SW-MOTECH PRO Micro & Engage tank bags

German accessory manufacturer SW-MOTECH is well known for producing high quality kit, and their PRO Micro ($159.95) and PRO Engage ($240.95) tank bags are no exception. “PRO” refers in part to the current iteration of their Quick-Lock gas cap ring mount, which was preceded by the ION and EVO versions. The latest design features integral magnets that effectively guide and pull the bag into place, where automatic mechanical latches seize it until a firm tug on the bag’s red pull-strap levers them open—release is a quick, one-handed operation. This setup was developed in collaboration with Fidlock, another German company whose magnetic-mechanical fastening creations have impressed me on other motorcycle gear (e.g., Klim’s F5 helmet chinstrap). Magnets are a big help when trying to align things you can’t see!

Note: Several tank bags in the PRO lineup are not outfitted with this Quick-Lock ring, despite carrying the PRO designation. These are equipped with either a) magnets embedded in a flat bottom for use on a steel tank, or b) straps for securing the bag in the traditional manner. These alternatives offer significantly more interior volume because they don’t have to accommodate the ring mount; otherwise, they’re identical to their Quick-Lock counterparts. Be careful when ordering to ensure you select the desired version.

Fellowship of the Ring

All of SW-MOTECH’s ring mounts fasten to the metal circle surrounding the gas tank’s filler hole by simply replacing some of the OEM bolts with longer ones to traverse the ring’s additional thickness. This fiberglass-reinforced plastic ring (really a C-shape, not a complete O) then remains in place and tank bags pop in and out of it without the need for any mounting straps or harnesses. The installed ring is functionally unobtrusive, though some may find it an eyesore when unhidden by a mounted bag. Unfortunately, the three different generations are not cross-compatible; it’s essential to have matching versions of ring mount and luggage. The rings are sold separately, since they are bike-specific ($37.95 to over $75, depending on application), but any tank bag of matching ilk will mount on the installed ring. Hence, you can have an assortment of tank bags for the same bike (only one ring required), or easily transfer one tank bag from bike to bike (multiple rings required). Bags are completely secure and stable on these mounts, yet R&R effortlessly in literally a second or two. There are no straps or harnesses to fuss with or rub on painted surfaces (even the bag itself hovers a small distance above the tank), and the system works regardless of tank shape or material. Traditional magnetic bags obviously won’t stick to plastic, and some tanks either offer no purchase for strap hooks, or have edges easily damaged by such. SW-MOTECH isn’t the only manufacturer to use gas cap ring mounts, but theirs are especially well executed. They even make kits to mount their rings on tail racks instead of gas tanks.

PRO Micro

SW-MOTECH PRO Micro tank bag

This handsome little tank bag is aptly named Micro! I already owned tank bags of varying sizes, but wanted something extremely minimal, just large enough to hold a drink, snack, wallet, and phone, without significant physical bulk or visual presence in the cockpit. Sure, most of my riding gear features pockets adequate for such items while standing, but they often create pressure points in the riding position. A tail pack relieves these, but even a small one can make swinging a leg over the saddle a bit tricky. At the risk of sounding like the fabled princess and the pea, I sought an utterly unencumbered experience. The sleek PRO Micro delivered this elegantly in a sub-two-pound. package, with dimensions of 10.5”L, 8”W, and 4.5/6.5”H (compact/fully expanded).

In addition to installing the mounting ring, users will have to position the docking ring on the bag’s bottom. There’s a wide range of fore/aft possibilities for tailoring its ultimate location on the tank—another feature unique to the PRO lineup. A rigid EVA floor maintains the bag’s shape there, and the UV-resistant 1680D ballistic nylon sides and top are quite stiff, too. This material is backed by a water-resistant laminate which has proved effective at keeping water out during brief showers, and a rain cover is included for protection during extended wet-weather exposure. A circumferential zipper allows expansion of the bag’s capacity from three to five liters. Because of how the floor intrudes into the interior space to create a recess underneath for the docking ring, the more compact configuration will only hold a large smartphone, wallet, snack bar, visor rag/squirt bottle, and maybe a pair of thin summer gloves. In expanded form, two 20-ounce drink bottles can be added. A zippered mesh pocket resides inside the top flap, each interior wall sports two elastic straps, and the roof is covered with a MOLLE-style grid for fastening add-ons (e.g., SW-MOTECH’s $34.95 clear smartphone case).

