How to Pack a Motorcycle for Touring
You need to have a thought out plan for how to pack a motorcycle for touring. Just getting on and riding would be simple and that’s probably your goal. However, if you don’t develop a packing system, your motorcyle tour may be fraught with issues.
If you started with our suggestions for what to carry and then modified it to your taste you’re off to a good start. Now if you want to take everything you need on your tour, then you need to plan how to pack.
If your tour involves many travel days you’ll find yourself unpacking and repacking everynight. If you plan well, you won’t have to dig through everything you brought just to find your socks.
Saddlebags are great but you can’t take them in a motel room, so use a removeable tailbag to pack clothes if possible. We’re not covering motorcycle camping because we don’t do it, and you can find better information elsewhere.
If your motorcycle tour involves many days and long distances; we’ve done it many times. We pack for a few days and that will cary us over a few weeks.
Loading weight correctly (Safely)
Once you have sorted out what you can carry from what you think you need or want to take, then and only then can you figure out how to pack a motorcycle. It is absolutely mind blowing to realize how much space a pair of jeans steal away from that pile you need to pack. Here we’ll say it again, you must trial pack everything long before the departure day arrives.
Make a pile of all the stuff and try to pack it in your bags, re-prioritize and try again……in the end there is so little space, but it can be done. We travel two weeks at a time and have everything we need.
Everyone has different capacities on their bikes and some like to use cargo netting and strap things to the top of saddlebags, on the front forks…..on and on. The General rule is to pack the heaviest items as low as possible. How to pack your motorcycle is like a puzzle.
The front forks should be the last place you try to carry anything. Be aware that every pound you add to the bike affects your steering, cornering and braking….somethings are dangerous without being obvious.
Pack everything on the bike and (with a passenger if that’s how you ride) and take it out for an afternoon locally before the tour. Physics cannot be altered and you need to know at highway speed, and at low speed how this new machine is going to react.
How much can you carry ?
This is the news no one wants to hear and really, most people are going to ignore it…
Beware bad things can happen.
On every bike there is a sticker put there by the manufacturer, to tell you how much weight it is designed to safely carry. GVWR, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is the total weight of the bike, passengers, fuel and luggage or anything else you can carry. You’ll be surprised at how low it is……but it’s not a, “number just to protect” the manufacturer. Sure you can exceed it some and the bike is not going to explode, but again beware you are going outside of scientifically based limits.
Our bike (a 1300) has a GVWR of about 1130 pounds. It weighs wet (with oil & fuel) 715. We have 415 pounds to work with including both of us.
I weigh 200 and I have no idea what Karla weighs (Smart man doesn’t ask) but she’s small. We have ridden onto a truck scale when they’re closed (the scales are usually left on) so we know we’re within our limit.
Now I know men who weigh over 300 and women who weigh something…….they have exceeded the GVWR before they put lunch on the bike
How to Pack Clothes on Your Motorcycle
Deciding how to limit the volume of clothes you’re going to take is tough. We covered this under, “What to take” Clothes are essential, sure, but you need to get them as light & small as you can.
Anticipating the weather is necessary, but almost impossible to rely upon. We say, never go without rain gear. Being soaked is miserable and if it doesn’t rain you’re lucky, because it probably will. We travel the Western mountains, and summer thunderstorms are always a possibility. Then again, somewhere on that same trip it’s going to be 100 degrees and 30 degrees.
As you will see, in our top, “Roll Bag” we have: Rain gear, heated gear and cooling vests. We don’t take a trip without packing all of them. Our Warm & Safe heated jacket liners are not waterproof, but pretty close. Sometimes we leave the rain liners home and wear the heated ones in a downpour. We still pack rain-pant liners and glove covers.
Once you have covered the weather essentials, the room you have left for regular clothes is getting small.
Two weeks of Clothes
Extreme minimal packing. We wear Motoport pants & jacket, there is no riding gear to pack. Karla’s riding boots double as hiking boots, but you won’t find any, fancy going out shoes. We avoid restaurants that would exculde us based on casual wear.
When we stay several days in the same place, we’re likely to ship a box with more hiking gear.
The one thing missing here are my extra shoes. I do pack a pair of size 14 athletic shoes a pair of, “Water shoes.” The water shoes fold and scrunch up, but the running shoes barely fit in the bag.
We plan on doing laundry at about 7 days. Travel underwear socks can be washed daily in a motel sink, dries overnight.
Hot to Pack Clothes on Your Motorcycle
- Clothes in the main compartment.
- Side Pouches contain:
- Wireless hard drive
- USB Hub
- Charging cables
- Paper maps
- Contact lenses
- Wet Wipes
- Nail file
- Cork screw / Bottle opener
- Sharp knife
- Extra batteries
- Shampoo & Body wash
- Starbucks Instant