Packin’ the Mule

Apr 15, 2015 View Comments by

Packin’ the MuleOne of the biggest challenges facing motorcycle campers is simply finding enough room on the bike for all of the gear they wish to take. This problem is even more pronounced when camping two-up. Close to twice the gear crammed into less space can spell trouble if one is not careful. My wife always wins the “my space/your space” argument with the camping gear when it comes to who gets the rear half of the seat. This means, of course, that much of the stuff gets moved back to the luggage rack.

I recently got a large (huge) camping seat bag. While I was loading it, the thought “I wonder how much this is going to weigh?” crossed my mind. The load limit stated in most owners’ manuals for the luggage rack seems ridiculously low in many cases. Although the rack itself may support quite a bit more than the rated limit without suffering structural damage, the reason for the low limit is usually due to handling and safety concerns. One site I researched said that a luggage rack load over thirty pounds will cause handling problems on a KLR650, and even went so far as to recommend keeping close to a full tank of gas to counterbalance the extra weight on the rack.

There’s probably no need to break out the physics book for this, but some common-sense rules should be applied when packing. Keep all heavy loads as far from the back of the bike as possible, and as low as possible. Since much of the high-volume camping gear is rather light, such as sleeping bags, sleeping pads, pillows, and tents, put these items on the rack or seat, and place the heavier items such as cooking gear and canned goods in the saddlebags. It wouldn’t hurt to check your owner’s manual for the maximum luggage rack load, and try to stay under the limit. Remember that the downward force on each wheel, and the ratio between those forces, is a big part of your bike’s handling equation.


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