Motorcycle tank bags are available in all different shapes and sizes, with prices that will fit just about any budget.
From tiny bags that can perch on top of the smallest fuel tanks, to condominium-sized Haulmeisters like the Famsa Model 246, soft saddlebags and even over-the-shoulder messenger bags, there are plenty of storage options.
Perhaps Chicane USA has a deliberate strategy to help motorcyclists sift through all the options. Their tank bag lineup is uncomplicated, consisting of two different styles: the “Baja” is designed for the drop-back fuel tanks found on adventure touring bikes like the Triumph Tiger.
The “Canyon” line of tank bags is for flat-topped fuel tanks, and it comes in two sizes: the Canyon EX shown here, which fits small to medium sized tanks best, and the Canyon, with is the same bag, but sized to fit medium/large fuel tanks. Why the smaller bag has the appended “EX” tag instead of the larger one is puzzling, but no matter.
The Canyon EX has a footprint of about 12″ long (30.5 cm) and 9-1/2″ wide (34 cm), and the Canyon measures the same 12″ long but is wider, at 11-1/2″ (95 cm). We found that the EX fits an average sized fuel tank, as long as it has a relatively flat top.
The Chicane products have a nice finish and modern styling. I’m not sure if it’s the generous use of 3M Scotchlite reflective piping or the styling or both, but the Canyon EX looks nice and seems to have a style that works with modern motorcycle design trends.
One of the unique features of Chicane’s tank bags is their ability to stay upright even when empty. This is partly due to the incorporation of arched side panels which help to keep the fabric upright. The sides of the bag also have a type of foam padding sewn in between the outer and inner fabric walls, and this also helps to keep the sides firm. The end result is that the bag stands up on its own, instead of getting all floppy and sloppy, and it looks good whether it’s packed to the gills or not.
Another really nice feature is found on the end of the zippers. We’ve been ranting about poorly designed zipper pulls seemingly forever — manufacturers forget that a naked zipper is just about impossible to grab when the owner is wearing a pair of motorcycle gloves.
No problem with the Canyon — each zipper is fitted with a nice, big loop of nylon cord and have a big plastic or nylon tab affixed to the end. We had no problems unzipping any of the pockets while wearing heavy winter gloves, and that’s got to be a first.
Chicane has also integrated the zipper pulls into the styling by using cord that incorporates stripes and logos. So rather than simply have little pieces of string hanging from the zipper pulls, the contrasting colors give the bag a whimsical look while also making it easy to locate the pulls out of the corner of your eye.
The Canyon EX is listed as having a 19 liter capacity. 19 liters is 1,900 cubic centimeters; another way of looking at it is thinking of a vessel that will hold 5 U.S. gallons. That’s a lot of storage space, and most of it is usable. The top cover is hinged at the front and lifts up to reveal a big open chamber, almost all of which can be used for storage. The usefulness of the internal dimensions are also partly a factor of the bag’s design with its arched side panels.
The main chamber has a flat floor with no other pockets. A webbed nylon strap is sewn on to the right-hand wall. This strap has 5 loops, which can be used to hold pens, a small flashlight, a tire gauge or other gadgets.
The Canyon expands to its full capacity by a zipper located around the bottom. The zipper is well hidden — I didn’t even realize the bag was capable of expanding until I used it several times.
The top cover includes a clear map pocket, which is accessed via a zipper underneath. This means that the map can’t be pulled out without unzipping the top of the bag, but the advantage is that it probably makes the map pocket more resistant to water because there are fewer ways for water to intrude.
The visible portion of the map pocket has a near-rectangular shape of about 6-3/4″ front to back (75 cm) and 7-3/4″ (95 cm) wide. While this seems like a decent amount of real estate, I found that a standard U.S. street map isn’t really designed to fit this configuration. U.S. paper folded maps are rectangular in shape, and must be pummeled into submission when asked to fit anything but a long and narrow space. However, the Canyon’s map pocket is perfect for paper directions, like those copied from a Moto Map or one of the Ride Guides to Americatour books.
Another pocket is located on the top of the bag towards the front. This one is a small half-moon shaped pocket that’s nearly square at 5″ (27 cm). It isn’t that deep, but can hold a small mobile phone, an MP3 player, keys, or even a small digital camera. It easily swallows my tiny Sony T1 camera, extra battery and accessories.
Both the right and left hand sides of the Canyon include zippered pockets that mimic the same arched front-to-back styling of the bag. Each pocket is about 10″ long (55 cm) and 5″ high (27 cm). The pockets don’t have the ability to expand, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the absence of pleats adds to the streamlined look of the bag. These pockets are useful for carrying maps, gloves, a wallet, a couple of granola bars or other relatively thin and flat items.
Another nice feature of the Canyon is the built-in rain cover. A short zipper on the front side of the bag opens to reveal an attached silver rain cover that can be quickly stretched over the entire bag. The cover can be installed in just a few seconds, and the bag can be made waterproof with plenty of time to spare when stopped at a light or stop sign.
Probably the most interesting and unique feature of the Chicane tank bags is that the designs can incorporate a hydration bladder.
