Too Overweight To Ride Motorcycles? (Read This First)

Anyone who has ever ridden a motorcycle knows it is not something you can just quit after gaining a few pounds.

There are always inherent risks with motorcycle riding, same as with operating any vehicle.

Many of the constant present dangers of motorcycle riding are reduced if you pay attention while riding defensively, follow the road rules, and wear protective gear, but how does one know if they are too overweight to ride motorcycles?

Let’s find out.

Here’s the short answer to whether you are too overweight to ride motorcycles:

It’s best to do some research, but there’s a bike that’ll fit. It depends on the motorcycle, as every bike has an individual Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). Many standard motorcycles have a listed weight limit of 450 pounds, while bigger bikes have GVWRS closer to 1300 lbs. 

How Much Weight Can Motorcycles Carry?

You can figure out how much weight a motorcycle can carry with an elaborate formula that gives you the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). It varies from bike to bike, style to style; 450 lbs. is the average for a standard mid-sized motorcycle.

You can deduce a motorcycle carrying capacity by taking the moto-weight away from the overall Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. The resulting number is how much weight you and your cargo are allotted on that make and model.

And while you could do the math yourself to figure out your bike’s total capacity, you can usually find the number written in plain sight in the service manual, sometimes even in the owner’s manual.

You can also check your bike’s VIN-Plate, which is generally mounted on the steering head or somewhere on the bike’s frame. The VIN plate lists your bike’s critical info, including your weight limit with cargo. 

  • It’s also essential to determine how much weight your motorcycle can carry wet vs. dry.
  • The dry weight is how much the bike weighs when it has no fluids or fuel, whereas the wet weight is your bike with a full tank of gas, a whole pan of oil, and all the coolant and brake fluids up to spec.
  • Typically, the wet weight is what’s listed, but be sure you’re not reading the dry weight to figure out your motorcycle’s cargo weight limit.
  • To get the accurate GVWR, you need to start the formula with your bike’s wet weight, not the dry weight.
  • Some manufacturers only provide the dry weight. If that’s the case, standard practice here is to get a wet weight estimate by adding about 50 pounds to the dry weight, accounting for fuel, fluids, and oil.

When trying to deduce how much weight your bike can carry, it’s critical to consider how much luggage you plan to carry. It makes a significant difference whether it’s just you and a backpack on the way to work or you and two saddlebags full of camping gear.

Another crucial variable is your passenger weight. If you plan on riding with a plus one on the back, that extra weight needs to be factored in when calculating your motorcycle’s weight-carrying capacity.

Related: How Much Weight Can Harley Davidsons Hold? (6 Examples)

What Happens If You Are Too Heavy for a Motorcycle?

Overloading a motorcycle strains the engine and tires and impacts the handling. The GVWR provided are generally conservative, erring on the side of caution to provide a weight limit well inside the realm of safe motorcycle operation.

It’s no mystery why the moto-manufacturers list a weight limit toned down a few notches below the actual overload weight limit—they want to make sure you’re playing it safe.

Even though there are still a few bike-builders who fail to provide the wet weights, luggage, or passenger limits, overloading does risk your safety and puts additional wear and tear on some pretty critical bike parts, including:

  • Brakes
  • Drive Train
  • Suspension System
  • Tires

As we said, the weight limits are usually conservative, meaning if you’re one toolbag and a 6-pack over the weight limit, you’ll likely notice the handling is dragging before you do any severe engine damage.

At worst, you might shave a few miles off the life of your tires in the process.

That said, if you’re pushing it solo and letting a passenger jump on the back, you’re putting severe strain on your tires at the very least; you’ll likely be mortified at the loss you’re taking in the handling department as well.

If you’re combining the overloaded bike weight with rough roads, off-road riding, or pothole jumping, you could be risking damage to your wheelset.

Now, if you’re overloading the weight limit and riding in sweltering weather, constantly braking in stop-and-go traffic, you’re putting stress on the handling and risking a tire blowout.

So, is it that bad to overload a motorcycle’s weight limit?

Overloading your motorcycle’s weight limit causes a drastic dip in handling performance and risks severe tire failure. Tire blowouts are dangerous and mainly the reason motorcycle manufacturers furnish a weight limit. 

If it’s a short ride, your tires might not build up the friction and heat that combines with the weight limit overload to cause those serious tire failures, but we aren’t going to suggest risking it either way.

And if you’re planning on going a complete person over the weight limit for a long technical ride, your tires likely won’t make it.

