A tank bag is a good way to lug your stuff on the bike. It keeps the weight more central than a tail pack and – unlike a rucksack – it means you don’t have to worry about carrying anything on your person.
Some people choose a tank bag for the safety aspect, others because they just don’t like having anything on their back.
Three types of tankbag
There are two common types of tank bag and a third which is less common but growing in popularity with the rise in Adventure motorcycle sales.
The most common is the magnetic tank bag. There are magnets in the base and this ‘sticks’ the tankbag to your tank. This worked with almost every bike a decade ago but now more bikes have non-metallic tanks, quite a few are plastic or have a plastic shroud. If you have a magnetic tank, these tank bags are universal.
The second type uses a clamp. You set it up by bolting a clip or ring around your filler cap and the tank bag then connects to this ring. The majority of these tank bags are universal but if you have more than one bike, you’ll need to buy a clamp for each bike you want to use the tank bag on.
The third type uses a harness or straps which the tank bag clips on to. These types of tank bags are more popular with Adventure bikes but there make universal types with adjustable straps which you can tweak to fit any tank.
From under £30 to £200
There’s a huge price difference when it comes to choosing a tank bag. It essentially boils down to the size of the tank bag, the attachment type, the features and the build quality.
If you just want something to carry a few bits and pieces on a sunny day, a cheap tankbag will do the job. It won’t be waterproof and it probably won’t last a lifetime but it’ll get the job done.
If you’re touring and you need a large tank bag that’s fully waterproof, you’re going to be looking at something that’s over £100.
Although the price has been a factor in our considerations, we’ve recommended the tank bags that we think are the best available right now – we haven’t just gone for the most expensive.
If our picks don’t work for you in terms of budgets, brands or features, then refer to our shortlist where you’re sure to find a great option.
- Keeping your pockets free and reducing the risk of losing valuables out on the road
- Can be used as a rucksack when you’re off your bike
- Clear pockets are great for using your smartphones as a GPS or keeping a map handy
- Extra space for luggage if your panniers and top boxes don’t cut it
- Larger tank bags can be bulky and get in the way of fueling and your body when riding
- You run the risk of blocking your dash and viewing your gauges can become difficult
- Portability, when compared to a rucksack which goes where you go
Magnetic Tank Bags
If you have a metal tank then a magnetic tank bag is a great option. Easy to mount and remove but stable and secure. They usually come with a strap to wrap around the headstock for added security.
This 6-litre tank bag has a handy clear window for your phone and detachable shoulder strap for easy carrying off your bike. Compatible with metallic and non-metallic tanks.
Suitable for magnetic and non-magnetic tanks, this 25-litre Easy-T by Givi features a clear map pocket, rain cover and extractable shoulder straps for a handy backpack off your bike. It won a RiDE Best Buy too.
You mount a ring or clamp to your bike’s fuel cap and the tankbag then clips into this ring. It’s sturdy and secure but you’ll need additional tank rings if you want to move the tankbag between bikes.
This compact 4-litre bag features an inner case for sunglasses, clear window for your smartphone and a detachable shoulder strap which complements its carry handle.
A 30-litre expandable tank bag with a practical electrical port and pocket for your device. The clear pocket is ideal for maps or smartphones and is complete with a sun shield.
Harness Tank Bags
You set up the harness on the bike (usually looping around the headstock and then under the tank or under the seat, secured to the subframe). The tankbag then attaches to the harness, either with a zip or a clip or Velcro. They’re popular with riders of Adventure and Enduro bikes.
Suitable for bikes with narrow, sloping tanks, the Motech ION is a massive 13-litre capacity (expandable to 22L) tank bag with snap buckles for easy lift-up refuelling. The Motech ION features a cable port, reflective detailing and carrying handle.
A 25-litre 3-strap tank bag featuring a transparent map holder, detachable shoulder strap and rain cover. Compatible with a select number of bike models, click for further details.
Tankbag Buying Checklist
These are the features that we think every good motorcycle tankbag should have.
Shoulder strap: Tank bags with some form of shoulder straps are great for doubling up as a rucksack when you’re off your bike.
