We all know space is at a premium in the motorcycle universe. Having somewhere to put stuff can give us more opportunities to ride, and more ways to ride too. Viking Bags sent us one of their solutions to this problem, the Viking Sport Tail Bag. We went the rounds with it on a few different bikes, and here are our findings. Read on!
Viking Sport Tail Bag Review
|Reviewed By:||Eric and Carrie Leaverton|
|Review Dates:||March 7th to April 4th, 2020|
|Price as Tested:||$89.99 USD|
Overview of the Sport Tail Bag by Viking Bags
The Viking Sport Tail Bag is a mid-sized zippered motorcycle bag with a large central compartment and smaller pockets on the sides. The underside of the lid features an office organizer with a couple small pockets, a mesh pouch, and two pen holders. Bungee cords with plastic coated hooks are the primary mounting method.
It’s a handsomely constructed bag, dark black Cordura accented with faux leather panels and chunky YKK zippers. The only other color you’ll find is the silvered lettering and highlights on the stylized Viking hammer emblem on the lid.
Front to back it measures 11″ (28cm), and 16″ (40cm) side-to-side. The front is 9″ (23cm) tall, and tapers to roughly 6″ (15cm) at the back. Expandable panels increase overall width to 19″ (48cm). The main internal compartment measures 11 x 9, or 13.5 x 9 expanded, and the bag weighs 3.7 pounds, or 1.67 kilos.
Viking throws in some detachable shoulder straps to convert the bag to a backpack, and a nylon rain fly with elastic.
Features of the Viking Sport Tail Bag
Unless you have a ruler handy and know the dimensions of some common items, those numbers likely don’t mean much. We crammed a few common household items into the Viking Sport Tail Bag, mostly groceries but some other items too. Here’s a list of some of what we were able to fit. This was all with the compartment expanded, so keep that in mind. Also, each bullet is a separate load, we didn’t put all this in at once. Of course.
- 2 gallons of milk*
- 18 eggs
- 2 ribeye steaks, 1 pound of frozen shrimp and a pint of whiskey
- 6 packages of Raman noodle soup and a 6-pack of bottled beer
- a large tool roll and a full set of raingear
- a camping kit with burner, fuel, flatware, can opener and other assorted culinary items
- 8 rolls of toilet paper
* the milk was probably more weight than would be safe to transport, but they did fit.
Our conclusion after all this loading and unloading was that the Viking Sport Tail Bag is plenty big. Whether you’re a commuter carrying your lunch, a prepper packing some tools and rain gear, or a weekend warrior with a couple changes of clothes, this tail bag wont let you down in the size department.
The mounting solutions are less impressive. The underside of the bag has two bungee cords, criss-crossed internally so you get a hook at each of the four corners. At full stretch you get about four feet hook-to-hook, and the hooks are coated so they’re less likely to leave scratches. You place the bag where you intend to carry it, whether on your pillion or a luggage rack or whatever, and hook the cords to whatever suitable points you can find on your bike.
After that there’s one other “mounting solution” though I hesitate to call it that. More on that later.
What An Adventure
This was easy on my 2009 Kawasaki Versys, which has a lot of tubular framing components below the pillion. It also has spindly pylons for the passenger pegs, which proved extremely convenient. I was able to easily and securely mount the Viking Sport Tail Bag to my Versys. But, the Versys is more like “adventure sport” than true sport, and a typical sport bike doesn’t have that kind of understructure to mount to.
Tour It Up
On my 2011 Kawasaki Concours, I was unable to mount the bag at all. Pillion or luggage rack, there simply weren’t any mounting points I could reach with the hooks. A lot of that is just the design of the Concours. Everything is chunky angles and aggressive lines, no hooks or nice tubular brackets or anything. So the bag gets a pass on the Concours, and that’s fair because the Connie is a sport touring bike anyway.
A Sporting Chance
Our only true sportbike is Kitsuni, Carrie’s 2012 Kawasaki Ninja 650. Full fairings, vestigial pillion, rear-sets. Sport bag, sport bike.
On the underside of the Ninja’s tailpiece, there are two little nubs you could almost call hooks. That’s what Kawasaki intended them for anyway, but to be honest they look more like mating spurs on a python. Or Frankenstein’s neck bolts. Either way, trying to attach two bungee hooks to each one was a lesson in futility. I could hook them well enough, but any bounce or jostle would be enough to release the snappin’. Bonus points if you caught that joke! Anyway, those little nubbins were no good for mounting. Likewise with the passenger peg bracket, which was much too far away from the tail piece. That put the score at 0-2, and there is nowhere else on the Ninja you could conceivably hook to. I was ready to call it a complete failure.
After a nights rest, though, I went back to it and solved the problem. By attaching the bungee hooks to themselves, corner to corner, across the underside of the tail, I was able to achieve a secure mount.
I don’t like it, first because it puts the hooks in an area I prefer to reserve for the rear tire’s exclusive use, and second because it puts a lot of rub on some painted bits where the cords wrap under. But it works, the bag feels tight and secure and it doesn’t shift in corners. I loaded it up with a tool roll and some rain gear and tossed Kitsuni through Ogden Canyon, and the bag was planted the whole time.