Examples of fine detail work include reflective stripes and a retaining loop to keep the expansion zipper’s rubber-coated fob from dangling and possibly touching the tank’s surface – heaven forbid! The Quick-Lock release strap actually passes through a port at the front of the bag, allowing adjustment of its length from inside. This same opening can be used as an electronics cable port, and I’ve run an auxiliary power cord through there to keep my phone charged. Everywhere you look, production values are impeccable.

PRO Engage

SW-MOTECH PRO Engage tank bag

Whereas the Micro serves me perfectly on afternoon outings, it doesn’t add much to my bike’s luggage capacity for multi-day rides. I wanted something bigger, but not by much, since the somewhat sporty ergonomics of my R 1250 RS would put my torso in contact with a truly large piece of luggage atop my tank. Also, because my GPS is mounted over my steering stem, a bag that is long front-to-rear would either foul that device or my belly, depending on where I positioned its docking ring. Note that a very sturdy—and stiff—carrying handle protrudes another inch or two from the front of bags in this lineup (not included in the listed dimensions). While handy, this feature might interfere with cockpit-mounted accessories.

The Engage, like the Micro, has a circumferential zipper to allow for two capacities. Its seven-to-ten-liter range is substantially greater than the Micro’s, yet it’s still small enough to fit within the space between my torso, tank, and GPS. Some room remains on each side that might have been utilized by a broader bag, but SW-MOTECH’s wider offerings would have also come with more length or height than I wanted. However, the Engage makes use of some space where the tank slopes at the rear by incorporating a downward extension not found on its flat-bottomed siblings; a few other models do likewise, including a dramatic dip on one for the GS. Tank shape should be a consideration when choosing your bag, since some will accommodate such an extension and others will not. The Engage measures 14”L, 10”W, and 6/8”H (compact/full expansion, not counting the lower-rear extension).

The basic construction of the 2.5 lb. Engage is much the same as the Micro, using identical docking ring and robust materials. Detailing is also quite similar, including reflective patches, MOLLE top panel, zippered mesh lid pocket, rain cover, and that cute elastic strap for securing the expansion zipper fob. There are three elastic straps on each lateral wall’s interior instead of the Micro’s two, and a small port can be found in the rear of the main compartment to allow passage of electronic cables or a hydration tube. I especially like how the lower-rear extension creates an ideal pocket for my sunglasses in their hard case, and how the rear of the bag is contoured to remain clear of a forward-canted torso, even when extended to full height.

Somehow, I missed a warning in the instructions for the Micro that I later noticed while setting up the docking ring on my Engage. The magnets used in the ring are apparently strong enough to pose some threat to certain magnetically sensitive belongings, such as credit cards, cameras, memory cards and thumb-drives, and perhaps even smartphones. Hence, these are supposed to be carried in the zippered top pocket, rather than on the bag’s floor, adjacent to the magnets. I certainly can’t guarantee the safety of your property, but I can tell you I’ve carried credit cards and a smartphone in the cramped quarters of my Micro’s main compartment on many rides without negative consequences. In the larger Engage, I always have multiple layers of stuff (with my wallet and phone on top), providing plenty of distance and insulation from the magnets, even without storing them in the top pocket.

Decisions, decisions…

Micro atop Engage

I’m definitely a gear hound, with way too many variations on virtually every garment and accessory I own. I wish I could supply a solid justification for having both of these bags, but I can’t. The Micro is truly a highly specialized piece of equipment with extremely limited utility. If I’d bought the Engage first, I would not have spent the additional money just to ride with empty pockets and a wide open cockpit, which are the only benefits the Micro offers. The Engage is still fairly compact, yet provides genuinely meaningful storage and no significant disadvantage, aside from its higher price (though it’s still the better value).

These are both excellent examples of superlative German craftsmanship. If I had to find a nit to pick, it would be the inclusion of MOLLE grids instead of clear vinyl pockets on their tops. Rather than having to purchase a separate piece for this already premium-priced bag, I’d prefer a built-in place to keep my phone or a folded map visible. Otherwise, I can’t find anything to criticize. If you want more capacity, check out SW-MOTECH’s other PRO tank bags, available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, including some designed specifically for the uniquely contoured tanks on BMW GS bikes. (Older ION and EVO models are still readily available, too.) This is expensive gear, but it’s also impressively well-designed and built to last.

Interior of the Engage tank bag