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The FAMSA Tank Bag on Tour

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Editor's Note:  We shipped the FAMSA tank bag back to the Motherland, where Iain Wood took it on extended tour during the summer.  Iain put lots of miles on his Ducati ST2 and the FAMSA, and this is his report.

See Also:  Famsa 246 Tank Bag Review

Introduction
The FAMSA 246 tank bag system consists of a base plate and two separate bag modules that can be used individually or zipped together to create one large tank bag system. 

The larger of the two modules has an expanding mid section that allows you to roughly double its capacity by undoing a zip that runs all the way 'round it.  Each of the two bag sections also have a clear covered pocket in the lid for a map or travel directions.

Rick forgot to send the instructions, but attaching the base plate was reasonably easy, with some reservations.  More on this later...

The smaller module is pretty unobtrusive when in place.  It's only a couple of inches deep, so you can still tuck in behind the screen quite nicely. 

The pockets on my touring jacket hold about the same volume as the small FAMSA module and possibly more.  This lead me to believe that I wouldn't use the small module, but in practice, it's just the right size for my waterproofs, and it's also worth carrying just for the map pocket on top.  That it is possible to fill up with petrol without having to remove the small module is an added bonus.

The larger bag section is much more useful.  It will hold all sorts, including a laptop and a 35mm camera.  When the expansion zip is undone it will hold much more.  I use this section pretty much every time I'm out on the bike, which is just about every day.  In fact, even on the rare occasions that I take the bus to work I tend to take the large section of the tank bag, as it doubles as a useful little rucksack.

The FAMSA bag also seems to look "right".  I expect a kind of functional rather than pretty look from bike luggage in general, but this bag actually fits in well with the lines of the Ducati.  Perhaps because they're both Italian?

The FAMSA was invaluable for all the stuff I needed along the way, and proved to be comfortable for the whole 900 mile journey.  I could rest on it to take some of the pressure off my wrists, which meant I could go a little further before I needed to stop and stretch. 

Normally I tend to do rest in between petrol stops.  I found I didn't need to on this trip, perhaps due to the extra support, perhaps due to me getting used to the bike.  Not sure on that, but the bag does feel right as well as look right. 

FAMSA tank bag on tour
 
 

Rainy weather uncovered one problem when my map book got quite damp.  I didn't put the waterproof cover on the bag straight away as it started raining, but I would have expected the clear map window to cope with a little moisture. 

Once the waterproof cover is installed, it's pretty hard to see the map, so I may resign myself to having to replace my maps on a regular basis as they get ruined. 

On my return home I dumped most of my luggage and switched to the smaller bag section and headed off into Scotland.  This one is small enough that I hardly notice it.  In fact it's pretty much ideal for more spirited riding.  It's nice to lounge against the larger bag, and cruising along at a nice steady (ahem) 68mph is cool. 

But cranking it 'round the twisties and tucking hard behind the fairing on the straight bits needs more room, and the little bag doesn't get in the way at all.

The combination of both bags would be dangerous to my license.  I can cope with it being there, handling doesn't suffer at all, but I just can't see the speedo without leaning way out to the side and peering round.

A while ago I got caught by a speed camera.  I was riding with a broken speedo cable and trying to estimate how fast I was going.  I thought I was doing 30 mph or slightly above, but I was doing 60!  This taught me a lesson: now I won't ride with anything that interferes with my ability to constantly check my speed -- not around urban areas anyway.

It's just possible to see the Ducati's instruments using the unexpanded large bag with the small bag zipped on top.  This combination yields the same capacity as the single expanded bag.  Anyway, I haven't (and won't) conduct extended tests with the fully expanded configuration.  I have tried it for size and it's comfortable enough, although I have to stay pretty much upright all the time.  The support is nice, and if you are tall and can see the speedo (about 6' 8" should do it) then you may find this a useful combination.

Right, enough of the glowing praise.  This bag does have a few drawbacks.  Nothing that stops it being useful, but you may want to spend a little time checking if they are things that will annoy you or not before parting with hard cash.

Firstly, and most seriously, the base plates as delivered don't fit properly on an ST.  The bag arrived with 2 different base plates, and it looked like it would be possible to get one of them to fit over most tanks.  But the ST has a tank mounted ignition switch which definitely restricts things.  Of the two plates, one had a large slot to clear the petrol cap, and this went on ok.  I could still get the key in although access was not quite as easy.

The trouble was that the tank bag was then located too far back.  I might have been able to manage if the carry handle on the top of the bag collapsed against the bag.  It doesn't.  It's a semi rigid plastic handle that sticks out far enough to be quite uncomfortable. 

I'm only 5'6" and with the bag in place I'm stretched out between the handlebars and the top of the tank bag.  This made low speed maneuvers even harder than normal, and even on the move I was constantly aware of the handle sticking in my stomach.  You might find this ok if you are tall, or if you only ever use the small section of the bag rather than the bigger one that converts into a rucksack.  I just couldn't live with that.

Tank bag contents

The FAMSA tank bag and its contents.

The second base plate allowed the bag to be mounted further forward, but made it impossible to get the key in the ignition.  I modified this, taking a crescent shaped piece out of the front edge. 

This is an easy job, you just need to remove a bit of the edge binding around the front of the base plate between the front mounting straps, cut a piece out and then reapply the binding.  I chose to do this myself and re-sew by hand.  You would get a neater finish by getting it done by a professional though.

Once this was done the bag felt much more comfortable, and low speed handling was back to much the same as it is without the bag.  Inserting the key is still slightly fiddly, but I can live with that.

The second problem I came across is the zip stitching on the base plate has started to come undone.  There is no lock stitching, just a single row.  This means that the whole section across the front is now loose.  The zip runs right along either edge of the base plate and here the edge binding sewing also goes through the zip holding it firmly in place.  As long as this stitching holds the bag is quite firmly attached, the loose section just makes it more fiddly to zip the bag to the tank

Conclusion
I have been using this bag for several months now.  It's difficult to say exactly how long because it very rapidly became one of those things that feel like they have been there forever.  Mostly it gets used on my daily commute, and contains a change of clothes and a laptop, maybe a book or two, maybe some lunch. 

I was initially disappointed to find that my laptop wouldn't fit in the smaller of the bag sections and that it had to go diagonally into the larger bag, but as it turns out, this is actually better. 

The laptop is less vulnerable when it's supported on my spare clothes rather than lying flat in the bottom of the bag against the curved hard surface of the tank, and expanding the bag to accommodate some shopping has proved to be very useful on numerous occasions.

Although the system is really quite flexible, I rarely ever use any option other than the larger bag, unexpanded.  Occasionally I will expand it if I end up coming home with more than I set out with, but I prefer to keep it unexpanded.  I can still see enough of the instruments, but crouching behind the fairing becomes impossible so I would tend to add the panniers rather than expand the tank bag if I were expecting to travel far.

Overall I like this bag a lot.  Initially I was a little disappointed but the more I have used it, the more I get to like it. Would I buy another when it wears out?  I don't know.  Perhaps.

A casual look round the bags in my local bike shop didn't turn up anything that looked as good, or offered anything that the FAMSA bag didn't.

Plus points: + Looks good + Very flexible + Can fill up without removing the little bag + Comfortable (either section).  Is it a good value?  I'll let Rick address that one...

Minus Points - Base plate needs modifying to get a good fit - Key access is reduced however you fit it - Maps quickly get damp if it's raining

See Also:  Famsa 246 Tank Bag Review

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