When I first started riding three decades ago, a day on the bike meant you needed some gas in the tank, to check the oil, and make sure that you had some cash in your wallet. If the weather looked like it might get bad, you’d stash a slicker under the bungee cord or, if you had a big enough bike, you could tuck it in your bags.
In those days, if you were unlucky enough to have an Ironhead Sportster or a Shovelhead, you might check the tool roll to see that nothing had wandered off since the last time you used it, but for the most part, you got on the bike and rode.
The times, though, they are a changin’…
The bikes are more complicated and the lives that ride them are, too.
If you ride a Sportster or have built a bobber, then you’d better hope that you have enough pockets … until now.
Two weeks ago, I broke down and strapped on a Viking gas tank bag because I am one of those fools that treat my Sportster like a Cruiser – I drive it daily and in a week, it’s not unusual for me to log hundreds of miles. I’ve run with saddlebags but, as we both know, no matter how good the leather is, if you are out in the weather – like, actually riding – then the elements can really affect how they look in just a short time. I have never been able to convince myself that hard bags look good on anything but a big bike.
Now, Viking Bags got their start building bags for a lot of the same reasons that most of us buy a bag – the need to hold stuff. Their side mounted bags – from traditional saddlebags to swingarm bags – are beautiful and durable, but what about their simple tank-mounted bag to hold all the crap you actually need?
It’s good. It’s very good.
It mounts easily, too – pop off the seat and attach the base strap to the frame and then, the two “top” straps slip around under the tank to the frame. There’s a load of adjustment in these straps, so whether you have a peanut tank or are using a larger one-off tank, there’s no problem getting it to fit. Of course, my challenge is that I’ve got some nice paint on the tank, so can I protect it? As a matter of fact, yes. The bottom of the bag has a nice “moleskin” feel that extends out to the strap webbings, so unlike that “bra” you had on your 1992 Camaro, you aren’t going to screw up the paint.
So I’ve had Viking’s Large Tank bag on the scoot for about two weeks and about 900 miles. What’s the reality?
I can carry a ton of stuff in it, I can take it off in less than a minute, and it retains its shape no matter how bad I’ve squashed it in the garage or the truck.
So how much does it hold? Last trip, about 200 miles over the weekend, I decided to do an inventory – here goes…
- 20-ounce soda bottle in koozie
- Goggles and/or glasses
- Small canvas tool roll
- Phone charger
- Ear plugs/buds
- “extra” gloves
- Wipes to get the bug guts off my goggles
- Suitable tobacco products
In other words, all the stuff that you had to stuff in a backpack or cram under a bungee cord on the second seat OR live without.
The other sweet thing about the Viking Tank Bag is that the top cover has a sleeve built in to allow you to see your phone, use a Bluetooth headset, or even stash a map. Personally, it allowed me to stay in touch with the She Who Must Be Listened To a little easier, since she wasn’t in town and I wasn’t at the house.
Here’s one other thing I really like about the tank bag versus a saddlebag – you can get into it without getting off the bike. Try to find a water bottle in your saddlebags at a stoplight.
With the tank bag, it’s right there. (And No, I’m not endorsing trying to drive with the distraction of a drink, but let’s stay grounded in reality here…)
In practice, I found that slinging the bag lower on the tank allowed me to fill the tank without moving the bag, but, depending on your style and your handlebars, you might find that strapping it higher on the tank “feels” better. If you have Apehangers, then mounting the bag high on the tank might be easier, since those have a tendency to “pull” you up on the seat. Even at speeds over 70 mph, there was no appreciable wobble to the bag (although to be fair, I’ve kept it loaded down with stuff most of the time).
As an added bonus, I checked with some of my local riders to see how the bag fit on a couple of different rides. The result? Viking built enough flexibility and adjustment into their large tank bag to allow you to move it easily among several different bikes with smaller tanks, so any Sportster (with the “peanut” tank or the larger 3.5 gallon tank) and a variety of metric bikes – my buddy with a Vulcan tried to buy the bag off of me.
When should you NOT think about a tank bag? If you have a custom tank that has been raised, obviously, but that’s getting into the realm of choppers and high dollar builds that, in the real world, see limits to their overall usage. Personally, now that I’ve used one, I like the options that it affords me and, if I’m not going far, I can pull it right off, stow it, and be “stock” in less than a minute.
Viking Bags Tank Bag Diary…
Day One: Installed the bag this morning and it might’ve taken two minutes to get it adjusted perfectly. Fit and finish along with build quality is exceptional and overall size is not intrusive into arms or handlebars. Bag has a lot of room and I have no idea what I’m going to put in it. 283 miles today, ended up in a late afternoon storm. Scoot got wet, stuff in the bag stayed dry and now, two hours later, bag is completely dry. Easy to see phone in the clear plastic window in the top of the bag and the Bluetooth worked fine.
Day Five: Rode up to South Carolina with John, tried the Viking Bag on his Sportster 72 – no fit issues. He rode with it for about 70 miles and preferred it further up the tank than I had it.
Day Six: Steve-O dropped the bag on his Vulcan – tight fit but still got the job done. Little “iffy” on using this bag for his bike since Viking makes another specifically for his, but it did work. Made it a little hard to see gauges, but he liked the idea and is going to look at the purpose-built Viking for his 2014.
Day Eight: Didn’t take the bag and actually missed it. Pain in the ass getting Bluetooth to connect, impossible to fix while under way, and not having a place to stash a drink in the heat today did suck. Second time in 21 years my pack of smokes fell out of my pocket somewhere while riding.
Day Ten: I actually started stashing the bag in my truck, mounted on the back of the armrest when I’m driving the diesel. Virtually the same size but all the stuff I need on the bike ends up in a “kit” that I can simply point and click when necessary. Fits the other Sportster with no problem even though it is mothballed.
Day Eleven: Just under 200 miles today on the bike with the Viking Bag and it really has been perfect for all the stuff I like to carry. I even tucked some lunch in it today and it rode out just fine.