Date reviewed: May 2019 | Tested by: John Milbank | Price: £162.95 (plus £27.95 for tank ring) | www.motohaus.com
Luggage can transform a motorcycle’s practicality – being able to carry everything from a few bits and bobs to enough for an overnight trip means the bike can get far more use. As the owner of a Yamaha MT-10, I don’t want to burden it with full hard luggage, but I do need to be able to carry a change of clothes, my camera and more. The SW Motech EVO Trial motorcycle tank bag on review here has been fitted to my bike for a variety of rides over the past few months…
Made of tough 1680D Ballistic Nylon, the Trial tank bag is very well built with neat detailing – it’s no surprise that Yamaha and Suzuki, to name just two, rebrand SW Motech kit for their own luggage.
The bag has a slight curve to the bottom to better hug the profile of a tank – obviously it’ll depend on your bike, and how the bag is positioned, but it fits my Yamaha MT-10 a treat.
The main compartment is expandable, using a zip all the way around, just under the top flap, which takes capacity from 15 to 22 litres. It’s easily enough to carry a good overnight’s worth of kit.
I take a size 9-10 shoe, and my lightweight trainers did squash in, along with a couple of changes of underwear, two t-shirts, my phone charger and some toiletries; you’ll have no problem on an overnighter, maybe even for a pillion too, if you keep your riding boots on.
There are two outer pockets – these are quite slim, and I tend to use them to carry the supplied waterproof cover and the carry strap. They’re handy for bits and bobs you might need quickly.
The entire top flap – which opens up fully and folds right back for easy access – has a clear, touch-screen compatible window; this is big enough to take a standard iPad, so is ideal for navigating using your phone, however large it is.
One the underside of the zipped top pocket is an organiser for notebooks/maps, pens, wallet and more – a very neat and useful addition.
The interior has elasticated mesh pockets for smaller items, like charging cables and other bits. There are also some vertical elasticated straps for keeping long, soft items (rolled-up pants?) in place.
When compressed, I can still see the clocks on my MT-10, though not the TomTom I had mounted on the yoke. I’ve since moved that to the bars, so it’s not a problem, but with the bag fully expanded I can’t easily see the Yamaha’s dash. That’s to be expected of any large bag, but worth noting. Visibility on other bikes will of course vary dramatically.
SW Motech tank bags are designed in such a way that they can be precisely positioned to suit your bike’s tank and filler cap location. In this way, you can find the perfect point that’ll give completely free movement of the bars, without getting in the way of your stomach. But it requires some work; the fitting plate is supplied separately to the bag, and requires four holes to be drilled in the base.
To find the right position, first mount the tank ring – as with other brands, you need to buy this separately to suit your bike; for the MT-10 it costs £27.95. You’ll need a 4mm Allen key to remove the Yamaha tank bolts, then a 3mm key to fit the new ones, along with a 1.2x6.5mm or similar flat-bladed screwdriver. It’s recommended to use a thread-locking compound – mine was Bondloc B222 Screwlock and Seal for fine threaded compounds.
With the tank ring on, you can find the best position for your bag by snapping the fitting plate onto the ring, then sliding the bag back and forth until you’re happy. With a small mark in place (chalk or a bit of tape), you can lift the bag off and use the supplied template and drill to make the four holes in the base of the bag. Drilling through your £162.95 bag takes a little bit of a leap of faith; be sure to fold the inner flaps out of the way and use a block of old wood to support it while drilling. I also found that dropping an M8 bolt into each drilled hole as I did the others made it easier to do without the template shifting.
The plastic base that you need to drill through is held onto the bag with six rivets – unfortunately I ended up drilling right into the middle pair. This doesn’t affect the integrity at all as the four outer rivets keep the base in place, and the four bolts that hold the plate on also hold the base; I’m not sure why SW Motech put the two middle rivets in, as it’d be easier to drill without them.
SW Motech’s mounting system requires some work from the owner, but it does give complete flexibility in mounting, and allowed me to find a better position than I could when testing the Givi UT809 tank bag. If you buy a new bike and need to re-drill it, you will be able to, and could easily cover the old holes with some gaffer tape – they wouldn’t be seen under the inner flap covers anyway.
I can’t help thinking though that some kind of mechanism could be designed that allows the plate to slide on a toothed platform, allowing it to be positioned, locked and moved with much more ease.
SW Motech’s bags lock easily onto the ring fitted to your tank – to remove them, you pull on a cord that’s clipped to the front of the bag. The design of the tank ring itself is far more attractive than the one on the Givi UT809 – something I think is important when you’re riding without the bag in place.
The front and back of the EVO Trial tank bag both have ports for cables to pass through – these are sealed when you get the bag (to reduce the chance of water getting in), but if you want to use them you can just run a sharp knife between the rubber. If powering items in the bag from your bike is important to you (I tend to just use a battery pack in the bag), you can also get any of SW Motech’s Evo tank bags in electric versions, which use a contact-equipped tank ring that you wire to your bike’s battery, and a mounting plate that means the bag is easily removed with no wires, but has 12V power inside. You can also upgrade any standard EVO tank bag to electric.
Small reflective panels feature on the sides, and the bag has a comfortable carry handle fixed on the front. A particularly neat touch is the elastic retaining straps that keep all the zip toggles neatly stowed, so they won’t flap in the wind.
A waterproof cover is supplied, which has a pair of drawstrings to accommodate the bag at its compressed or expanded positions – a neat touch as it won’t flap about too much in the wind. The top has a touch-screen compatible window, so you can still operate your device inside your bag (though of course, it gets harder).
Without the cover, water soon gets into the EVO Trial if your bike doesn’t have a fairing. A bead sewn into the inside edge – behind the zip – helps a bit, but it’s a shame SW Motech didn’t use water-resistant zips that, while not keeping water out entirely, would at least have limited ingress a little more if you get caught out in a storm and haven’t put the cover on. Ultimately though, I keep my phone in the top window, which does stay dry. The organiser on the underside of the top flap also keeps your gear well out of the reach of water, if it does manage to get in.
An optional security pin and cable lock is available for £15.95; the pin is used in the bottom of the bag to stop the plate from unlatching, though you’d have to dig through your gear to get at it when you want to fill up. The main compartment and two side pockets are all double-zipped with loops on the sliders that allow them to be locked, either using the three-dial combination lock that comes with the security pin, or a small padlock. This would be useful when leaving the bike for a short time, maybe to pay for for fuel, but as you’ve had to unlock it and take the bag off to top up, you might as well carry it with you.
Any tank bag is only as secure as the material it’s made of, so a determined thief could soon have your gear away. The SW Motech is so easy to pop off and carry, you might as well keep it with you.
Tank bags of old were a hassle to use, with straps tying them to the headstock and the rear, and scratches from grit underneath being pretty much inevitable. The new tank-ring mounting systems are excellent, keeping your bike in mint condition, while also making fitting and removing your luggage very quick and easy (no more hassle at the petrol pump).
I really appreciate how neat the tank ring looks on my MT-10, and while the SW Motech Trial might take a little bit of setting up at first, don’t be put off by the drilling – once on the bike, this is a versatile, truly useful piece of luggage.