Carrying Capacity


The GVWRs are a quick way to compare different motorcycles, but GVWRs aren’t the bottom line. You need to subtract the “wet” weight of the motorcycle from the GVWR to get the maximum load you, your passenger, and your gear can share. The wet weight includes battery, fuel, oil, and fluids, but not passengers or baggage. For example, the GVWR of the 1996 Harley-Davidson FXDS Convertible is listed as 1,086 pounds. Subtract the wet weight of 675 pounds, and that leaves you a carrying capacity (CC) of 411 pounds. That 411 pounds is the maximum load for you, your passenger, and your gear, including the hair dryer, tent, hydraulic jack, and whatever else you intend to carry on board.

When you add a second rider, 411 pounds gets used up quickly even though it may sound like a lot of carrying capacity. Without getting too precise, let’s say my weight is, ah, around 200 pounds wearing leathers and helmet, and my wife is maybe 135 pounds. So we add up to 335 pounds. Subtract that from the carrying capacity for the bike, and we can strap on an additional 76 pounds. If we stuff 20 pounds of clothing into each saddlebag, we can pile on another 36 pounds of camping gear, tools, etc. before we exceed the limits set by Harley-Davidson.

FXDS Convertible, GVWR

1,086 lb.

Minus wet weight

675 lb.

Maximum carrying capacity

411 lb.

Big Dave

200 lb.

Little Diana

135 lb.


40 lb.

Other gear

36 lb.

Get out Your Calculator

For comparison, let’s check the carrying capacity for a few other bikes. MACHINE GVWR (lb.) CC (lb.)

1996 Kawasaki ZX-7R 915 397

1997 Honda Valkyrie GL 1500C 1,133 412 1996 Suzuki DR650SE 770 412 1996 Suzuki GSX-R750 870 419

1996 BMW R1100RT 1,080 458

1997 Kawasaki Concours 1,118 500

Just looking at motorcycles parked next to the curb, you’d think the giant-killer Honda Valkyrie would be the champion weightlifter, eh? Does it surprise you that the little Suzuki 650 dual sport has the same CC as the Valkyrie? Or that the Concours can carry 100 pounds more gear than a 7X-7R?

We’re not trying to step on anyone’s toes here but just point out the significance of comparing the GVWR and carrying capacity numbers when you go shopping for a bike, especially if you intend to do a lot of long-distance touring, two-up or with heavy camping loads.

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