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Adapted from an article by MSF.
Whether it is a carton of milk from the convenience store, or camping gear for a three-week trip, you will end up carrying more than people on your motorcycle.
All loads should be tied to the machine. Do not balance a bag of groceries between your legs for a short ride home. Strap it to the back seat with bungee cords or an elasticized cargo net.
A great carrying device is the tank bag. It puts the weight where it should be -- near the bike's center of gravity. Make sure it is properly secured and remember never to carry anything on the gas tank or inside the fairing that might interfere with the steering of the bike. Just imagine what happens if the bars won't turn enough -- big trouble.
There are appropriate places to carry loads on a motorcycle, but they do not include your front forks or fenders. If your machine comes with saddlebags or a travel truck, you're set. If you have none of this, you can always buy a luggage rack or throw-over bags; they are very useful items.
When you load saddlebags, keep equal weight on both sides. This is even more important when you are using soft throw-over bags, as an imbalance can cause one side to drop down and rest on the muffler. A blazing saddlebag is no joke.
Keep the weight relatively light in your travel trunk or on you luggage rack. Being aft of the rear axle, this is the worst place on the motorcycle to carry too much weight. It can turn a well-handling motorcycle into a poor-handling terror. Sleeping bags go great back there; a 60-pound sack of dog food does not.
Check the security of the load frequently, and make sure nothing is dangling. It is one thing to lose part of your luggage, quite another to get it tangled up in a wheel.
Above all, DO NOT EXCEED THE GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of your motorcycle. You might find that figure on the plate attached to the steering head; sometimes it's found on the frame; but the best place to look is in the owner's manual. It is written in pounds and it includes the total combined weight of the motorcycle, all gasoline, oil, coolant, the rider(s), and the luggage.
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