Riding long distance is a feeling that cannot be expressed in words for true blue motorcyclists. It is similar to trying to put into context why a dog sticks it’s head out of a moving car. You just can’t explain it well.
But touring long distance means carrying luggage or many essential stuffs we need or might need for the trip , to keep us safe, warm and well cared for. So naturally , the average guy would go for a backpack, some even expandable backpacks like the one’s used for trekking. Though that is a great prospect when considering the amount of space one can utilize. But from personal experience riding long distance with a heavy backpack/blown out back pack can mean trouble, especially in the form of early fatigue, shoulder pain and other problems, which might make the trip not so pleasant and even turn it into a potential risk factor.
So what are the options we have with us ? The answer to the problem is the wonder creations called Tank bags/Saddle bags/Tail bags whichever that suits the amount of stuff you are planning on carrying with you. These can be fixed onto the motorcycle with straps / bungee cords/ magnets. They take away the weight of the luggage from the shoulders of the rider and give a pleasant riding experience. Of course one must be careful in choosing the models of such stuff, to check if it suits one’s bike or can it be fixed properly and that it won’t wiggle off or shake around during a trip , which can spell disaster.
Now, I had personal experience of early fatigue and shoulder pain after carrying backpacks during tours and also it causes a hindrance/discomfort for the pillion to sit properly , thus upsetting the stability of the bike in some cases. So I was in search for a good, spacious yet economical tank bag. Now the question may arise , Why a tank bag ? Why not a saddle bag or a tail bag. Well the answer is simple, the tank bag is more than enough when all you want is a bag for storing stuff to last us for about , lets say 2-3 days, and moreover it can also be used as an everyday object too , for which saddle bags are not an option.
So a moderate storage capacity was all that was needed and found that the tank bags was the perfect option.
So now let’s have a look at what options the market has for us within 3k price-range , each with varying capacity in the price range they are offered at.
1. Cramster Turtle – Rs 1,800/- 15 ltrs capacity , 16 ltrs (expanded)
2. Rynox Optimus M- Rs 3,159/- 21 ltrs capacity 29 ltrs(expanded)
3. Rynox Navigator – Rs 1,999/- 12 ltrs
4. Dirt Sack Forester – Rs 2,150/- 16 lts
So these were the available options.
Now, let’s start with the review of the Cramster Turtle Tankbag. Now coming to the Cramster, It is a tank bag which retails at Rs 1,800/- and has a storage capacity of 15 ltrs with 16 lts expandable space. I had purchased mine from Auto Queen , Cochin. The other option is getting it from the Cramster website itself and they will courier it to you.
The bag doesn’t look all that big or bulky. Infact when I first saw it I was skeptical on how much stuff would actually fit in it. So what I did first was to take my backpack , which was a Targus Laptop bag and stuffed it into the tank-bag along with a one liter water bottle and a few other stuff, and to my surprise it fit. I was able to close the zipper on the bag without any difficulties or extra pressure. So I thought wow, that is nice. Another feature I noticed initially was that it could be converted into a side bag using a strap which can be attached to the bag and can be kinda conveniently carried around.
So, now let’s break down certain aspect relevant towards this product , which one needs to consider when looking for a tank bag.
The bag has the following features, a main compartment where we can store most of the luggage It’s storage capacity is supposedly 15lts and using the extension zipper opened , can be extended by a liter more or so.
Then we have 2 small storage areas located on both sides, which can be used to store mobile ,phones, wallets and small items like that. Smartphone users cannot use this space for their phones :-P. It can easily fit a P&S digital camera without any hassles.
What I found to be most useful about this is, these pockets are quite accessible and usable even while riding, so you can store or retrieve stuff from there on the move, no need to stop the bike for it, that is some really great stuff , touring buddies will know.
Then we have a transparent cover located on the inside of the flap , it can be used to store route map, bike documents and stuff like that. But the position of the transparent pouch is located on the wrong side of the flap, had it been outside then it would have been perfect for placing the map or even maybe a GPS device inside which would have assisted during tours, but for some reason it is in the inside of the flap and cannot be used effectively at all on the move. Don’t know what they were thinking when coming up with that design.But hey, You could always stop and check.
