FAMSA 246 Motorcycle Tank Bag
FAMSA Model 246
by Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com
260 Tank Bag and Pannier Set
FAMSA 246 Long Term Ride Report
remember the first time I saw a tank bag
on a motorcycle. It was back in the early '70's, and European motorcycles were as
rare as hen's teeth in my neck of the woods.
But there it was --
a BMW, flat
handlebars, cruising right down Main Street, and
what was that thing on its gas tank?
figure out why anyone would want to spoil the look of
their bike with such a contraption.
Motorcycles with fairings just
didn't exist back then.
And bags? No way, except maybe some beat-up
leather fringe jobs on the back of an old Harley.
Why would anyone want to carry anything on a motorcycle?
Other than a pair of gloves (tan leather work gloves
from the local farm store) and a couple of spark plugs under
the seat, you were on your own. Well, until they
invented bungee cords, anyway...
But after thinking about
it, I realized that
a tank bag might come in pretty
handy, especially for
like me. People laugh at the junk I carry around
everywhere I go, but just wait -- one day they'll be
glad I had three different brands of antacid (and the
spoon to take it with) in my briefcase! Yep,
they're right there next to the laser pointer, the
emergency ration kit, the flashlight, the
folding travel cup, the...).
Good ideas have a
tendency to stick around for a while, and the humble
tank bag has evolved over time. A good tank
bag has to be one of the most useful motorcycle accessories
available. I like to have selected belongings
right there in front of me where I can keep an eye on
This is important, because I frequently
carry things like a camera, a cell phone or computer gear. A tank
bag provides quick and easy access to just about anything
need, and it can be easily removed and carried, unlike
hard bags or other types of luggage.
The first tank bags were
leather with cheap steel zippers and maybe a pocket or two on the side (Deluxe
models only!). They were usually mounted to the
fuel tank with a
clumsy spider web of cloth straps and metal hooks.
Waterproof? Hah! But tank bag design has come a long
way since then. This FAMSA Model 246 is loaded
with features, and it has more storage space than my
first house. If you can't
carry it in the Model 246, then it's time to take out a
mortgage on that Winnebago.
FAMSA was founded about
40 years ago by the De Fillipis family in San Giuliano
Milanese, near Milan. The company originally
produced accessories for the scooter industry, and they
started making soft luggage in 1980. You may have
seen or even owned a FAMSA luggage product without
realizing it, because FAMSA has manufactured soft luggage to
for some of the major European motorcycle OEM's.
About 5 years ago, FAMSA started marketing their
products under their own name. FAMSA is still
owned by the De Fillipis clan, and their strategy has been to
stay small and flexible.
This has allowed them to
quickly respond to the ever-changing needs motorcyclists
by offering innovative products including tank bags, side bags
and soft luggage for a variety of motorcycle makes and
Model 246 is the "top of the line" FAMSA tank
bag, and it's really a three-in-one convertible system.
The Model 246 consists of two tank bag modules that can
be used individually or zipped together to create
anything from a small day trip tank bag (with map
pocket) to a "normal" sized 26 liter travel bag to a
huge cross-continental touring bag of 34
In effect, you can purchase this single
system and have a tank bag for just about every purpose
imaginable. This all works because FAMSA has
designed each module to be attached individually either
to the mounting base or to each other. And there's
a bonus: the FAMSA mounting bases are available
for individual purchase, so the entire system can be
moved from one bike to another.
Tank Bag Modules
The system's bottom or base bag (or "module") is a 26
liter capacity tank bag with its own map pocket, two
external side pockets and an external front pocket.
The cover of the base module includes a map pocket on
top with a clear vinyl window, accessible via a 19cm
(~7-1/2") wide zipper at the rear.
The cover of
the base module has two zipper pulls; it opens up to
reveal a big storage compartment that's about 14cm
(~5-1/2") deep at the front and 11cm (~4-1/4") deep at
the rear when it's not expanded.
Need more room?
The base module can be expanded to nearly double the
size by unzipping a full-length zipper to expose the
accordion-like bellows. The bag then has a
cavernous 24cm (~9-1/2") of depth at the front and about
18cm (~7") at the rear.
The bellows fold back into
the base module when not in use, but they don't seem to
intrude on usable space. We found only one minor
issue with this module: the map pocket is narrower at
the rear than towards the front, so some room that could
otherwise be used for the map is lost.
The base module has two
big external side pockets, each about 28cm (~11") long
and 8cm (~3") deep. Both pockets have full-length
zippers along the top, and are about 6cm (~2-3/8") at
The base module also has two hidden,
adjustable padded shoulder straps, which allow the base
(and the top module if it's attached) to be carried as a
backpack. It also has a couple of quick-release
snaps on the bottom that allow the bag to be carried
over one shoulder, using the supplied carrying strap.
The base module also has
a front pocket with a zipper on one side. The
front pocket is about 18cm (~7") wide by 13cm (~5") high
by about 5cm (~2") deep. It also stretches a bit,
and it comes in handy for stowing some snacks, a
sandwich or a wallet.
The upper module
attaches to the base module with a
hefty YKK zipper. When attached, the upper module
serves as the top compartment of the tank bag. It
has its own full-length clear vinyl map pocket.
This map pocket has a full-length zipper on the
The larger side opening makes it
much easier to slide in a folded map without bunching,
unlike other tank bags with narrow openings where the
map has to be stuffed under the clear vinyl with one
hand. It would be nice if the map pocket had some
type of expansion capability, which might allow thicker
documents to be stuffed in, but it works fine with
normal sized road maps.
