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Ask the MSF: Loading The Bike

September 13, 2013

Q: My bike has a top box and saddlebags. Assuming the luggage is empty, what should I load first?

A: When locating a load on your motorcycle, keep the weight as low as possible, and evenly distributed from front to back and side to side. Carrying heavy items high and far back—such as in a top box—can lighten the front end and cause handling instability. Think of your motorcycle’s load triangle—a space formed by imaginary lines connecting your head to the motorcycle’s two axles (see photo). To maintain as much stability as possible, contain the heaviest items within the load triangle. 

And use common sense. Even though these might not exceed the weight limit, items like surfboards and bicycles (don’t laugh, we’ve seen both!) have no business being transported on the back of a motorcycle.

Always follow the recommendations in your motorcycle’s owner’s manual, and in the owner’s manual supplied with the luggage if using aftermarket items.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation ( is internationally recognized for its comprehensive, research-based rider education and training programs. It offers a wide range of programs, from hands-on training to online opportunities. The group's Basic eCourse ( is an interactive computer-based program that provides riders of all knowledge and skill levels with the basics of motorcyclist safety, while recognizing the best first ride is in the hands-on MSF Basic RiderCourse.

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