Then we have a small compartment where the waterproofing bag is stored, neatly folded. During sunny days or summer trips , we can remove the waterproofing cover and use that as an extra compartment for some more storage space, but do note that it is a very small pouch and only small things will fit into it, I am talking about stuff as small as a wallet.
Overall product quality
When it comes to quality, I have heard a lot of stuff about the quality of Cramster being below average for the price they come at and a lot of negative reviews, but my experience with cramster products so far has been pleasant. I have had a previous experience with Cramster , being a full gauntlet riding glove, the Cramster TR2G. Which retails at about Rs2300/- Great stuff, during my brief ownership stint of a few months, had tested it in a few departments and it came out great, including the build quality, then the Cramster breezer riding jacket, same experience great build quality. And it repeats here too, the quality of the bag is indeed great, no problem with stitches all the zippers work fine, and every thing is set correctly. So no complains there.
Personally I think that a major part in build quality is also part of the owner, he/she must be careful while choosing a product and paying for it, one must thoroughly check for any defect and if any must go for another piece which does not have any. Even after that if the product fails while performing its duty, then issues can be raised about product quality, after my kind of extensive usage the bag still retains its quality pretty well, no stitches are falling apart anywhere and the zippers works fine.
As far as storage capacity is concerned, it can hold 15ltrs of stuff, but anybody can read that off the tag or by checking on the internet. It would be more helpful if we talk in the amount of stuff that can fit in it. It can easy fit 3 set of jeans and shirt in it and still have space for stuffing in your Digital camera( I don’t have a DSLR) and maybe 2 bottles of water, (1 liter bottle each).Use the extension zipper and , there, you have space for more stuff. The only downfall is that the more things you go stuffing inside the bag , the bigger it gets(Duh..!!) and that, the height of the bag may be a hindrance when the bag is fitted onto the tank. It won’t be as free as it would be when you pack much more lightly.
So for the best level of comfort in handling the bag would be 2 days worth of clothes and a towel and 2 bottles of water and little snacks, just the complete set of things you might need for a 2 days tour or so. Then this bag is the perfect choice and will perform flawlessly. For much more hardcore touring of longer duration , a tank-bag is not what you need, for those kind of needs, a saddle bag is what will cater your needs best. Because once you over-pack into the tank bag and supposedly it fails courtesy of the over-packing , then you are left stranded without much options,which is not a pretty sight when we think about it. So it’s best use the product wisely for what it has been designed for. But the tankbag can be used along with the saddle bag giving more space for accessing often used items with much better ease.
The reason I mentioned this is because, clearly the bag can take in a lot more than what it ideally should take in, but then one is always running a risk of the product failing. Which is completely that persons fault. So to conclude for tours involving many days, use a saddle bag and fill the tank bag with stuff that you will frequently need, like water, camera, maps, rain coats or a few days cloths or stuff like that.
During most of my trips now a days , I always carry my rain coat, helmet cover, 2 bottles of water( I don’t trust water from hotels or outside, free health tip), some snacks, and a few other stuffs which I need. and it is just perfect for me. So for me, I haven’t utilized the full potential of the bag yet. Hope to do so in the coming days.
Mounting is the easy part. It has four flaps or arms 2 of which are longer than the other two. These have magnets in them which will help us get a correct fix onto the tank of the bike, the position of the magnets can be infinitely adjusted, so that is a good thing too. I had a small problem with the longer flaps because of the semi fairing on my 220, so fixing on a semi-faired or fully faired bike can be a little bit time consuming , all we have to do is adjust the location of the magnets accordingly and fold the rest length of the flap and it can be fitted properly without any hassle, so it cannot be considered as a defect really.
