Motorcycles

The more complex aspects of riding on two wheels

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During Motorcycle Safety Month, we’re looking at the more complex aspects of riding on two wheels, such as weight distribution, especially when adding a passenger. The stability and control of a motorcycle are altered with extra weight sitting over the rear wheel, and drivers must adapt to the different handling and braking characteristics of their bike.

Motorcycles are engineered for the rear tire to carry approximately 60% of the total weight of a motorcycle at constant speed, while the front wheel carries the remaining 40%. This front-to-rear weight ratio noticeably changes under acceleration and deceleration. With a single rider sitting at the center of gravity, the impact upon control is not generally significant. But adding a second person and luggage behind the normal center of gravity and the control gains an added dimension to consider. A simple way to counter a shift backward of the center of gravity is to increase the preload tension of the rear shocks, that will counter the extra weight for more normal handling and stability on the road.

Motorcycles are engineered for the rear tire to carry approximately 60% of the total weight of a motorcycle at constant speed, while the front wheel carries the remaining 40%. This front-to-rear weight ratio noticeably changes under acceleration and deceleration. With a single rider, sitting at the center of gravity, the impact upon control is not generally significant. But adding a second person and luggage behind the normal center of gravity and the control gains an added dimension to consider. A simple way to counter a shift backward of the center of gravity is to increase the preload tension of the rear shocks, that will counter the extra weight for more normal handling and stability on the road.

The motorcycle tires’ air pressure maintains optimal suspension. The normal operating tire pressure for a single body is not adequate to bear the load of an extra body, so this requires the rider to increase the pressure for both the front and rear tires before riding, especially on longer trips.  The number one reason for sudden tire failure is that the tires are underinflated. The proper tire pressure when carrying added weight is noted in the owner’s manual. If after increasing the air pressure and preload tension and your bike’s handling continues to be light at the front wheel, you may consider replacing your OEM shocks with heavy duty aftermarket. This can make a real difference in the comfort and handling while on a ride.

Would you consider yourself a skilled rider, able to handle accelerating, decelerating, swerving, tight turns and emergency quick stops? Now ask yourself that same question while considering you are carrying extra weight of your passenger, often referred to as a pillion. Do you know how far it will take your bike to come to a complete stop with the extra weight at different speeds. Can you accelerate without losing your pillion?  What if the pillion doesn’t lean as you expect when you find yourself entering an unexpected decreasing radius turn, making a slow tight U-turn with a passenger, or knowing how far your bike can lean over with the extra weight of a passenger. Practice makes perfect for the proficiently skilled riders, who are prepared for sudden changes in conditions that require them to know how to handle unexpected tight turns with scraping pegs or sudden emergencies that happen. Whether you are riding solo or with a pillion, your skills should allow you to react intuitively and correctly.

 

 

 

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