How to Load a Motorcycle
February 6, 2013 - San Diego, CA
One of the challenges that motorcycles have over cars is lack of space. Sure, a road trip on a bike is way more fun than being stuck in a car, but it also means trying to find a way to pack all of the things that you would normally throw in the trunk. Still, that hasn't stopped riders from still taking the trip. There are just a few tips and tricks to get everything you need loaded up onto your motorcycle.
The most important thing to keep in mind when loading up a motorcycle is balance. On two wheels, shifting the balance can cause a motorcycle to change drastically in handling, performance and safety. Weight should be added equally to both sides of the bike, as low as possible and as forward as possible.
Adding more weight to one side over the other will change how you bike rides and corners. One way to avoid this is by packing what you need into a motorcycle tank bag or back pack that would remain at the center of your bike. If you decide to cart around your stuff in a backpack, make sure it's not too heavy, as you don't want to throw off your own center of gravity or have it get in the way. Plus, keep in mind that if you get in a crash there's a good chance you will end up on your back either breaking whatever you have in your backpack or, even worse, having whatever is in your backpack break you. Also, get a motorcycle rider bag that doesn't have straps that will flap around in the wind.
Tank bags are great because they not only keep the weight centered on your bike, they also keep it forward. Adding too much weight toward the back of your bike will affect how your bike turns or brakes and can even cause your motorcycle to have a tendency to want to wheelie, which can be bad when that's not in your agenda of things to try. Avoid all of that by placing weight in front of, or over, the rear axle of your motorcycle. Unfortunately, tank bags don't hold a whole lot and can really limit the amount of stuff you can bring on your motorcycle. There's no way you'll be getting through a week long touring ride with just a motorcycle tank bag.
When you just need more space on your motorcycle, saddle bags are the way to go. There are tons of different options for different kinds of motorcycles and riding styles. Obviously, you'll always be buying them in pairs to keep the weight balanced, but also be sure to pack them evenly as well. Some bikes, however, that have shorter wheelbases such as sportbikes, should probably still stay away from motorcycle saddlebags as they can be too much weight towards the rear of the bike. In such cases, stick with motorcycle riders bags or tank bags.
Fit smaller items or things such as tool kits in places like your front forks or fenders. Many lighter kits can be wrapped up and tied in out of the way spots like this Moose Racing Dual Sport Motorcycle Fender Pack without adding too much weight. Just make sure that these wraps and bags are out of the way and don't have things like loose straps that can cause on obstruction to your riding.
No matter what kind of motorcycle you ride, where you're going or how long the trip will be, taking on a passenger is a huge responsibility. Not only are you in control of your own safety, but you're responsible for the safety of someone else. Take this in consideration as well as know that the addition of the weight of another person also changes how a motorcycle handles, especially if that person is inexperienced with how to ride a motorcycle. If you choose to take on that responsibility, be sure to sit down with your passenger before taking them for a ride to make sure that they understand that they too affect how the motorcycle handles. Remind them not to squirm too much or make any drastic sudden movements while also still leaning slightly with as your body does when entering and exiting turns. Also remind them to never put their feet down for any reason such as at stops or during turns.
And while having a passenger can be a thrill of its own, remember that on longer trips this will also double the amount of things you will need to bring. Make sure that there's enough room in motorcycle luggage for everything you need. If not, some people choose to bring along motorcycle trailers. These trailers can carry far more stuff for extremely long trips; however, most motorcycle manufacturers do not recommend using them as they can void your motorcycle's warranty.
No matter what motorcycle luggage you end up using to bring with you the necessities of your ride, be sure that it's under the weight restrictions of both your motorcycle and your tires. To check how much weight your motorcycle can carry (including your luggage, a passenger and yourself) check your motorcycle manual. Your tires, on the other hand, will say on the side wall how much weight they can handle. If the two weight limits are different, be sure to stick with the smaller of the amounts. Failing to pack under these limits can not only cause your motorcycle to handle differently, but also cause mechanical failure or even accidents.
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