Unzip the cover on the upper
module to reveal a large inner storage compartment that
stands about 10cm (~4") deep at the front and about 4cm
(~1-1/2") at the rear. The upper module also
has two mesh side pockets, each about 15cm (~6") long by
about 8cm (~3") deep.
These come in handy for
carrying a spare set of keys, a small flashlight, or
some change or bills for toll booths. The mesh works
well in this application because the it allows the
contents of the pockets to be visible, which is
important for things like toll booth change.
upper module has two plastic D-rings sewn onto its
underside, and the supplied adjustable carrying strap
has two safety clips that allow the bag to be carried
over the shoulder when it's detached.
module is really handy for day trips or for carrying
valuables, local street maps or other goodies that you
don't really want to leave on the bike when you're
walking around town.
It's even nice enough to use
for non-motorcycle jaunts; I went on a day trip recently
to downtown D.C. via the Metro, and I took the upper bag
along to carry my camera, sunglasses, sweater and a
With both modules in
the Model 246 measures a wide 30cm (~12") at
the front; 20cm (~8") wide at the rear, and it's
about 40cm (~14") long from front to back.
It's about 28cm (~11") high when unexpanded, and
about 38cm (~15") high at the front when it's fully
expanded. This is a big, BIG tank bag.
even with the upper
module removed, the lower bag
is about 18cm (~7") tall, providing plenty of room
for longer distance trips. It's a little hard to
describe, but the bottom line is that when both modules
are in use, there's give or take 40cm, or 16" of height
before you start stuffing it full.
who travel light may only need a Model 246 and maybe a
set of matching FAMSA side bags to stow everything
they'd need for the trip.
FAMSA tank bags are made
from waterproof polyester, and the 246 has 3M Scotchlite
reflective material in the piping on its
sides and in the two FAMSA logos.
The 246 is also supplied with a plastic rain cover that
can be slipped over the entire bag during those real
downpours or when the bike is parked.
good quality YKK zippers throughout, and each zipper has
a large pull ring or tab. Also, the zippers
themselves are apparently "self healing"; if
for some reason the zipper teeth open up in the middle
of a run, a quick pull back and forth will mesh the teeth back together again.
The 246 is available with a variety of mounting bases that are
designed to work with many different motorcycle makes and
models. If FAMSA doesn't have a base to fit your
motorcycle, a "universal" mounting base is
available that might work.
The universal base has an adjustable webbed strap that snakes around
the bike's headstock and into a clip on the
front of the bag, and the rear of the universal base has
two adjustable straps with "U" clips that are designed to
hook under the fuel
tank lip at the rear of many bikes.
The universal base (photo
left) has a large opening that should allow access to a
wide variety of fuel filler placements. The custom
fit mounting bases have bike-specific openings that are
designed to match the placement of the fuel filler on
One of the best features
of the Model 246 is that the mounting bases can be
purchased separately. If you own more than one
bike or buy a new one, all you need is a different base
and you're in business.
I've ended up giving away
several expensive tank bags over the
years because they didn't fit the new bike I purchased, so the ability to swap out
the base is a worthwhile feature and makes the Model 246
a long-term investment. By the way, the Model 246 is also
available with a magnetic base, which uses 8
neodymium magnets covered by fabric.
The bottom of the Model
246 base appears to be made from some type of vinyl.
There are two schools of thought on
tank bag base design: some claim that a tank bag should
have a base made from a very soft material, but others
claim a harder material is better.
The soft material can initially work to protect the fuel tank from scratches, but the soft material can attract and hold tiny pieces of
sand or grit, which are then ground into the bike's
painted surfaces. A harder material may not hold
the grit, but could be tougher on the surface if the bag
starts bouncing around.
Every tank bag I've ever
tried has scratched the paint on my bike, no matter what
type of base, so I suggest
if you're going to use a tank bag that you first cover
the surface of the tank with a paint protector like 3M
Scotchcal is a clear material that's
easy to apply, easy to remove and it's nearly invisible.
It's designed to
protect painted surfaces of motorcycles or automobiles.
It's used on many expensive cars to protect areas prone
to stone damage, such as wheel arches, bumpers and hoods
or other areas with a high probability of wear.
Another solution is to
stop by your local hardware store and pick up some of
that soft rubber mesh matting that is
used to line kitchen cabinets. I've seen a big
roll at Wal-Mart for only a few bucks. This same
type of mesh is sold to go under area rugs to stop them
from sliding on wood floors, so if you're thinking big,
you can probably pick up a 4x8' sheet and use the
leftover to line your toolbox. But take it from
me, Scotchcal is the way to go...
A problem with nearly all
tank bags is access to the fuel filler. Different
designs have been tried through the years to try and
provide easy access, with varying levels of success.
The Model 246 must be zipped off its base to gain access
to the fuel filler, which isn't the easiest solution,
especially if the bag is packed, but the use of the good
YKK zippers at least makes the chore a bit easier.
The FAMSA Model 246 has a lot going
for it. It can be used as a day bag, or as a "normal" sized
tank bag or it can be super-sized and stuffed full
of goodies. The removable top section makes
all the difference, because it makes the bag more
manageable for smaller trips and it works well for
all sorts of uses, both on and off the bike.
We think the price is very reasonable, especially
considering the utility of the design, the features
and the quality construction. You can easily
pay this much and end up with a much smaller tank
bag with a non-removable base. I've seen lots
of tank bags come and go, but the Model 246 is a
keeper and probably the last tank bag I'll ever have
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