Beta Alp 4.0

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Wolfman Expedition Tankbag Review

Unlike many motorcyclists I’m not a fan of tankbags. I appreciate that they put weight within the wheelbase, are easy to access and are often good value for money but they also restrict the rider’s movement, prevent easy access to the filler cap and add high-up weight to an already top-heavy machine.
However for my trip to Italy for the 2006 Stella Alpina Rally I needed to maximise storage on my little motorbike and an internet search revealed a product from Wolfman. Their Enduro tankbag was designed for sloping, narrow tanks on road legal enduro machines and was well reviewed by a few US magazines. The price paid for a good fit is that its capacity is around a mere 5 litres – my last tankbag would hold 30 litres! I made a cardboard mock-up of the bag and found that it really did fit my tank and may even allow refuelling without removal, just as the website suggested. I also checked and estimated that it would hold a water bottle, GPS, multitool, spare gloves, maps for the day and leave space for an apple.
The UK distributor for Wolfman is Winding Roads, a small company specialising in importing motorcycling touring goods ignored by the big chains. Importantly their prices are far better than the usual £1 = $1 conversion used by some companies. I placed an online order a month or so before departure but on the next working day I got a phone call from Martin, the owner, saying that the Enduro bag was out of stock and that delivery from the US was often slow. We discussed options and I decided to wait a while. Over the next few weeks we exchanged a number of emails and phone calls. Martin was very apolgetic that my fist choice of bag hadn’t been delivered from the US and at the eleventh hour I decided to try a Small Expedition Series tankbag that Winding Roads had for evaluation.
The Expedition bag is a very similar size and shape to the Enduro model but made of materials and to a design to be as water resistant as possible. When I received it the bag was clearly well made from quality materials but in places had a slightly amateur look about it, for example the stitching wasn’t as straight as usual. The bag was easily fitted by threading a webbing strap under the rear of the tank and fitting 2 clips to it into which the rear of the bag clipped. At the front the bag looped under the headstock, again held with plastic clips. The three mountings each had adjustments so that the bag could be centralised and pulled down firmly.

The top wallet has a transparent window but it’s far to small to use for a map, maybe just a list of waymarkers. I used it to hold a hiking compass which I find a helpful navigational aid even on the road. The lid of the bag overlaps the base by an inch or so to help water resistance. The extent of overlap can be altered and thus ‘expand’ the bag. Inside the lid is a removable soft bag that seemed ideal for elastic bands, a spare pen, that sort of thing. However it’s not wise to put a multitool or cutlery into it if you want your compass to follow the earth’s magnetic field! The base bag, which has foam supports within the walls, can be closed with both a drawstring and a strap/clip to hold it firm.
A shoulder strap is supplied and it could clip onto either the lid or one of the retaining straps. When attached to the lid everything falls out when you try to access the bag whilst you’re carrying it. No matter what, using the bag in town looks pretty geeky; the dangling strap for under the headstock adds to this a bit.
During my 3000km, one week journey the bag was exposed to torrential rain, hot sunny days and dry dusty tracks. It stayed dry and dust-free internally and nothing came undone despite having to move it every 140km to refuel. It got a little grey in the dust but cleaned up well once home.
All in all the bag does what it says and I’ll be suggesting to Martin that the bag could be a stock line.


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