Magnets/straps: If you have a metallic tank, choosing a tank bag with strong magnets with back-up straps for attaching to your bike is a must.
Clear pocket: Great for placing your smartphone or a map in and keeping an eye on your route.
Stiffeners: You’re not always going to fill your tank bag to full capacity, stiffeners help support the shape of the bag and protect your items from becoming squashed.
Carry handles: Like shoulder straps, this is a helpful feature when you need to cart your stuff around.
Rain covers: Let’s face it, the weather is unpredictable so having a tank bag with a rain cover or some form of waterproofing is handy, even if the tankbag claims to be waterproof on its own.
Headstock strap: This helps keep the tank bag secure and reduce the risk of it falling off your bike.
Expandable storage space: Whether you choose a large or small tank bag, the best ones have expandable storage space (usually in the form of extra zips) then when you don’t need room for the kitchen sink, you can reduce the area of the bag making it less bulky.
Secure closures: Being out in the open air, travelling along at high speed, you need good strong zip closures. Make sure they are easy enough to open with your gloves on to save time.
Quick access pocket: A side pocket gives you access to change, your wallet, or other essentials, meaning you don't risk dumping the contents of your tankbag at the toll booth when you're reaching for your credit card.
Aldi & Lidl Motorcycle Luggage
A couple of times a year both Aldi and Lidl offer a range of motorcycle clothing accessories and luggage. They publish them in their ‘Special Buys’ section.
Most of it is actually pretty good and it’s cheap too.
Their luggage is pretty decent. It’s a bit heavier and clunkier than the more pricey rivals but it does the business. They only sell magnetic tank bags but they come in at around £30 for a large one which is good value for money.
Small motorcycle tank bag to carry your phone
If you just want a tank bag to carry the essentials, like your house keys, wallet and phone then a small tank bag will do the job nicely.
I like this option, as when I’m navigating using my phone to send commands to my Bluetooth headset, the phone can lose signal when it’s in my pocket (especially an inside pocket). So having it here is better in terms of GPS signal but also, with a clear top pocket, it means I can glimpse down (when it’s safe to do so) to check out the next few steps of the route I’m on. Sometimes a visual helps a lot when there are lots of turning coming up or when you’re entering a busy junction.
Most of these small motorcycle tank bags are magnetic and some have a backup strap that you feed around the top yoke.
Most ‘plastic’ tanks are usually metal, with a plastic shroud. The majority of tanks are metallic at the front. Check first before you buy a mini magnetic tank bag because if it’s only secured around the top yoke, it’ll spend all of its time levitating over the tank when you reach 50mph, which is funny at first but also can be dangerous.
Don't place a magnetic tank bag on the floor with the magnets down - it will pick up all sorts of crap which will then scratch your tank.
Check to see if your bike's manufacturers produced official luggage. You might find a neater, better-fitting option in their official accessories.
Always strap the retainer around the headstock. Make sure it doesn't restrict bar movement but ensure it's tight enough that it'll stop the tankbag from moving move than a couple of inches.
Don't drag a magnetic bag from your tank or you may scratch it.
If you use a magnetic tank bag, be careful that the magnets don't mess with your phone, USB stick, camera etc. Place these items higher up in the bag.
A clear window in the top of the tank bag sounds like a good idea but do you really want to be looking at your phone (for directions or messages) while riding along? Probably not...
Motorcycle tank bag FAQs
Are motorcycle tankbags waterproof?
Every one is different. Some claim to be waterproof but you still might want to wrap everything in a bin liner if it’s important it doesn’t get wet, rather than trust the claims. Others aren’t waterproof but will come with a cover that you can put over the top of the tank bag. This is a bit of a faff and means the map pocket will be covered over too. Far better to get a tankbag that’s billed as waterproof if you’re going to be riding in all conditions.
Can you get a motorcycle smartphone holder?
Yes, you can get a magnetic tank-mounted case that is big enough to put your phone in or GPS device, to help you navigate or to make and take calls. This is a really good motorcycle tank-mounted phone holder that will work well – just make sure you have a metal tank as if it’s plastic it might not stick to the tank.