Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is one of the most important specifications about your motorcycle that you should be aware of before you ride. It’s especially critical when you start packing for any exciting long-distance tours.
By understanding your bike’s GVWR, you know how much you can carry without risking your safety or damaging your bike.
Motorcycle manufacturers carefully design their motorcycles to meet many technical standards for performance and safety. The popular selling points of performance—like acceleration and braking—are directly related to the motorcycle’s weight when tested. Unfortunately, of all the specs we look at, GVWR is likely to go unnoticed. Yet this motorcycle weight number affects every ride you go on.
So how much does a motorcycle weigh? It depends on the bike. The GVWR is the maximum safe weight limit of a motorcycle's design. This measurement includes the weight of the motorcycle, fluids, you as the rider, any passengers, and gear packed on the motorcycle.
To know how much you can load onto your motorcycle safely, it's important to understand the weight numbers manufacturer specs provide:
Dry weight: This is often used to represent the weight of the motorcycle as manufactured and shipped from the factory. It doesn’t include the weight of a tank of fuel. Depending on the manufacturer, it can also exclude the weight of engine and transmission oil, coolant, battery, and, in some cases, the hydraulic fluid for brakes and clutch.
Wet weight/Curb weight: This weight measurement is used to describe a motorcycle in ready-to-ride condition, with all its necessary fluids. It includes the weight of fuel, oil, coolant, hydraulic fluids, and battery. Know that the weight of fuel in the tank can vary among sources – it can easily vary from half to a full tank. Curb weight, a term usually used for automobiles, is the same as the wet weight.
Carrying capacity: This is the magic number that represents how much weight the motorcycle can carry. You reach it by subtracting the wet or curb weight from the GVWR. It’s important to do the research to determine that the wet or curb weight accurately represents your motorcycle in ready-to-ride condition, which includes the weight of any accessories you may have added.
To understand the true weight of a rider or passenger, you'll need to step on the scale wearing your full riding gear, including boots and helmet. Body weight can be a sensitive issue, but this aspect is key to packing for that road trip safely.
Once you’ve determined how much gear you can carry beyond the weight of rider and passenger, it’s time to balance the load. An unbalanced load can move the center of mass or gravity, which can adversely affect the handling of a motorcycle.
There are greater consequences of overloading your bike than just needing to take it easy on steering and breaking and otherwise adjusting the way you ride. Since every component on a motorcycle is designed to perform correctly up to the stated GVWR, it's realistic to expect adverse results to critical systems. Let's take a deeper look:
Engine: One of a motorcycle’s exciting features is the ability to rapidly accelerate; it can also be a safety benefit in certain traffic situations. When you overload your motorcycle, you reduce its ability to respond quickly. When you subject your engine to the strain of excess weight, you also reduce its longevity.
Rear suspension: The rear spring and shocks are carefully calibrated to carry your bike's GVWR and absorb the jolts of surface irregularities. If you overload the suspension, you reduce ground clearance and put stress on your bike—and you.
Front forks: In addition to the functions performed by the rear suspension, the front forks handle the weight transfer during braking. You put tremendous strain on the front forks when you brake hard on an overloaded bike.
Tires: Motorcycles only have two tires with very small contact patches that provide the traction connecting us to the road. Tires have a finite weight-bearing limit at proper inflation. If you overload your bike, you're overloading your tires. This can lead to excessive wear, overheating, and possible blowouts.
Brakes: The more you overload your bike, the more strain you put on your brakes, and the longer it will take to stop.
Frame: You can cause stress fractures in your bike's frame from overloading.
Battery: The internal structure of motorcycle batteries are actually delicate. Too many hard jolts from the suspension bottoming out can cause them to fail.
By understanding and respecting weight limits, you can get the most performance, safety, and longevity from your motorcycle.
Till next time, ride safe!
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*Data accuracy is subject to this article's publication date.