I’ve been searching for a powered tank bag for the GS for a while now, and recently came across some good reviews of the Marsee line of bags. I did a bit of research, and decided to go with the 15 liter Teardrop with the added Powerlet Accessory Kit (installed) through Racer Parts Wholesale. At $210, it seemed like a fairly decent buy, even if I was more than a bit hesitant about the mounting options since the GS tank has such a wicked slope to it and this is a “generic” mounting system for all bikes. All my comments and opinions are geared towards the use of this bag on the BMW R1200GS.
First things first, I love the idea behind this bag. When I use a tank bag, I am typically on a long trip – multiple days (if not weeks or months) of street and dirt riding, camping, and high mileage (last summer’s trip was 13k+ miles, for example). For day rides, however, I leave the bag at home and just use the top case or a backpack, whichever is more convenient. The waterproofing, power options, and rigid mapcase sounded perfect for my needs, especially with my trip to Alaska coming up next summer.
I’ve just finished up a quick 2,000 mile trip with the Teardrop and can offer some insight for folks considering this bag. I stayed on pavement the entire time, with about a 50/50 split between interstate and winding 2-lanes. Weather ranged from 90+ and sunny to 50s and absolutely pouring (yeah, that was fun).
Bottom line: the 15L Teardrop, while it does a lot of things right, as a few major flaws. This is not the bag I’ll be using on my Alaska trip.
Now for some detail.
The waterproofing of the Teardrop is outstanding. Not a drop seeped in from anywhere, and I had one full day of absolutely bone-soaking rain. This particular aspect of the product is absolutely top-notch. There is no rain cover, it’s all in the material and construction, and it performed well above my expectations.
I opted for the Powerlet BMW CanBus option since this was basically a test ride. There is also, of course, an accessory to hook this up directly to the battery, and that is easy to swap out. The one issue I had is a bit of user error on my part, but also, I think, a small design flaw. The port for the Powerlet is located about 2-3 inches left of center, and I didn’t leave enough play in the cord when I wired it up. The end result was a slightly bent connector and (at first) several unintentional unpluggings as I maneuvered in parking lots and such. Again, this was my error as I didn’t leave enough slack in the cable, but I am curious as to why the port isn’t centered. In the end, however, it isn’t a big deal and something that was easily remedied along the side of the road.
General Bag Layout
There are three compartments to the Teardrop. The top tray, and the primary reason I was attracted to the bag, is about 2″ deep with a clear, hard-plastic cover. There are two pass-through portals in the read of the tray for stringing through electronic cables from the Powerlet port, which is in the large middle compartment. Additionally, there are two small cable ports on the front of the tray, which would make connecting powered clothing a breeze (I did not test this capability, but it looks like it would work brilliantly). According to the product description, this top tray is designed for maps and electronic/communication gear. More on this later…
The middle section of the bag is cavernous. I kept my camera (DSLR-size frame), wheel lock, spare rain gloves, notebook, a couple pens, munchies, spare headlights, and I forget what else. I didn’t come close to filling it. It’s a huge space that I just didn’t need to completely fill for my short trip to Atlanta and back.
The bottom section is designed to hold spare maps. It’s a tiny thing that I didn’t use at all. I didn’t even keep spare maps in there, because the slope of the BMW tank makes the integrated zip-lock container impossible to use conveniently. Really, this bottom section is no more than a flexible mounting “platform” that the top 2 sections zip on to. This allows the bag itself to be easily removed if you don’t want to leave it on the bike unattended. Again, more on this later.
This the beginning of where my problems with the bag start. There are a couple different mounting options available: A magnetic mount, and a Quick Release mount with straps. Once again, it’s important to note that this is a generic mount, and, as far as I am concerned, does not work well with the 2009 BMW GS. They bill the mount as a 4-point system, but that’s not really the case. Yes, it connects to the bag at 4 points, but it only attaches (or loops around) to 2 points of the bike – one in the front on the frame under the bars, and the other under the seat.
