Rocket Touring Gear Roundup
Just like a Swiss Army knife or a good multi-tool, a motorcyclist's best friend can come in the shape of tank bag. It keeps things right where you need them at all times, holding the essentials for a commute or a two-week trip. As a courier, I relied on my tank bag(s) all day long, and they needed to be ultra-durable, highly functional and simple all at the same time. I've had some name brand bags that certainly didn't live up to their name and I've had bags of lesser fame that I could still be using today (if I choose to), and they would perform like they did on the day I bought them. A good tank bag, in my humble opinion, is indispensable.
Chase Harper is a brand familiar to most cyclists, even if they've never owned or used one. That says something about a company's products. To put Chase Harper to the test, I selected their Sport Trek tank bag. It measures 9" x 12" x 4" and is 8" tall when fully expanded. The bag is made from 1000 Denier Cordura (another immediately familiar name to motorcyclists) and it can be mounted with standard straps or magnetically. It includes a rain fly and has a handle and extra strap for shoulder carrying when off the bike.
It's a rather simple bag in that it has few ancillary exterior pockets, save for one just below the main zipper, closest to the rider. It also has an internal mesh pocket and a handy draw string at the bottom of the main compartment that does a good job of cinching items down. The strap system consists of at least two primary straps: one that loops around the headstock area on the bike while the other strap faces the rider and gets secured somewhere under the seat to reach up and clip to the bag. You'll have to get creative with this strap that goes under the saddle when it comes time to find an anchor point. In order to keep from rubbing on or otherwise damaging your bike's finish, this same strap has a nice protective pad made from a dense, closed cell foam. Simply weave the strap through it and the paint is safe.
Another feature that I really admired was the material on the bottom of the bag, the surface that is actually in contact with the fuel tank. Although it is sewn to the tank bag at two points, it's relatively free from the rest of the bag. This presumably allows the bag to shift while not actually shifting on the tank itself; at least this was my experience. The bottom side of this material that contacts the gas tank is made from or covered with a soft, textured, grippy rubber material. It does an excellent job of staying put. Some other bags I've used in the past didn't do so well when it came time to sit still. Trust me, you don't want to be fiddling around with a tank bag to keep it centered while flying down the road or in traffic.
One final feature that I found superb was the map sleeve or cover. It's made from a fairly thick, clear, soft plastic and it functions like a Ziplock sandwich bag, except that it uses Velcro to open and close. But that's not the best part; it can be completely separated from the bag by, you guessed it, more Velcro. That's one well-thought out piece of planning as far as I'm concerned.
Ultimately all is not well with the Sport Trek, at least as far as ease of use is concerned. The bag is separated into two compartments. The bottom half has a large chunk of foam (made to the shape of the bag of course) stuffed inside of it, and my best guess is that it gives the bag some type of support structure while protecting your goods from bouncing on the tank. If you're so desperate for every usable square inch of space you can get, the foam is easily removed. The larger, upper compartment which is also the main stowage area collapses or expands to adjust to your needs. Unfortunately it has little shape or support when expanded beyond its fully collapsed position. And rather than use a hearty zipper to control expansion, the Sport Trek uses two large Velcro pieces on each side.
To expand the bag, you must unroll (for lack of a better term) the top edge of the bag to break it free from the Velcro. This, to my dismay, was also the only way to access the zipper to get into the main compartment.
Another problem with this method is that all the material that isn't expanded bunches up inside and creates a cumbersome pile which you have to deal with when rooting around for your items.
My main issue with this tank bag is that it fails miserably in the "ease-of-use" department. If you're the type of rider who needs a simple but well-built tank bag, the Sport Trek might be for you. But if you're someone who needs quick and constant access that isn't bothersome, you might look to a different bag.
The Chase Harper Sport Trek tank bag can be found at http://www.aerostich.com/catalog/US/Kanetsu-AirVantage-Vest-p-17188.html and it retails for $227.00. The QuiConnect 2 Switch Coil Cord Kit is item #172 and sells for $40.00. The zip off sleeves are item #1458 and they have a retail cost of $50.00.
- Pete Brissette
Chase Harper Eurosport Tank Bag Aerostich.com Direct Product #957
Chase Harper Website: Model 1501 Retail price: $157.00
Aerostich's catalog lists plenty of tank bags, and a tank bag is an essential bit of touring equipment. As our little band's photographer/web layout-er/swiss army knife guy, I need a tankbag that is easy to access, has lots of features, and can keep expensive and delicate equipment warm, dry and safe. Rider's WearHouse lists the Chase Harper equipment prominently, as it's a well-designed, well-made, high-quality product line.
The Eurosport Model 1501 that I received seemed promising when I got it. We knewwe would need at least one tankbag compatible with a non-metallic tank: the Eurosport uses Chase Harper's exclusive "QuickClip" dual mounting system. In addition to the fancy clip-based mounting system that uses a tank pad, the bag has a strap/handle combination that is a nice addition, although it's sewn in and not removable. What this pack does have is terrific capacity. It also has great build quality and sneaky pockets.... I expected good things to come from this bag on our ride. As for strapping her on.... I know, I said "strapping" he he he... Anyway, installation was a snap. Of the three methods listed on the instruction sheets, only two were applicable as there were no magnets in the base pad. That left me with their three and four-point methods. The four-point set-up would not work on our long-term Ducati test bike because of the design of the tank - too thick. The 3-point option was the way to go and the "dogbone" cushion design does a nice job of keeping the straps from directly riding around the painted frontal curves of the tank.
In actual use, I found it needed longer zipper pulls; when fully opening the compartments, the zipper heads get tucked far back into the overlapping folds of Cordura, and are a little tough to pick out. It's probably impossible with riding gloves on. However, the tank bag did everything as promised, protecting all my stuff and staying securely on the bike despite all the high-speed antics the other MO boys put me and the Ducati through.