  • As we mentioned earlier, tires aren’t the only thing that gets worn down; you’re straining some engine components if you’re riding it with more weight than the engineers considered.
  • Also, this is likely the first problem you’ll notice when riding a motorcycle over its weight limit. Your handling will be so poorly impacted you won’t even enjoy riding.
  • The handling suffers on an overloaded bike thanks to the shift in the center of mass that occurs at the hands of adding weight across the machine.

After your handling hit makes things challenging and your tires squish down and start changing shapes, suspension failure is the next thing you’ll experience on a motorcycle that’s well over its weight limit.

The suspension on an overloaded motorcycle compresses to having inadequate free play for a dampening effect. The result is a negative impact on acceleration and a dip in riding comfort, aerodynamics, and ergonomics.

Suppose you’re unsure whether you should pick up that passenger or strap on that extra luggage rack because you’re already pushing your motorcycle’s weight limit. In that case, we suggest you play it safe and stay within the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Related: How Much Weight Can Motorcycle Pegs Hold? (Solved)

What Motorcycle Models Can Handle the Most Weight?

Motorcycle models that can support higher weight limits are Harley Davidson’s FLH bagger series, Honda’s Goldwing Series, Yamaha’s Royal Star Venture Deluxe Touring, and multiple modern Indian motorcycles, including the Scout and Chief Cruisers, the Chieftain line, and the Road Master series.

Now we suggest you do some research ahead of time here and check out the capacity of the type of bike you have in mind.

There are multiple variables to consider when trying to pick the bike that can handle both the weight you aim to load it up with while still being able to perform the core functions you expect from it.

The first consideration on your list should be the weight limit set by the manufacturer.

We suggest consulting the owner’s manual of the motorcycle you’re considering riding to see point blank what the weight limit is the first step towards uncovering what motorcycle can hold the most weight, as there are myriad more options on the market every year.

The next thing you should consider is engine displacement.

Depending on how much weight you plan on putting on the motorcycle, you might consider a larger engine capacity.

While a 125cc mini bike might be fun around town, if you’re a heavier rider or a rider who travels with heavy luggage, you might consider the strain that’ll put on your mileage, handling, and overall performance even if you’re within the suggested weight limit.

Even f you’re just looking for something standard to commute on, a 600cc engine size is likely a more comfortable place to start.

A more powerful engine means more power, true; it also means the engine isn’t overworking, is under less stress, and will perform reliably for more miles.

Another critical factor in deciding what motorcycles can handle the most weight is what you plan on using the motorcycle for. 

Different styles of bikes are used for different purposes; getting the bike that can handle the weight you need also means getting a bike set up for the function.

I knew a 300-pound guy who raced Kawasaki Ninjas on tracks all day long. He did the math and found himself the lightest weight track bike that could still handle 150 pounds more than he weighed; he’d often ride with a passenger.

A motorcycle’s wheelbase and chassis are engineered to harmonize together with the suspension and engine tuning precisely under a certain amount of weight distribution. 

So, a touring bike is engineered to work efficiently even when it has extra weight, not just in the seats but in the side bags and the rear.

This is to say that the touring bikes are designed to be loaded in weight in specific places without losing reliable performance.

A sportbike rated for 450 pounds is probably designed to function with that much weight in the seats, but if you try to put weight on the side of the aluminum frame with luggage, you’ll find that even half that much weight isn’t going to fly unless it’s spread out along the center of mass, in the seats.

Now there are sportbikes made for bearing heavy loads while touring, fully dressed with hard bags.

If you know how much weight you intend to put on the bike, whether it’s rider weight or luggage weight, and how far and fast you plan to ride, you have a better shot at finding the motorcycle that can handle the most weight for your specific desired purposes.

Related: Motorcycle Brake Caliper Won’t Release: 5 Reasons (Solved)

How Can I Know How Much Weight a Specific Motorcycle Can Handle?

You can know how much weight a specific motorcycle can handle by using the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, or GVWR; the maximum sum weight of the accessories, cargo, passenger, and rider a motorcycle can handle. 

If you are on a bagger, for instance, the GVWR needs to be used to figure out if your bike can support you, your potential partner, two sets of luggage, and a tent in addition to those heavy new pipe upgrades you slapped on last month.

Moto-accessory weight can add up quickly on a bike if you’re not careful.

If you and your luggage were already close to the weight limit, making sure the bike’s accessory upgrades are close to the weight of the stock parts they replaced is essential to know how much weight a particular motorcycle can handle.

Can You Install Pegs That Can Hold More Weight?

Motorcycle pegs are generally engineered to support the list weight limit of the bike in question.

So, while replacing the foot pegs might increase foot coverage, comfort, and support for the rider, it won’t increase the general weight limit of the motorcycle.

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