When most bikers think of motorcycle luggage, panniers most commonly spring to mind - whether that's the rigidly-mounted hard type or the temporary soft ‘throwover’ type.
But all of that overlooks another popular motorcycle luggage type that’s brilliant for keeping valuables and day-to-day essentials close at hand, can be easily removed from your bike for security and peace of mind and yet also doubles as a very useful, in the line of sight map holder or place to keep an eye on wallet, credit card or phone – the tank bag.
What is a motorcycle tank bag?
For the uninitiated, a tank bag is exactly what its name implies – a usually soft, specially-designed luggage bag that is securely fixed on top of a bike’s fuel tank.
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Due to its position they’re great for valuables and belongings you may need easy access to during a ride – wallet, phone, water bottle etc – plus most usually have a transparent plastic lid or top compartment for maps, directions or a phone running a sat-nav app, which can then be easily viewed as you ride.
Naturally their capacity is limited by their position, making them unsuitable to be used alone for a touring holiday, but they can be surprisingly cavernous and make a great addition to other luggage solutions.
It’s also true that, by being placed usually on top of a bike’s filler cap, one inevitable inconvenience intrinsic to their design is having to remove them when you fill up. However, most designs feature quick-release clasps or mechanisms to ensure this is as unobtrusive as possible.
The best motorcycle tank bags:
Oxford OL440 F1
Oxford Products are one of the UKu2019s longest-established and most respected motorcycle luggage and security specialists and this mini magnetic bag is great for carrying small items or valuables. Although small and having only a capacity of seven litres itu2019s packed with great features and is a great price.
It’s made from durable rip-stop nylon material, has a showerproof inner liner, a transparent top pocket for maps or devices, reflective panels and even a useful external pocket for things likes coins.
See-through top flap
Another convenient but effective small magnetic tank bag is this EA106B. Made by Italian luggage specialists Givi, who are renowned for their quality and style, itu2019s a small, six-litre tank bag that, being magnetic, can be instantly removed or attached to your bike and also comes with a useful shoulder strap for carrying when youu2019re not on your bike.
There are two side pockets with magnets, there are also four straps if you prefer to attach it that way, it’s made in Italy from 600D polyester with a PU laminate and also features a useful transparent smartphone pocket.
Securing straps for safety
External rain cover for waterproofing
Oxford OL442 F1
If you want a larger magnetic tank bag capable of carrying enough stuff for an overnight stop, Oxford again comes to the rescue with this 35-litre tank bag. Like the mini version, itu2019s made from polyester rip-stop with a nylon inner lining that is showerproof.
The logos are reflective for extra nighttime visibility, there’s a transparent smartphone/map holder, a detachable base and it includes five personalised colour inserts. Best of all, though, it’s expandable, via a perimeter zip to a full 35-litres and even converts into a handy, smart rucksack for when you’re off your bike.
Expandable to large capacity
Base stays on bike
Can be large when fully filled
Frank Thomas JT09
Another well-respected British motorcycle accessory brand is Frank Thomas. The JT-09 is an expandable magnetic tank bag that converts into a rucksack by zipping the magnetic base off. Itu2019s also got a capacity of 30 litres and comes with a rain cover as well as a handy map pocket and reflective detailing for added night visibility.
As well as converting into a backpack you can also use a robust carry handle or you can use the strap to convert it to a satchel. The magnetic base has five magnets to keep it secure, an anti-slip coating to protect your paintwork and also has its own clear map pocket for added versatility.
Becomes rucksack for off the bike
Huge 30-litre capacity
External rain cover needed
Map pocket large for smartphone
If youu2019re after a more securely attached, strap on tank bag that's still versatile at a great price, try this F1 strap-on by Oxford. It has a useful, 18-litre capacity, is made from durable rip-stop nylon and has an outside pocket for coins or valuables.
It also has a waterproof interior lining and most of the features of Oxford’s magnetic bags, but attaches via a strap-on base. It’s versatile, a good size, well made and well priced from a reputable manufacturer.
Basic but well-designed
Straps on for Security
Zips off base for refuelling
Can’t think of one
This small tank bag by reputable makers Shad is aimed to be used with fashionable cafu00e9 racer bikes. It has a decent but not excessive eight-litre capacity, comes in brown, leather-effect material with rigid construction, attaches via Shadu2019s universal strap on base which means it can be clipped off in seconds and has a useful inner mesh pocket. Comes with a separate rain cover.
Different, retro look and feel
Base stays on bike to allow refuelling
Easy to remove
Needs external rain cover for waterproofing
Enduristan Sandstorm 4S Tank Bag 7-12L
Specifically designed for adventure bikes, this quality Enduristan Sandstorm strap-on tank bag is continuously expandable between 7 and 12 litres, features a fully waterproof, three-layer construction, has a large, waterproof map pocket, a contrasting red lining for better visibility and a fold-away separator in the main luggage compartment.
You also get a removable document pouch, three compression straps and an all-round rugged, quality construction. It’s not cheap but if you’re serious about travel and want a serious tank bag to take with you this could be it.
Waterproof as is
Stable for off-road use
Comes up tall when fully loaded
Oxford Lifetime S30R
Oxfordu2019s X-series strap on bags have been firm favourites for many years and itu2019s not hard to see why. This 30-litre version is a useful size, attaches securely using Oxfordu2019s proven strap system.
It also has external pockets for keys, a map/phone/satnav clear pocket complete with sun-shield and has an electrical port with an internal pocket to carry and charge a device on the go. The bag can separate from the base and also handily converts into a backpack for when you’re not on your bike.
Base stays on bike
Converts to rucksack when off the bike
Cable entry points for charging devices
Givi XS307 Xstream Tanklock Expandable Tank Bag - 15L
This soft-luggage tank bag from Givi is compatible with the brandu2019s Tanklock system (the flange is available separately for around £13). It means you donu2019t have to mess around with straps or worry about magnets, and the bag can be removed quickly and easily for refuelling.
This bag has water-resistant zips, reinforced areas and reflective inserts. A rain cover in fluorescent material is included, stored inside a weatherproof internal compartment. Other features include a removable tablet-holder, cable port and a handle and shoulder-strap for easier transportation.
Fluorescent rain cover included
What types of tank bag are there?
Some fix via an arrangement of adjustable straps, which go under a bike’s tank and around the headstock. This is the most secure type, although it’s important to ensure the straps are positioned and tensioned correctly.
But an even more convenient type is the magnetic tank bag which uses a series of magnets mounted in fold-out flaps on the tank bag, enabling the bag to simply be positioned on your bike’s steel tank, whereupon the magnets hold it in place.
However, you must check this type of bag is suitable for your bike. Many tank shapes aren’t suitable, some have plastic tanks, which aren’t magnetic and others have plastic panels which prevent secure attachment.
There’s also a third type of tank bag fixing that has become popular in recent years – those using a special permanent ring mounting attached to the filler cap. These ‘ring’ types enable the best of both worlds: the easy, instant release of magnetic types, but also the secure peace of mind of straps. We’ll deal with these elsewhere.
Here, however, are our pick of the best magnetic and strap type tanks bags.