring tank bag is an official accessory item for use with both the V-Strom 1000 and the V-Strom 650. But I'll let you in on a secret: this is, in fact, a SW-Motech Quick Lock EVO City bag that's been given Suzuki branding.
And that's a good thing. A very good thing. Because SW-Motech gear is top-of-the-line stuff. Made of 1680D ballistic nylon, it is rugged as hell. Holding 11 liters of stuff and expandable to 15 liters, the bag has one main compartment and three smaller external pockets –– one in the front (i.e., facing the rider) and one on each side.
On my recent European trip, the (expanded) main compartment was enough to hold:
–– Two base layer T-shirts
–– Base layer shorts
–– Long-sleeve T-shirt
–– Three 500ml bottles of water
–– Six candy or breakfast bars
–– Four neck buffs
–– Sunglasses case
–– Digital camera
–– Mobile phone
–– Small packet of tissues
–– Small box of medication (ibuprofen, etc.)
–– Small notebook
–– Baseball cap
In the front external pocket I was able to store: my Leatherman, two different rags for cleaning my visor and sunglasses, a small pouch containing coins of various currencies, and my house keys. The side pockets are less useful, but offered enough room to hold the bag's waterproof cover in one and a small flashlight in the other.
|In the Netherlands|
I have found the bag to be invaluable. Not only did it hold all that stuff on my Europe trip, but it also served as a quick and easy place to stow tollbooth tickets when zipping along on Italy's motorways.
The bag attaches to the bike via a simple lock ring that you bolt to the tank ring. It is so simple that the first few times I put the bag on the bike some part of my brain would think: "Really? That's it? Is this a trick?"
Motorcycling luggage is usually so strap-, hook-, or button-intensive that it's hard to believe something could work so easily. But it does. The bag just clicks on. To take it off, you pull a little wire loop located at the front of the bag. Sin problemas.
Compare that system to the magnetic Oxford X30 tank bag I used to use when I had the Honda. Putting a magnetic bag on the tank involved meticulously lining it up and ensuring all the magnets were just so, otherwise I risked having the bag shift. Not to mention the fact it chipped the paint.
It was a situation that created classic Chris Cope moments of unnecessary anxiety. Having spent several actual minutes getting the bag to set on the tank perfectly, I'd be unwilling to remove it if I were stopping someplace just for a toilet break. But then, going into a building without the bag –– and knowing valuables were contained within –– would result in my peeing in a state of rushed panic. Nobody needs that.
With the Suzuki tank bag, though, life is so much easier. The bag has a handle, or, if I were so inclined, I could attach a shoulder strap that comes with it. It's big enough to hold my gloves and when I'm in the little boys room I can set it on the floor and set my helmet on top.
|Waiting for a ferry|
Within the main compartment, along its side walls, are four elastic mesh pockets each large enough to hold an iPod. Within the bag's lid is a small, zippable mesh pocket.
Toward the back of the bag (i.e., that bit which faces the motorcycle's dash) there is a small rubber port hole through which I have run a USB cord that allows me to charge my phone/camera/Kindle using the V-Strom's 12v plug. There is a similar port at the front of the bag.
The zippers are sturdy with large rubber-coated tabs that are easy to grab with gloved hands. To keep them from flopping around, the tabs for the front and side pockets can be tucked behind small elastic bands. The zippers for the main compartment don't have such a band but are placed in such a way that they won't catch on clothing or touch the bike. Additionally, the zippers for the main compartment can be locked via a small luggage lock of the sort we all used to have on suitcases before the TSA decided it needed easy access to our underwear.
As far as a tank bag goes, this is just about as good as it gets. It's easy to use, practical, and looks good on the bike. Especially on an adventure motorcycle it fits the aesthetic.
All of this said, I am always suspicious of glowing reviews, so I feel personally obligated to identify a few complaints. The first being borne of my own laziness.
Unless you pay your Suzuki dealership to install this bag there will be a certain amount of DIY involved. Definitely do not pay a dealership to install the bag. I am an idiot and I managed to do it.
All that's required is replacing some screws on your tank ring, and setting the locking mechanism into the bag. The latter part of that process involves drilling holes into the bag, which is insanely stressful, but fortunately the incredibly useful website webBikeWorld has clear step-by-step instructions and photos to help ensure you get it right the first time.
|In Germany, where the tank bag is made.|
My only other complaint is that housing the locking mechanism eats up a lot of space inside the bag. And that creates a situation where some of the main compartment isn't as useful as it could be because you can't figure out what the heck would fit there.
Additionally, I worry just a little bit about that locking mechanism. When I was in the Netherlands I met a British BMW R1200GS rider who was using the SW-Motech version of the bag. He had been using it for a number of years and had recently had the wire release loop snap on him. Which, of course meant that he couldn't get the bag off to be able to refill the tank.
He was eventually able to get it free by detaching the locking mechanism from the bag, then detaching the mechanism from the tank ring with a set of pliers and a patient mind. He put it all together again afterward and was back to using it when I met him, but hearing about it is the sort of thing that puts doubt in your mind.
Not enough doubt, though, that I don't use the bag on every single ride. As I say, once you go tank bag you don't go back.