For many adventure riders, the stock-standard fuel tanks found on many motorcycles just don’t provide enough range. They come with five to seven-gallon tanks which are perfect for weekend warriors, but what about multi-day trips?
That’s when you’ve got two options:
- Replace your existing stock fuel tank with an aftermarket tank with greater capacity
- Keep your existing tank but carry additional fuel when needed in an auxiliary fuel tank
For some riders, replacing the fuel tank makes perfect sense. They foresee many adventures where a bigger tank is justified.
For other riders, their fuel requirements are significantly less. Often they will fare just fine with carrying a small fuel tank.
Adventure motorcycling with extra fuel
Let’s forgo buying an ordinary jerry can from the hardware store to carry extra fuel on your adventure motorcycle. These often spill quite easily on bumpy roads.
After all, you’ve got an expensive motorcycle paired with luggage that you want to protect. Did you know there are numerous better options available?
Manufacturers have come a very long way over the last 10 years. Instead of strapping a jerry can to your panniers, you have various options available.
Let’s take a look:
By far the most popular and well-known tanks on the market. Safari Tanks have custom bigger fuel tanks available for most types of adventure motorcycles and even dirt bikes.
Would we recommend them? Absolutely – that’s why they’re #1 on this list. If you can afford to, we recommend that you upgrade to a bigger fuel tank. This avoids the hassles with topping up fuel while out on the trail as it can often be messy.
The biggest hassle with Safari tanks, and in fact all of these tank companies, is replacing the tank itself. The new tank is bigger and often not as flush or ‘sporty’ as the old tank. But what you lose in aesthetics you make up with a safer tank that can withstand a lot of crashes, while of course giving you a much bigger range.
Some of their tanks come with baffles. This reduces the sideways movement of the fuel in cornering, leading to more stability for you as the rider.
Desert Fox Fuel Cells
The Desert Fox Fuel Cells are an Australian innovation that combines the toughness of the military with the flexibility that overland riders need. Available in 3L, 6L and the massive 12L sizes, they are ideal for storing above hard-luggage cases. A 20L version (Xtreme fuel cell) is available for 4×4 enthusiasts doing group tours.
We really like these motorcycle fuel storage bags. With a range of D rings and daisy chains, you’ll find the right combination of tie-downs to suit your adventure motorcycle. You can even roll these up when they’re not being used.
Some riders have reportedly used these for water storage too, but be warned! You can’t use these for water storage after they have had fuel through them. It’s just too dangerous for your health.
Adventure Moto Fuel Bladders
Imagine a CamelBak turned into a fuel bladder for motorcycles and you’ve got the Adventure Moto Fuel Bags. These bladders are much stronger than any hydration pack obviously while also being flexible even when half full. You can find these online and in some dirt bike shops.
A challenge is actually refuelling the bags and later transferring that fuel into your motorcycle. It certainly takes some practice. Also, while these bags are strong, they are susceptible to punctures. Available in 5L and 8L varieties and built specifically for Australian conditions.
These come with a spout paired with its own storage pouch. The child-proof cap stops it unscrewing when riding so it doesn’t leak fuel on to all of your gear and hot engine parts.
MSR / Primus / SOTO Fuel Bottles
Lacking the confidence of having a soft petrol bladder on your motorcycle? Then it’s time to use something much harder like these aluminium bottles. These are ideal if you’re only going to store much smaller amounts of fuel as they typically come in 700ml to 1.5L varieties.
What we really like about these bottles is using them to store engine oil. Let’s say you’re doing a 4-week expedition in some far-flung country. Finding high-quality engine oil is going to be very challenging. Many adventure riders opt to store engine oil in one of these bottles which choosing a soft bat for their petrol.
Giant Loop Gas Bag
Let’s switch back to soft storage options for a moment with the Gas Bag™️ by Giant Loop Moto. These are very popular despite their very high price. And the price is high for a reason – build quality. Made in the USA with each fuel bladder being individually tested in their Oregon factory before being dispatched internationally
Available in 3 gallons and 5-gallon varieties, you’ll find these bags to be almost indestructible. After all, they built these for racers in mind who demand the best.
Are they worth the price? If you’re needing a very high-quality soft fuel bladder for your dirt bike, then absolutely. It’s the type of gear that will last for years.
