How much does motorcycle tourism “Weigh”?
On the web, there are often hilarious photos showing motorcycles that are so overloaded with luggage that the passenger finds it difficult to sit comfortably and the rider struggles to safely manoeuvre the vehicle.
But let’s investigate this further…..by imagining that the individuals in the saddle are a little larger than average and that the pair is about to encounter the Silk Road with a medium-sized motorcycle, and not a very new one…
Do you think we pushed it too far? This is certainly an extreme case, but it allows us to introduce a topic that seldom receives the importance it deserves.
There is frequent talk about how to correctly load luggage onto a motorcycle, whilst avoiding the need to adjust the fairing or move the centre of gravity too far, but little is said about the maximum load that a two-wheeled vehicle can withstand.
There are many contributory factors to consider; from the frame to the suspension, from the tyres to the saddle and not forgetting luggage holders eg pannier rails … and there are probably some factors that we have forgotten to include.
The structure of a motorcycle is robust and there is no risk of damage, even when both the rider and passenger approach a total weight of 100kgs. The problem is the performance and response of the motorcycle when braking, taking turns, accelerating and even parking.
When talking about weight, if exceeding certain limits, the behaviour of a two-wheeled vehicle can change radically resulting in understeer or loss of control of the rear, both of which are extremely dangerous.
Let’s consider a simple equation. If the weight of a motorcycle, on average 180kg, is added to that of driver and passenger (another 140kg) and a “full” bag, say 80kg (leaving the gym dumbbells at home of course!) … the total weight can equate to around 400kg. If the pair enjoy good living, the 400Kg weight can easily be exceeded! And the weight of technical clothing such as helmets, multi-layer jackets, trousers, touring boots and gloves for two people have not even been included in the equation!
When looking at design data, no motorcycle frame yields, not even under a double load but if excessive weight is carried for long periods and on continuous journeys on bumpy / off-road conditions, this may give rise to permanent distortion and this would also apply to the wheel rims, shock absorbers, tyres, various supports, luggage holders etc. To avoid the possibility of being stranded with mechanical damage, it is essential to know the manufacturer imposed weight limits prior to travelling.
One more vital point to consider: in the event of an accident, an insurance company will not cover any costs if it is discovered that a vehicle has been overloaded.
The load permitted on a motorcycle
Here is a one thing every rider needs to know…….
Italian users can find the information on the circular booklet after the F2 sign (it is likely that this information is also included on documents provided with vehicles sold in other countries) and concerns not the weight of the motorcycle but that of the two passengers and luggage (the average being close to 200kg). There are different instructions regarding oil, water, fuel: some say that they should not be considered … it is wise to allow an extra 30Kg, but check with your dealer.
For those who travel in pairs with a great deal of luggage, it is important to take the load factor into consideration when choosing tyres. It is important to ensure that the tyres selected can safely withstand a high maximum load.
The load limit is represented by the number following that of the wheel diameter.
An example: 180/55 / 17R 66V. 66 is the data in question. Using a table that can be easily downloaded from the internet (which can be found in articles 15 to 90) it is possible to change the load index load capacity in kilograms. Returning to our example, 66 corresponds to 300kg. Which is not very much when we consider the combined weight of the motorcycle + rider + passenger + luggage. If exceeding this weight limit, it is important to choose tyres with a higher load index. Remember to adjust the wheel pressure to full load values and this is information can usually be found in the manufacturer motorcycle maintenance booklet.
How much weight can a luggage carrier hold?
The answer to this question depends on the model and the style. If the motorcycle model is supplied with a rack, it should be able to safely withstand 6kg to 10kg but this is often dictated by the structure of the saddle frame which is more frequently being produced from die-cast aluminium. If the motorcycle is not supplied with a rack, the assembly and use of an aftermarket product must take into account the “maximum permissible weight” which is information that can sometimes be found on a spacer located beneath the underlay.
Obviously, there are margins of tolerance, but it is not advisable to exceed more than 30-35% of the limit indicated as in the event of a break, the first cause of blame is overloading..
Suspensions and travel fund
If the seat cushion drops by more than 7cm, even whilst pre-loading, one of three things can be done: either leave the passenger at home, leave part of the luggage at home or replace the rear suspension.
The fork is more sensitive to weight (usually shifted backwards) and here it is sufficient to sink only 3-4 cm to greatly increase the risk of tapping the front wheel.
Before leaving, it is advisable to carry out a general check test. Put on all the technical clothing, load all the luggage, fill the tank with fuel, fetch your travel companion and then stop by a trusted motorcycle workshop. The eye of an expert is worth much more than lost time. Do not be tempted to challenge fate!
On the web there are those who recommend paying attention to the centre stand and advise checking it at least every 5,000 kilometers.
The heavier the motorcycle, the longer the braking time and braking distance and a safe distance should be allowed as braking will take much longer for a heavy, fully loaded motorcycle. Before leaving on a journey, it is important to check the brake system. Replace old oil and change the pads, even if they are not completely worn.
When planning a journey, avoid taking your entire home including the kitchen sink! It really is not that difficult to reduce weight by a few dozen kilograms but more importantly, it is essential to prepare physically for a demanding motorcycle trip.
Amongst the visitors to our portal, there are many experienced travelers who would be able to enrich and contribute to this article! We await their comments relating to their own personal experiences, hints, tips and advice.