Speaking of Rain Gear…
The rain fly provided with the Viking Sport Tail Bag does an excellent job. I didn’t manage to get some wet weather to put it through an actual rain test, but I did mock up something in my driveway. I loaded the bag with paper towels, which would be sure to show moisture, and wrapped the rain fly around it. Then I turned my garden hose on in for a sustained five-minute soaking. You can watch this test in the video review HERE.
Five minutes of direct showering with the garden hose was not enough to penetrate the rain fly. The exterior of the bag was still dry and the paper towels showed no wetness when I unzipped the bag. I don’t know how this test would compare to an actual rain ride, but I’ve never seen rain that could compare to the direct hosing I gave that bag. A round of dry applause for this success.
Pain in the Padded Bags
Earlier I mentioned one other mounting solution the Viking Sport Tail Bag offers. I didn’t cover it in the mounting section though, because it deserves it’s own discussion. I’ve come to think of it as The Pad.
This bag comes with a pad on the underside. This pad is ostensibly to protect your bike from any scratches, and if that were it, that’s all we’d need to say about it. But it seems like it was also intended as a mounting solution. There are strap and snap closures hanging off the corners of the bag, and they snap into concealed clips on the underside of this pad. You’re left with four big loops of strap at the corners. They’re not necessary to hold the pad to the bag, because there’s Velcro for that and it does a great job already. No, the purpose seems to be to attach the bag to the pad in a situation where the Velcro couldn’t.
But Could You…
At first thought, it seems like it may be intended to go under a removable pillion. We’ve all seen that right? Remove the back seat, capture the pad under it, then connect the bag to the captured pad. But for that to work the straps would need to be attached to the pad, and the clips attached to the bag. It’s the other way around though, so you’d never be able to reach the clips once they were under the pillion.
So maybe the pad is magnetized? It attaches to the bike with magnets, then the bag Velcros to the pad? Well, more on this later too, but it’s not magnetized. And even if it were, why have the straps then? Magnet to the bike, Velcro to the bag, done and done.
The only possible way to use the pad to attach the bag would be to sandwich a luggage rack between the bag and the pad. Pad under, bag over, straps looping around the edges. It would be dreadfully loose though, since the straps don’t cinch very tight, and you’d have to have a fairly large luggage rack with nothing beneath it. Imagine a big chromed cruiser with that huge luggage rack hanging out in space over the fender. That’s what you’d have to have. And once you had that, the bungees would work very well to attach it, sans pad.
Tell Me How You Really Feel
What I’m trying to say is, the pad is useless. I can discern no possible way to use it for anything practical. After some research we learned that the straps are meant to secure a set of matching saddlebags, and that makes sense, but why the pad? Why not have the concealed clips at the corners of the bags, and include a strap with two male ends to be used if you get the whole set? Why all the trouble of the pad just to have a place to put the clips when you’re not using them? The whole thing feels poorly executed on an otherwise well designed product, and that’s just the beginning…
Conclusions on the Viking Sport Tail Bag
Start with The Pad, dive into the Viking Bags website, and a theme emerges. The product description offers no explanation for The Pad, but they do mention it in the demonstration video.
Specifically they say it has magnets concealed inside it, but if that’s true they weren’t installed in the one I received. They also say the side pockets are expandable. They are not. The main compartment is, as we’ve covered, but the side pockets are outboard of the expanders and so gain no extra width from them. As a side note, the guy in the video is also named Eric, so we can assume he’s a stand-up guy doing his level best. 🙂
That is already a lot to unpack, but we’re still not done. The package I received from Viking Bags included installation instructions for a completely different bag than the one I ordered. Now, it’s not like you need the instructions to install these things. “Install” is much too intense a word to use even. Even the word “mount” is a bit grandiose. They just attach. But the wrong sheet of paper went into my package just the same.
What I’m left with is a picture of a manufacturer with poor internal communication. A design concept that didn’t translate to fabrication. Marketing materials with outright incorrect information. Shipping departments that can’t match a picture on a page to the object in the box.
But It Was Cheap Right?
Now, lest I give the wrong impression, I want to state definitively that I LOVE a price point product like this. Dirt cheap tail bag constructed with downmarket materials, shipped in plain packaging with Xeroxed product instructions, pinching pennies so hard Abraham Lincoln is screaming out AUUGH! I love this segment. These products are making motorcycling affordable and practical to the general public, and that can only be a good thing for our sport and our culture.
But all that bargain bin stuff stops cold when it comes to the accountability and professionalism of the manufacturer. Save money everywhere else, please, but when it comes to talent, quality control, and management, those should be non-negotiable.
The Viking Sport Tail Bag is a great product. It serves a purpose and does it well, and my only real complaint about the product itself is the limitations of the bungee cords for mounting. Especially on a product meant to be used in the sport segment. It would be a four-star product if the story stopped there.
But there’s all that sketchy stuff around, under, and behind. It makes me wonder what other things about this bag were poorly executed. What features didn’t translate to fabrication. What this bag was supposed to do that it isn’t doing, and why the people in charge of that haven’t noticed.
Three stars. I hope Viking Bags can turn some corners, instead of cutting them.