Archive for March 13th, 2009

baggageSigns of spring are popping up here in the northwest and as folks start to make plans for the next big motorcycle adventure the mental exercise of figuring out what to load on your bike vs. what you can live without always becomes a challenge.

I’ve certainly seen my share of overloaded motorcycles on the road (photo: right).  Stacked “high-n-wide” with a two-man dome tent, a sleeping bag, an air mattress, cooking gear/utensils and not to mention the face cream, prescriptions, soap, towel, clothes, rain gear, running shoes and the assortment of battery inflation devices (for the air mattress)!  I’ve even witnessed a couple logs of firewood bungeed to the side of bikes, and they probably didn’t have room for the bike cover or laptop?!

Yeah, slapping a 100 pounds on a backrest bag that hangs out 2 feet behind the back axle, and the center of gravity is a foot higher than your helmet is a little….ahem… risky to say the least and makes the entire bike “twitchy.”  I’m not sure about yours, but the last time I looked at my luggage rack it had a tiny sticker on it stating “25 pounds max load.” 

So a couple lessons learned to pass along that you can do what you will with:

  1. Packing takes some thought and effort. If you’re riding 2-up it doubles the effort. It’s easy to throw things together at the last minute, but the end result is too much stuff.
  2. Essentials are just that – essential! Unless I’m parachuting into the Mojave desert I always pack foul weather gear. Personal items like toothbrush/paste are stored in zip-lock bags to avoid spillage. I’ve found rolling t-shirts, undies and socks together and rubber banding them makes a concise package that I cram anywhere. I pack a pair of shorts, swim suit, flip-flops assuming the weather allows for it. Packing wet underwear from the previous night swim or hot-tub party is no fun.
  3. Toolkit – (small one) is stored in the bottom and as far forward as possible in the bag. Intent is to keep the weight positioned down low, below seat height if possible and contained within the wheelbase for stability.
  4. On week long road trips or more I’ll take/wear “ratty” old t-shirts and/or underwear and then just toss them in the garbage after use. A great way to lighten the load as the trip stretches out and gives me space for new t-shirts.
  5. Pay close attention to payload warnings on luggage racks, backrests and the like. I know I’m repeating a bit here, but I’ve seen a lot of folks overload a rack, sissy bar, or seat rail and it creates instability as the front tire is barely skimming the asphalt. For years I rode a FatBoy without saddlebags and would take items from the (facing forward) T-Bag and stuff/move it forward to tank bags, windshield pouches, back packs, and so on.
  6.  Take the extra time to adjust shocks and increase pressure in your tires per the owner’s manual — especially important if the route plan is high-speed freeway, instead of meandering down a 2-lane road.
  7. I don’t fret over what I’ve packed or not. If I forget something, I’ll stop and buy it down the road or I might find that I can manage just fine without it. I’m not a boy scout trying to be prepared for every possibility. I pack light and don’t tote heavy, bulky stuff.

On this blog you’ll find a packing list which can be printed and used to prep as well as check off items.   If you have some terrific road packing ideas let me know.  I’ll add them to the list for others to consider.

Photo courtesy Flickr

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