In front, the straps loop around the frame under the bars quite easily, and then cinch down. The problem comes in the rear, where the battery placement becomes problematic. My old bag was one of the GS-specific models from BMW which called for a bracket to be installed at the base of the tank. Without this bracket, I would have had to remove the battery and battery shelf to find an adequate strapping point. Likely this would not have proved to be more than inconvenient, but I think it would have been difficult to maintain a strong, tight mounting solution had I needed to do that.
An additional mounting problem is the overall width of the bag. While the mount itself gives you some leeway into how far front/back you end up placing the bag, I couldn’t find a point where it didn’t interfere with the extreme ends of the steering movement – the handlebars were always making contact with the bag when turned sharply. For the kind of riding I did on the trip, this was never an issue, as I only used the full range of the bars when parking the bike. If I were going off-road, however, or doing low-speed maneuvers, then this may well have been more problematic.
My Main Concerns
What makes the bag, as far as I am concerned, unusable, however, are two design oversights.
This is a bag that is designed to hold electronics. It even says so right in the product description. Not having a means to lock the compartments is a tremendous oversight. Less essential, but equally problematic is the ease and speed at which this bag is removed from the bike. A single zipper is all that secures the bag in place. The simplest solution is to have a means of attaching a small padlock, but without some significant modification that seems to be impossible. It would take an observant thief about 15 seconds to make off with camera, phone, GPS, iPod, or whatever else was stored in the bag.
The design of the top tray is the biggest design flaw of the bag. Again, the idea is outstanding – it’s just poorly implemented at this stage. First off, and of far lesser importance, the inside of the tray is a kind of crushed velvet type of material. Very soft, so it won’t scratch anything, but also quite slick. I was concerned my phone and SPOT tracker would be sliding all over the place, so I put down some velcro to hod things in place. This worked great. Until…
My phone stopped working. This is a direct result not of the Powerlet, but of the actual construction of the plastic, see-through cover.
First and foremost, this is some thin, flimsy plastic. I’m not sure when the crack in the front corner appeared, but I think it was during the initial installation. Normally I would have returned it, but I was in a bit of a bind for my trip so I just slapped some Duct Tape over it since it was in an unobtrusive part of the lid. This quick-fix worked fine and did not hurt the overall integrity of the waterproof construction.
A bigger concern is the reason the iPhone quit working: Temperature. I live down in TX, so we get a lot of sun. The first day of my trip was no exception, but it never got above 85 degrees (F). The iPhone has an upper “recommended” operating limit of 95 degrees, but I’ve used it as high as 114 degrees (last summer in Death Valley – stored in my jacket pocket). The magnification of the sun through the plastic lid, however, rendered my iPhone unusable. This in turn made me check the Lithium Batteries in the SPOT unit, and I discovered that one of them was in the process of failing with a rather significant bubble forming at the positive terminal. This leads me to believe that, evidently, there is no kind of protective or UV screening or coating on this plastic cover. Indeed, the cover itself was hot to the touch, so I moved the phone and SPOT unit to the pockets of my jacket – meaning that the sole reasons I bought this bag, the Powerlet options and top electronic storage section, were now of no use to me (to be fair, however, I did charge the phone on occasion by keeping it in the main compartment for brief periods). Why Marsee didn’t construct the plastic cover out of the same type of material with the same types of coatings as helmet manufacturers use for face shields is puzzling to say the least.
Even with those tremendous design flaws, however, I still love the idea behind this bag, and I’ll be keeping an eye on Marsee to see if they address any of the issues that concern me. The overall production quality is high, and I would have no issues at all trying out another of their products. The 15L Teardrop, however, is, in my opinion, unusable for my needs.
Interior of the main storage compartment
Top of the main storage compartment
***Update: 6 August 2010 ***
The good folks at Marsee saw this review and went above and beyond to replace the bag because of the cracked lid. Their customer service was top notch and I am more than satisfied with the conversations we had and their explanation of the design decisions I have issues with. Everything above still holds true, but the quality of the product and their focus on customer satisfaction cannot be denied. I look forward to doing business with them again.