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Wisconsin Motorcyclists: Don’t Overload Your Bike!

The straw that broke the camel's back

One of the joys of Wisconsin motorcycle riders is to take off on overnight or longer adventures with a group of buddies. Many riders don't think twice about stacking camping gear, food, clothes and tools on their bike in much the same way motorists fill their cars to the top.

What difference does extra weight make on a motorcycle?

It makes a great difference. Motorcycles don't handle the same way as cars. The extra weight:

  • Is distributed over just two wheels, instead of four for a car;
  • Is usually stacked up higher, making the motorcycle top-heavy;
  • Puts a greater strain on shock-absorbers, tires and brakes, which makes the motorcycle far more difficult to handle;

Motorcycles are manufactured to specific weight limits. These limits are not always set at the right level, and could be dangerously overstated. Some weight limit indications are confusing or difficult to uncover. Riding an overloaded motorcycle could lead you to a serious bike crash that would surely ruin your trip, and possibly your life. What should you do?

Check your owner's manual. If (like those for the Honda Goldwing) it lists the "maximum weight limit," you have the total weight you can put on the motorcycle including passenger and gear.

Do not take just your body weight into account; go back on the scale with your clothes, boots, gloves, helmet, etc. After deducting your and your passenger's "gross weight," you have an indication of how much extra luggage you can carry with you.

The Harley-Davidson's manual sometimes lists the bike's Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). This is the same maximum weight as described above for the Honda. If the GVWR is not mentioned, you need to:

  • Find the motorcycle's "as shipped weight" or "dry weight." This is the bike's weight without gas and other liquids. You will have to add an estimate of the weight of a full tank of gasoline plus engine and brake fluids. If a "wet weight" is mentioned, it is the bike's weight including the liquids.
  • Subtract the motorcycle "wet weight" from the GVWR. The result is the maximum weight you can put on the bike, including passengers.
  • From this last figure, you will have to subtract the "gross weight" of the passengers to arrive at the weight of cargo and accessories you can take with you.

If you have been hurt in a Wisconsin, Iowa, or Illinois car, truck or motorcycle accident, contact today Hupy & Abraham at 800-800-5676 (toll-free) or 414-223-4800 (local) for a free evaluation of your case, or send us an e-mail with your questions. Hupy & Abraham have offices in Milwaukee, Madison, Appleton in Wisconsin, and Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Quad Cities in Iowa, and Gurnee and Bloomington in Illinois.