Tank pads have evolved from the humble paint protector to a performance riding tool
Riders of a certain age can remember when tank pads first gained wide popularity, moving from being little more than stickers guarding the interface between the abrasive zippers of riding gear and the delicate paint of the gas tank. The genesis of intricate pad designs was the advent of the high-backed tanks that appeared during the height of the sportbike wars, which required the rider to spoon their bodies around the tank’s curves. However, it wasn’t long before those early bits of plastic sprouted wings and grippier materials that wrapped around the sides of the tank to allow the rider to maintain better contact and control of the bike with their inboard knee while cornering. Today, the best motorcycle tank pads offer both style and function.
A quick search around the web will net you a swath of tank pads that range from little more than decorative thongs to highly-intricate, model-specific traction devices. There’s no one-style-fits-all, and like tattoos, many riders use them to express their individual flair. What we have collected below is a grouping of some of the most interesting and/or functional designs we’ve discovered. With so many variations of tank pad out there, this listing can hardly be definitive, so pipe up in the comments if we’ve missed your favorite.
Stompgrip just might be credited with the surge in popularity of grippy tank protectors. Each pad is constructed of a non-abrasive material that won’t harm your expensive riding gear. Instead, the pads rely on an aggressive bump pattern to give you a surface to grip with your knees and thighs during braking and cornering. Each Stompgrip set is designed for a specific motorcycle model, but universal cut-your-own kits are available. However, the model-based kits offer pre-molded rounded edges to help the pads resist peeling. The pads themselves are offered in both clear (to allow paint and graphics to show through) or black. Once mounted up to your bike and allowed to cure, the 3M adhesive will hold tenaciously.
Representing the top of the TechSpec line, the Snake Skin Tank Pad features the most aggressive pattern TechSpec produces. Still, this pattern combined with the grippy material will not damage leathers. Snake Skin is a thin, .125” medium durometer “rubber” material that offers a secure, comfortable grip, durable protection and a clean stock look. One notable feature of the Snake Skin pads is they utilize a special adhesive backing that allows the pads to be removed and repositioned if necessary. As with many tank pads, Tech Spec Snake Skin kits are model specific and are pre cut for easy application.
Puig has jumped on the universal tank protector market in a big way, making pads that range from clear to carbon fiber look to intricate designs in their catalog of 20 available protectors. All of these designs will typically fit your bike’s tank without modifications. Still, Puig features measurements of the pads in their product descriptions. For those interested in carrying over the pad design to other parts of the tank, Puig also offers fuel cap protectors in many styles, too.
Oxford is another well-known motorcycle brand that produces tank pads in a variety of styles in a universal application. From the company’s original Spine Tank Pad to the cool Transformer Spine Tank Pad, you should be able to find one that suits your tastes. Some patterns come with a textured surface for increased grip and a mounting template to ease application. The pads stick securely, thanks to their 3M adhesive backing.
Prior to all these fancy tank protectors, the original means of protecting tank paint was clear vinyl film, which can protect a variety of surfaces, not just tanks. Giant Loop’s protective film is heavy-duty 12 mil film delivered in three 12-in. x 14-in. sheets. This way you can protect your tank or other delicate surfaces, like your side panels from the abrasion of soft luggage on a weekend tour. Installing the sheets is as simple as adding a drop of dish soap to 16 oz. of water and spraying the sheets and the mounting surface. Squeegee the bubbles out, let dry overnight, and you’re good to go. Removal is just as easy.
There are tons of motorcycle tank pads available out there, and if you didn’t see any that appealed to you out of this name-brand selection, you can always take a trip to the flea market that is Amazon for more obscure brands and styles of tank pads.
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