Your motorcycle is not a semi truck. We all throw on a few too many bags or tend to overpack for a long trip occasionally, but maxing out your bike’s load limit could have serious consequences. Treat your bike’s shocks and frame right and you’ll enjoy long-lasting performance. Find out how to use a motorcycle weight limit calculator to stay safe and extend the life of your bike’s most essential parts.

Determine Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

No two motorcycles are designed for the same weight limit. In a perfect world, your cruiser would be able to carry anything you could physically strap onto it. However, this strategy is the quickest way to an accident. Suspension failure, fractured framing and blown tires are all waiting for you if you consistently overload your bike.

The first step to packing for any trip should be to find out your bike’s weight capacity. Weight capacity for motorcycles varies dramatically, but should be available from your local dealer. If not, find your VIN number and run it to get the manufacturer’s recommendations on a weight limit.

The weight limit is also known as the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, or GVWR. Dust off your owner’s manual or take a peek at your manufacturer’s website and look for this number. This is cap you’ll be looking to stay at or under as you start weighing your gear.

From there, all you need is a scale and some basic math to find out if you’re ready to rock or you need to shed a few pounds of gear before hitting the road. While there are some calculators out there, you shouldn’t have a problem adding all the weight totals and subtracting them from your bike’s weight capacity.

Include Dry Weight of Your Bike

Once you know the weight capacity of your ride, determining how to calculate motorcycle weight limits is all about subtraction. The first number you’ll be subtracting from your specific weight limit is the dry weight of your bike.

Dry weight, also called “as-shipped weight,” refers to weight of your stock bike without any liquids. You’d be surprised how heavy a full tank of gas is, weighing in at about six pounds per gallon. Look for your bike’s dry weight in your owner’s manual.

Average Your Fuel Weight

Subtract about 50 more pounds off your GVWR for fuel, oil and other liquids. Unless you plan on skimming off the bottom of your tank all day, you’ll need to know how much your bike weighs with a full tank. Weights can vary depending on your gas tank size, but 50 pounds is a common average and is close enough for your calculations.

If you’re lucky, you may find a “wet weight” in your owner’s manual. A wet weight means that some engineer took the guesswork out of it and weighed your bike with a full tank of gas and full of the rest of your bike’s fluids. You won’t need to include the 50-pound estimate and can instead replace your dry weight with this new number.

Add Your Weight

Now it’s time to step up on the scales yourself. Whether you routinely weigh yourself or haven’t thought about your weight since your last doctor’s appointment, you’ll need to know how much you weigh.

Don’t forget all your riding clothes. You’d be surprised how much your boots, jacket, thermal layers and helmet add up. Deck yourself out in all the clothing you might wear on your bike and hop on the scale. This weight will also need to be subtracted from your GVWR.

One weight that most riders forget to add is a passenger. Your bike may be fine flying solo, but once your plus-one hops on your bike may be overloaded. If you have a consistent passenger, add their weight. Otherwise make sure you have plenty of spare weight at the end for any would-be passengers to climb aboard.

Include Your Gear

We love cargo management. There’s nothing like the thrill of an organized bike that shows off how much can you carry on a motorcycle. However, there is such thing as too much of a good thing.

Before you shop for the best motorcycle cargo management saddles, straps and accessories, find out how much extra weight is left. After you’ve subtracted your bike’s wet weight and your weight from the GVWR, now you have the amount of weight that’s left for gear.

For some bikes, you may be surprised to find you only have a few pounds. 20 pounds of gear goes quickly, so you’ll need to be smart with your setup. Other bikes will have an easy 150 or 200 pounds leftover, leaving you far more room to pile on the cargo.

Dangers of an Overloaded Motorcycle

Besides wearing a helmet, few things can keep you safe like learning how to pack lightly on a motorcycle. This underappreciated skill can save your bike from catastrophic failure. It may not happen the first time you overload your ride, but continued use under extreme stress can cause a whole host of systems to fail. Few feelings are worse than losing your suspension or blowing a tire at 70 miles per hour.

Tire Weight Limit

All this talk about GVWR comes with one caveat: your tires have weight limits, too. Just because your bike can handle another 100 pounds doesn’t mean both your tires are on board. Check out the weight limit, or “load index,” of your tires before they become dangerously overloaded. The load index may include a number from 33 to 86. Before you freak out, this isn’t the actual weight limit. You’ll need to consult a load index chart to decipher this rating.

Stay Under the Limit

Stay safe and ride smart by keeping under the limit. Whether you’re hitting the open road for weeks at a time or taking a cruise around the block, learn how to pack lightly. Choose the best cargo accessories for motorcycles to keep all the gear you need safe without burdening your bike with bulky saddle bags or cumbersome luggage.