You might have heard of Rotopax before. They have been creating fuel tanks for adventure riders for many years now. These are jerry cans for motorcycles that strap on to the panniers.
Just like the Giant soft bags above, these are made in the United States with each unit being pressure-tested before dispatch. Some riders purchase 2 units; one for fuel (red tank) and one for water (white tank) which should never be mixed.
If doing excessive miles is something that you envision, then a set of these will be perfect. You can loop them through your panniers or connect them directly to hard luggage. They also manufacture these as empty storage containers for emergency situations.
Acerbis Rear and Handlebar Fuel Tanks
Acerbis makes a range of fuel tanks and the two that have our attention are their handlebar tank and rear fuel tank. While they’re certainly unattractive in white, your fuel will stay cooler and be much less likely to explode during summer riding adventures.
Using handlebar tanks when riding dirt bikes or adventure motorcycles isn’t that popular. This is why you won’t see that many riders with them. The reason is that the additional weight sitting up high affects your stability and also puts extra strain on your front suspension.
Another Australian startup is the Nomad Tanks company. They have multiple rear tanks available for a range of offroad adventure motorcycles. The best part – these fuel tanks are made in Australia, not China.
For many dirt bikes, the space at the rear below the fender goes completely unused. These is where Nomad Tanks have innovated to serve this space with a tank that appears mostly flush with the bike itself.
SW-Motech Fuel Canister Kit
If you’re the type of rider who loves hard cases, then you’re going to love this. When you’re buying this motorcycle auxiliary fuel holder, you should also purchase the Alu-Box universal mount which they sell separately.
This way you can mount it securely to your hard cases on whichever side you choose.
Included in the basic system is:
- The silver holding plate that you can see on the rear
- Two black straps which are very strong for highway riding
- 2-litre fuel bottle with a leak-proof cap
- Filling pipe to secure it to your hard luggage.
For many riders, 2 litres is enough fuel to get them to the nearest gas station on their trip. This is why this has become very popular with adventure riders who just need that little bit extra and don’t necessarily want to change their main fuel tank.
For more of a bare-bones approach, Liquid Containment has created several touring fuel bladders for adventure riders globally. These are tough…seriously tough!
The great thing about these bags is that they roll up super thin. This means you could store these in the smallest of areas.
Another recent Australian start-up is the Naz Bags company who have created fuel bladder bags from 18oz ripstop canvas. Note that these aren’t fuel storage but a way to protect your soft fuel bladders from damage when crashing.
You can get these in 4 sizes: 12, 10, 5.5 and 4 litres. If in doubt, always get a larger size.
While there are some obvious upsides towards taking additional fuel when riding a motorbike, there are hazards too.
Let’s take into account some safety issues with carrying any additional adventure, trail or dirt bike fuel.
- Limit yourself from the fuel. It’s very flammable and not something that you should have connected on your body at any time. That includes inside backpacks, vests or jackets. Don’t be a fool as it’s just not worth it.
- Don’t mix it up. Some people use one canister for oil storage (especially long-distance adventure riders) and another canister for fuel storage. Mark these properly so you don’t mix them up in the middle of nowhere.
- Refill your bike from your canister first. There is a temptation to just keep filling up your adventure bike endlessly without touching your auxiliary fuel tank, storage bag or canister. If you keep doing this, then your fuel will eventually go bad and chances are that you’ll draw from it when it’s too late.
- Avoid cheap solutions. Yes – every dirt bike tank option provided in this list isn’t cheap. Don’t follow the guys that recommend Gatorade bottles as these are simply too dangerous and the plastic isn’t designed to carry fuel. In fact, the plastic may seep its way into your fuel mixture causing damage to your engine.
- Protect your fuel tanks. Remember that these could cause a fire when crashing so do your best to protect them from sideways impacts. If you get a puncture to your main fuel tank, then that could spell the end of your adventure until help arrives.
Use your saddlebags for fuel, but only as a last resort. Don’t’ store anything in there alongside it which is critical to your adventures such as your tent, sleeping bag and pillow.
Upgrading your fuel tank is often the best solution. You’ll have more storage when you need it and won’t need to worry about top-ups in the field.
However, this isn’t a solution for everyone. These soft fuel storage bags and hard mini-tanks for motorcycles can give you that extra range that you need, without expensive upgrades.
Most importantly, here at Frontaer – we recommend that you just play it safe out there with whichever option you choose.