I’ve always been a fan of motorcycle tank bags. From within a month of my first bike purchase, I’ve had a tank bag for my bike. In fact, before I became a motojournalist, my tank bag was pretty much part of my motorcycle, only being removed for washing and track days. Twenty-five years ago, all tank bags were strapped on to their respective mounts, making them less convenient for folks who owned more than one bike. Along came magnetic tank bags, and the tank bag was revolutionized. So, naturally, the bike manufacturers countered with fuel cells below the seat and plastic “tanks” containing the airbox.
Well Tourmaster (and many other luggage manufacturers) now create mounting systems for both the magnetic and strap-on mounted denominations. In preparation for our Sports-Adventure Touring Shootout, I ordered up a Tourmaster Elite Tri-Bag Tank Bag to give me the carrying capacity and versatility I needed as staff photographer and chief device charger of the six-day ride.
The plan was simple: I would outfit the lower cargo section as a charging station for action cameras and other small devices (with a USB cable going to the GPS pocket for the rider to charge his phone). The main cargo unit would hold the stuff needing more frequent access during the trip. I had it all planned out – or so I thought…
The Tourmaster Elite Tri-Bag Tank Bag is constructed of 1680-denier ballistic polyester. The sides and top of the smaller, removable lower compartment have hard, plastic supports between the layers of ballistic polyester and the soft inner liner to give support when heavier items are loaded in the main compartment. The main compartment also features plastic supports. While the lower compartment measures 14 in. x 10.5 in. x 4 in. (for 20 liters of carrying volume), the top dimensions of 14 in. x 10.5 in. x 8.5 in. can be expanded an additional 2 in. to 10.5 in., delivering a volume of 18 L or 20 L.
In addition to the internal storage, the top bag has a zippered GPS pocket that is large enough to accommodate my iPhone 6 with a Lifeproof case. Below the GPS, a mounting system allows for the use of the included map holder or two handy zippered pockets. This mounting system also allows the pockets to be mounted to the bottom compartment when it is used as a low-profile tank bag. The main compartment also has two zippered side pouches plus a front pouch which holds the rain cover when not in use. While on the topic of zippers, it should be noted that all of the zippers, when in the fully closed position, have small pockets that the pull slides into, preventing them from flapping in the wind and working themselves loose. The zippers that mount the bag to its base and the main compartment to the lower one have snaps to keep the zippers from sliding open.
The bag interiors feature soft base and side fabric. The gray and black colors hide dirt, but yellow would make it easier to find things in the bag in low light. The tops of both compartments have a variety of pockets for holding items like pens and other small necessities. They even offer a nifty key hook. For riders, like me, who want to bring power from their bike into their tank bag, both bags have bottom holes to feed cables through. The main compartment also has two side holes back near the rider to accommodate both ear phones and a water bladder hose. You can even run wires up into the GPS pocket.
And the little additions just keep on coming. The Elite Tri-Bag Tank Bag also includes a padded visor holder to prevent your spare visor from getting scratched while it’s stored. Although including a water bladder sleeve to, I assume, catch the condensation from your hydration pack is a nice touch, I never used it since it was too small for my CamelBack. Finally, the lower compartment has hidden straps for carrying the bag as a backpack, though carrying more than the bottom section isn’t terribly practical.
In daily use, the magnets makes it easy to lift the tank bag off the bike. If I’m going somewhere that I’ll be placing the bag on the ground, I unzip the magnetic mount and leave it on the bike. That way it doesn’t pick up magnetic grit and damage paint on the tank. On our Adventure Tour, I used the strap mount because of the extra weight I was carrying.
It was also on the adventure touring ride that I discovered the Elite Tri-Bag Tank Bag’s biggest weakness – a weakness that forced me to rethink my packing for the trip. It prefers to be mounted on a relatively flat tank. The Triumph Adventure XC has a pronounced hump in the middle of the tank. In bumpy corners on the ride, the bag wanted to slide off the hump towards the inside of the turn. Not an optimal riding experience. In the Elite’s defense, in all my rides on sportbikes or sport-touring bikes since, the bag has remained firmly planted with either the magnetic or strap mount. So, consider what you’ll be mounting it to.
While I love the expandability of the Tri-Bag, shorter riders may feel that it makes the bag too tall. On our sport-adventure touring ride, I ended up sending the lower section home with the video crew because the full bag objectionably intruded on space for a couple of riders. The bag’s design allows folks who are prone to overpacking, like myself, to achieve new heights. However, where the Elite Tri-Bag Tank Bag really shines is in its versatility. You have so many variations that it really can be tuned to suit the task at hand. For example, the lower section pretty much lives on my R6 for daily use, allowing me to toss in little essentials. I recently needed to photograph an Indian event, so I put my DSLR, a couple lenses, and a flash in the main compartment and rode down, and the magnetically affixed bag stayed perfectly in place.
When purchasing the pack, you must choose between strap mount or the magnetic mount at a $30 premium. The additional strap can be purchased for $25 or $55 for a magnetic mount. For a retail price of $199 with the strap mount ($229 with the magnetic mount), the Tourmaster Elite Tri-Bag Tank Bag isn’t cheap, but you get plenty of versatility and carrying capacity for your money. If you’re a fan of tank bags and prefer to use them instead of tail bags or saddle bags, take a look at the Tourmaster website for the Elite Tri-Bag Tank Bag.