The longer flaps have 2 magnets each and the smaller flaps have one magnet each. The position of the magnets can be changed as per our wish and then mounted on to get the tightest fit , so that the bag doesn’t move around even in the strongest cross winds. This has been tested in the high crosswinds along the Pollachi route and it passed the test with flying colors.
If the bag is mounted on perfectly and tightly using the proper position of the magnets then the bag is rock solid. Tested it in heavy cross winds along the open highway of Tamil Nadu enroute Pollachi near the windmill farm area and it did not move an inch. Surprised me quite a bit there, stays where it should be. Also serves as an arm rest when you are tired of holding on the same riding position for long stretches. Might as well have some fun while it is there doing it’s job 😛
Well, the ergonomics is kinda ok, and user friendly , dint find much problems or to be precise I have faced only 2 problems.
Firstly, in my bike when I place the bag on the tank at its correct position and when the bike’s handle is pulled into completely to the left side , the horn switch gets pressed by the bag and blasts the horn in full power, this happens even in the most backward(meaning more towards the rider) position, so that means if you are trying to turn the bike around in a tight spot with the bike in ON then you are going to have a bad embarrassing time. Had a few such events and it was not all that pleasant though you would be laughing about it a minute or so when you pull away form that situation. But hey, it is a problem with respect to ergonomics and must be mentioned.
Secondly, just as much as the tank bag is a convenience and particularly with the magnets to hold it in place, if you have to stop frequently and walk away form the bike it is a little bit of menace to remove it from the tank and fixing it back, the magnets are pretty powerful and takes a determined guy some time for removing it from the tank, well you could just yank it off, but then don’t feel bad when the flaps get ripped off. So the dis-mounting is a bit of a task , so refueling time can get a bit messy and time consuming. Also random stops which involves walking away form the bike can be also a bit of a menace, if you trust the bag to be left unattended on the bike that shouldn’t be a problem.
Now I did mention that the bag can be converted into a side bag with the help of 2 d-rings and an additional strap provided with the bag. But it has been poorly designed, it just gets by as a side bag, it is not all that easy to carry around, the straps eat into your shoulders if its a bit heavy, no padding is there for the strap, and it can’t be converted into a backpack unlike its direct rival the Rynox Optimus. Which I think is a major letdown, as I mentioned in the above paragraph, it is not safe to leave the bag on the bike and leave , at the same time it is not all that easy to carry the bag around as a side bag either. So this is a part where they could have improved , but hey, the product has hardly been refreshed since it was first launched many years back, so I don’t expect much from their side on this front.
Well, all those are just minor issues, which do not really make or break the deal of one opting for this product.
The cramster Turtle comes with a waterproof cover which can be put over the bag during rains to prevent water from seeping in through inside the bag. I had tested the waterproofing ability of this bag pretty well with a 180kms long ride to munnar in completely wet day with rain all through out the day. There is a small pouch in the bag which holds the waterproofing cover in place and in the event of rain it can be easily and very quickly be opened and set up over the bag, and needless to say, it does it’s job pretty well. All throughout the trip the cover successfully repelled all the water from entering into the bag, there was no water seepage form under the bag too.
But there is a design flaw here, there are two straps which have to go through the flaps to hold the cover in place , which if not done will cause huge problems of the cover flapping around during cross winds, and it doesn’t take heavy cross wind for that to happen, it creates enough drag to be a nuisance in such conditions, so in such situation we have to stop the bike and setup the cover properly again if you want the cover to be in place. Once covered, none of the bag zippers are operational for the rider and for accessing those we have to remove the cover all over again, by dislodging the magnet positions , which is a tedious task.
Another design flaw here is that, the dimensions of the cover is according to the dimension of the bag when it is in its non expanded form, if you are using the bag completely expanded, then this cover will not suffice in completely covering the bag. This is a design hiccup that cramster failed to notice / failed to correct over the years.
Apart from that , it performed quite nicely, and is definitely a worthy investment if you are considering motorcycle luggage within a tight budget.
That about wraps up with the review of the Cramster turtle tank bag. Do leave your feedback below in the comments section. And if you want us to review any other products, do mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org