Chicane sells an accessory hydration bladder that is designed to fit into the bottom of the bag (see photo, left). The bladder has a flat shape and just about completely covers the floor of the bag.
The Canyon has a small opening towards the rear for the bladder’s 36″ (91.5 cm) hose, which can be routed out and
then secured to the left side of the bag with a small nylon clip that is permanently attached for this purpose.
The bladder is made from FDA-approved food grade polyurethane, which is claimed to be odor and taste free. It can also be placed in the microwave or freezer. The bladder has a wide 4″ (10 cm) opening, big enough to fit ice cubes or to clean the inside if necessary. Chicane offers a tip for hot weather riding: fill the bladder half way with liquid and freeze overnight, then fill it the rest of the way in the morning for a cold drink during the day.
The hose has a bite valve on the end (see photo above) that I think is made from silicone. Chomp on the valve to open it up and the fluid can be sucked out. It takes some getting used to, but the system is easy to use after a bit of practice. Since motorcycle riding is always a very dehydrating experience, it’s nice to have a drink handy.
I almost always carry a bottle of water in my tank bag anyway, but end up getting too thirsty because I don’t want to stop just to take a drink. The bladder lets me drink on the go, and the ability to keep hydrated, especially in hot weather, can make a huge difference.
The only problem with using the clip to hold the hose is that in hot weather, the first dozen inches or so of fluid can be warmed by the ambient temperature, because of the non-insulated part of the hose that is located outside the bag. The hose can be pushed back in the bag, with only the bite valve showing, and this keeps the fluid in the hose cooler.
The fluid inside the bladder stays fairly cold for a long time because it gets some insulation value from being inside the bag. Note that some fuel tanks on fuel injected motorcycles get fairly warm because the excess fuel from the injection’s fuel rail is dumped back into the tank. This can cause the bottom of the tank bag to get warm and affect the temperature of the fluid in the bladder.
I found a decent solution: cut a piece of foam padding and fit it over the top and bottom of the bladder, and the fluid stays cold for a long time. It works just like one of those insulated lunch sacks that can be found in the discount store.
The Canyon has a padded hand carrying handle attached to one end, and two D-rings are sewn on the front. The bag can be carried over the shoulder by opening a very well hidden pocket underneath the bag and releasing the shoulder strap.
The Canyon has a rubberized “sure grip” bottom that provides some grip on the top of the fuel tank. One of the downsides of using a tank bag is the problem of paint scratches. We haven’t found a good solution to this problem — just about anything you lay on top of a painted fuel tank is going to scratch it eventually.
Microscopic pieces of dust and dirt get caught underneath, and the paint can get scratched from the motorcycle’s vibration or when lifting the bag up or placing it down during fuel stops. I use a piece of rubber-type drawer lining underneath the bag — see the wBWarticle that discusses sources for inexpensive tank bag padding — which works about as well as anything.
Overall, we’re impressed with the Chicane Canyon EX tank bag. But the one feature we think needs some work is the mounting system. The bags are not available with a magnetic base, although it’s our understanding that magnetic versions are in the works.
Chicane uses a very basic strap mounting system for the bags. The bag has two clips up front and one in the back. Two nylon webbed belts with matching male clips are provided.
One belt is designed to fit around the motorcycle’s headstock and clips to the front of the bag. The other strap is designed to fit around the spine of the motorcycle, underneath the fuel tank and seat.
The problem is that not all motorcycles have a single spine, and some sportbikes have no spine at all, but instead use box section aluminum framing on either side of the engine.
The front strap can be fitted around just about any
headstock, but the rear attachment is problematic, even on an old BMW “Airhead”, whose single spine is bifurcated under the seat. The Canyon’s attachment strap can be fitted under one side, but it pulls the bag off center. It works, but is rather crude.
The bag must also be detached from the clips at each fuel stop, which increases the probability that the paint will be scratched. Other tank bag manufacturers sometimes offer a custom fitted tank bag base that remains on the fuel tank and allows the bag to be lifted off. These also have their own set of unique problems, and also add to the complexity and cost of a tank bag system.
The problem of tank bag mounting might be one of the reasons why tank bags aren’t more widely used. No one seems to have the perfect solution. The bottom line here is that you’ll need to make sure your bike is compatible with the simple strap mounting system currently used on the Chicane bags before you can take advantage of the Canyon’s features.
Many different tank bag shapes and styles are available for sale. Choosing the right one probably comes down to finding the unique feature set that best suits an individual rider’s needs.
Chicane’s Canyon EX has style, simplicity and a couple of interesting features that distinguish it from the competition. It also has a large amount of usable space as a percentage of its overall footprint, which is, in the end, the most important consideration for choosing a motorcycle storage system.
The mounting system and may be problematic for some, but the perfect tank bag mounting system hasn’t been designed yet. We think the Canyon offers good value and quality; the bag is reasonably priced when compared to similar designs.
Product Comments: Nice styling and the design helps the bag to remain upright even when it isn’t filled to capacity. Built-in rain cover is easy to use. Nice, big zipper pulls can be used even when wearing heavy motorcycle gloves. Adaptable to the Chicane hydration bladder system. Very basic mounting system that uses nylon webbed straps. Apparently, a magnetic version is forthcoming.