We all know how good it feels to put your knees in the breeze and hit the open road with you and your gear.
So what if you ride a medium cruiser, throw a sissy bar on it, bungee your waterproof duffel bag, and you’re good to go!
And we all know how good it feels to share the joy of that experience with a special cupcake, but they’ll undoubtedly have the gear they want to strap to the bike too; now you’ll need your tools, tent, plus clothes, sleeping gear and rain gear for two.
What happens if you go over your motorcycle’s weight limit?
Don’t do it! Here’s why.
Tires Might Blow Out
Overloading your motorcycle pasts its weight limit puts extra strain on several components of the bike, including the tires.
Not only do the tires on an overloaded bike wear faster, but they also overheat while riding under the weight overload.
Your motorcycle is designed to operate most efficiently when used under spec parameters, one of which is your tire type. Another is how much weight you’re carrying.
The tire size and PSI levels outlined in your owner’s manual are chosen based on the tuning of your motorcycle, assuming the bike is ridden and loaded with respect to its weight limit.
Overloading the motorcycle strains your tires enough to cause overheating, weakening the rubber and exponentially increasing the potential for tire blowouts.
Furthermore, straining your tires changes the physics, affecting engine function mechanics.
Therefore, straining your tires also strains your bike’s engine. Riding long distances with overloaded motor risks severe engine damage, which can leave you stranded and add some serious expenses to your trip.
You’re Breaking the Law
Not only does riding your motorcycle over the weight limit put extra strain on your bike, but it’s also actually against the law in many places.
If you were involved in an accident and your motorcycle was over its weight limit, there’s a chance you could be cited for the violation.
Depending on how much damage and injury was caused in the collision, the discipline could be worse than a citation, especially if the police find the overload was the cause of the accident.
Suppose your motorcycle weight is overloaded in part due to a passenger and that passenger is injured. In that case, you may be held legally responsible for the physical harm via reckless endangerment, etc.
And it doesn’t stop there…
You’ll Void Your Insurance
If your motorcycle is involved in an accident and the insurance investigation finds out you were overloading your weight limit at the time of the collision, your insurance carrier will likely deem the overload as a contributing factor.
Should your insurance company find out you were over your motorcycle’s weight limit at the time of an incident, they may refuse to cover the damages.
It doesn’t have to be a serious collision, either. Let’s say your clutch cable snaps, your bike tips over and your saddle bag gets scuffed, and a passenger peg gets smashed up.
If the insurance adjuster decides the cable broke because of strain caused by overload, not only can they refuse to pay for the replacement bag, they may void your policy altogether.
Loss of Motorcycle Handling
The handling of a motorcycle that exceeds its weight limit will be noticeably worse than it is when ridden under load.
And it’s not just the steering handling we’re talking about here—maneuverability, lean control, throttle response, clutch operation, and front and rear braking all lag on an overloaded bike.
Motorcycles are designed to be rear-loaded, but only up to a certain point.
Once the rear is overloaded with a passenger and extra gear, it’s overloaded, and the load is imbalanced.
An imbalanced overload is when the rear of the motorcycle is weighed way down with excessive gear while the front is under the usual load. This changes the physical characteristics of operating, which adversely affects bar handling, lean control, and front-wheel traction.
Alters Stopping Power and Distance
Suppose the weight limit of your motorcycle is overloaded, and you’re riding downhill. In that case, the weight of the rear load becomes a force, increasing your downhill momentum at the cost of the speed and handling mentioned in the section above.
This is an unsafe situation for any motorcycle rider to be in, as it immediately alters the riding conditions, performance, and operation of the motorcycle, putting your safety at risk.
It also jeopardizes the safety of the general public and your riding environment.
The engineers responsible for the unique design of your motorcycle take into consideration the rider’s weight, passengers’ weight, and the weight limit of the luggage capacity when determining the overall weight limit of your bike.
Additionally, they also take into consideration the laws of physics associated with two-wheel riding, both on level roads and up and downhill.
Furthermore, physics states that objects set in motion will stay in action, as will objects at rest until the energy of circumstance influences them to change.
So, the engineers that designed your motorcycle engineered the powertrains, brakes, wheelset, and suspension based on those considerations. When you exceed the weight limit and alter the motorcycle’s physics, you’re changing the carefully deduced formula your bike is tuned for.
This increases the motion of your motorcycle enough to change the stopping power of your brake system.
Thanks to inertia, overloading your motorcycle’s weight limit also increases the distance required to come to a complete stop, which can be dangerous for an unsuspecting rider.
Maintenance Issues: More Time in the Shop
There’s nothing worse than having a bike in the shop during prime riding weather, especially if you’re strapped up on a trip.
It’s even more frustrating when deep down, you know the reason your bike ended up in the shop was preventable.
Sometimes riders strap their motorcycles up past their weight limit for the sake of efficiency; straining your motorcycle engine and causing parts to fail means your load never got where it was going in the first place.
Not to mention how inefficient it is to have your motorcycle in the shop for a week for something avoidable. Whether your bike is your only vehicle or you’re taking the truck to work, you’re out more than just the parts and labor.
If you biked that heavy load in two trips, it might have used a little more gas, but you’d save the cost of a wheelset replacement or suspension rebuild—a fair trade, to be sure!
- Overloading your motorcycle decreases your time with it on the road and increases your cost of maintenance.
- The time your motorcycle spends in the shop costs you time and areas in other areas of your life.
- Overloading your motorcycle increases the rate of wear and tear on your motorcycle’s drive trains, suspension, fork arms, tires, wheelset, and engine.
Creates Risk and Liability
I know plenty of the moto-maniacs out there don’t respond well to rules, but the reality is that, although you are putting other people at risk, at the end of the day, it’s not just your motorcycle’s performance and conditions you’re risking, it’s your own safety too.
There might be some states that are more lenient when it comes to motorcycle weight limits than others. I’m honestly not sure how much enforcement on that varies from state to state.
What I do know is that insurance companies look for any reason not to pay for liability damages, and overloading your motorcycle past its weight limit is grounds for claims to dismiss your case, as mentioned in the section above.
Motorcycle riding already comes with so many variables other vehicles don’t have—overloading their weight capacity only adds to risks.
Not to mention, motorcycles are more fun to ride when they’re operating at peak performance, and bogging them down puts a damper on that experience.
Avoid premature vehicle wear, ticket, a collision, and injury to yourself and others, even civil and criminal charges.