Loading Your Bike on a Trailer
Choosing a Motorcycle Trailer
A motorcycle that is tied down incorrectly could result in your bike shifting or tipping over during a trip down the highway, or worse yet, falling out of your trailer. Here are a few tips to help you keep your motorcycle tied down safely on your next road trip.
Depending upon how often you plan to move your bike, what kinds of conditions you expect to encounter, and your budget, there are a variety of different trailers that may be appropriate for your purposes. Some trailers are even made to fit certain models or brands of bike. Check with your bike retailer for specific trailer suggestions for your model.
A 5' X 9' open trailer with a fold-down ramp will generally work for one or two cruisers. It's also good to have tie-down rings in the corners, on the deck of the trailer. There are many options including enclosed cargo type trailers that are motorcycle friendly.
Some trailers made specifically for motorcycles have very small tires, which can bounce uncontrollably as you drive. If the bike is worth towing, it is most likely a good idea to use a heftier trailer.
Learn Trailer Laws in Your Area
Laws can vary a lot from state to state so it's always a good idea to investigate any special permits, laws, rules of the road, or licenses that you might need in order to stay in compliance with local law enforcement.
Always check with your insurance company to be certain that your insurance coverage will be sufficient, just to be on the safe side.
Appropriate Vehicle and Hitch
Make sure you have an appropriate vehicle with a hitch. To pull a trailer with weight up to a ton, you'll need something with rear-wheel drive rated to tow two thousand pounds.
Hitches are rated based on the tongue-weight of different trailers, and you'll need an appropriate hitch for the trailer you use. For motorcycles, Class 1 or 2 hitches are usually fine.
Cars can work for towing smaller trailers, but anything more than a ton needs a heftier vehicle. Trucks and SUVs, from Ford Rangers to a Chevy Colorado are usually better than any car.
If you're going to tow a much bigger trailer, in excess of two tons, you'll need at least a half-ton truck like a Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado or Dodge RAM. Full size SUV’s can also have larger towing capacities.
Use a Wheel Chock
A wheel chock made of metal, wood or hard plastic placed around the front wheel of the motorcycle will help to keep it secure. While the wheel chock is not a requirement to trailer your bike, it certainly makes things much easier, especially if you are loading and strapping without the assistance of a friend.
If you do not have a wheel chock then park the bike at the very front of the trailer. If there is a rail on the trailer your front tire should be pressed against the rail.
Use the Ramp to Load Your Bike
While most trailers will come with a ramp for loading your bike. Always be sure to measure the wheelbase and ground clearance of your bike to make sure your ramp is big/long enough to prevent bottoming out.
Wheelbase is measured from the center of the front wheel to the center of the rear wheel of your bike. Ground Clearance is measured from the lowest point of the motorcycle, halfway between the front and rear wheels. You also want to measure the height of the trailer or the truck bed, in which you're trying to load the bike.
Push the bike up the ramp into the bed of the trailer placing the front wheel into the wheel chock. Put the kick stand down and attach the straps.
Securing the Straps
Ratcheting straps will make it easier to compress the suspension of your bike than the pull strap type, and they are available at most home centers and discount stores. Always check the Working Load Limit of the straps and choose a strap that has a working load limit of at least half the weight of your motorcycle. For instance, if your bike weighs 650 pounds, find a strap with a working load limit of at least 325 pounds each. Most one-inch nylon straps will have this rating
A general rule for strapping anything is to attach the straps as high as possible on the bike and as low as possible on the trailer for the greatest holding power. Use an "X" pattern for maximum stability.
You may want to use some soft loops on the motorcycle end of the strap, to protect the bike, then attach the ratchet strap to the soft loop.
Start with the front left strap (as viewed from a sitting position on the bike). Secure one end of the strap to the trailer and the other to a rigid point on the frame, or triple tree.
Tighten the front left strap until it is taut. Next attach the front right strap in the same manner as the front left strap. Since your bike is on the side stand it will be leaning to the left but we want the bike to be perfectly vertical when fully secured. Pull the slack out of the strap and ratchet it a few times. Repeat this same process for the other side. Tighten each ratchet strap so that the bike will sit in the upright position on its own. Once the bike is vertical you will want to tighten the left and right sides equally until the suspension is compressed.
Do not attach straps to the handlebars. Most manufactures say that it's not safe to attach ratchet straps to the handlebars because they are simply not designed to take the pressures that will be exerted by the straps on a rough road.
Remember to secure the straps rearward of the motorcycle so that the rear straps put counter tension on the front straps, making your bike an immovable fixture on the trailer.
Do not tie the straps to guards on saddle bags or trunks as it is likely you will pull the guards off during transit. Again, just like the front you will want to compress the rear suspension as you ratchet the straps.
Driving with a Trailered Bike
You don't want the first time you drive with a trailer to be the first time you've got your prized bike strapped to it, driving at highway speeds in the elements. Practice hooking up your trailer and driving around a bit to get a feel for things. Practice tight corners, driveways, and backing up specifically. Take it for a test run on a highway, at high speed. Get a sense of how you will need to adjust your regular driving habits to accommodate driving with the trailer attached.
After securing the bike to the trailer use a canvas or vinyl tarp to cover it and keep it safe from the elements, or the cover you use for your motorcycle when you park it. The tarp doesn't need to be doing any load-bearing work and can be tied firmly down to the straps, or trailer.
It's important to go back and check all the straps and make sure they are not rubbing any parts on your bike. Also recheck the tension on the straps. On a longer trip, do a walk around every time you stop and re-check the straps again. It's always best to be on the safe side.
The experts at USA Trailer Sales carry a huge selection of trailers and are always here to help you negotiate the many options and possible customizations available when buying your trailer. Please contact us with any questions you may have or stop by one of our six Michigan locations to speak with a local trailer expert today.