Are you one of those chumps who thinks a motorcycle’s carrying ability is limited to what fits into a backpack or the stock panniers? Think again, there is actually a huge range of ways to carry cargo by bike.
But not how you might think. Free from stuff like a roof, windows or doors, you can carry some surprisingly tall, long or wide objects on a motorcycle. What’s more important is the object’s shape. A 8-foot long pole may not fit in even a large car, but you could strap it to the side of a bike.
When considering an object for motorcycle carry, first consider the space you require as the rider and the area through which you need to freely move. Consider that sacred; anything that impinges on your ability to comfortably control a motorcycle, including mounting and dismounting it, shouldn’t be carried.
Next, consider a motorcycle’s relationship with its environment. Again, we have an unexpected advantage in that roads are built to accommodate cars, but motorcycles occupy a much smaller “footprint” than the average automobile. We’re therefore free to expand outside the perimeter of our vehicle without encountering fit problems with most roadways. A great example of this is most topboxes. Go look at one and you’ll notice that it hovers over the rear of the bike, out beyond the backseat passenger and even the wheel, thereby adding room for cargo without reducing space for people. The trouble here is obviously that you can alter a bike’s dynamics by moving weight far from its center of gravity or create a built in obstacle that could create an unwelcome interface with another road user. Draw an imaginary box around what you’d consider defines the “space” a motorcycle owns in traffic and try not to go outside of that.
Also worth bearing in mind is aerodynamics. If you’re only going around the corner, a big cardboard box on your backseat isn’t going to cause many problems, but applying highway-speed windblast to that object could. We’re not so much talking about your ability to strap something down tightly here, more the impact large objects will have on handling when hit by windblast or side winds. If you’re new to the action packed sport of transporting things by bike, we’d suggest starting small, gaining experience and working your way up slowly before attempting to carry a fridge through a thunderstorm during rush hour.
Weight and Where To Put It
So we’ve covered the fact that carrying a heavy object a long way outside your motorcycle’s center of gravity is probably going to be a bad idea. But, motorcycles actually are able to carry a surprising amount of weight. Heck, our long term Honda Grom is rated at 340 lbs max load capacity. I weigh 180 lbs, so that leaves 160 for random pieces furniture/livestock/family members.
But where is all that weight supposed to go? Well think about the things it’s specifically designed to carry: passengers, luggage and fuel. If it comes with a passenger seat, even your ridiculously light sportbike is built to haul the weight of a full-size human on its tail.
That tail is obviously the place to start when carrying cargo but motorcycles are also designed to carry gallons of heavy fuel and likely a rider even heavier than yourself. When carrying something very heavy, positioning it as close to your motorcycle’s center of gravity (an imaginary point in the center of the bike, just ahead of your genitals and below the fuel tank) will minimize its impact on handling.