As much as we all try to be prepared, not everything in our lives—or during our rides— always goes as planned. Sometimes our bikes will break down and will need to be carried, somehow, to a dealer or mechanic to be fixed.
No matter what the stickers on our motorcycles say, sometimes getting a tow is the only, or at least the most practical option when the bike is somehow not rideable. Maybe there’s a nail in your tubed tire and your bike doesn’t have a center stand. Maybe the bike won’t start and you don’t know why. These and a myriad of other problems can sometimes ground us. It’s important to know how to trailer a bike. Needless to say, this video is a great example of how not to load a bike onto a flatbed trailer, and how not to secure it once it’s there. If you’ve never secured a motorcycle onto a trailer or into the bed of a pickup or flatbed, we’ve got some helpful advice for you.
First, figure out how to get it onto the trailer or into the pickup safely. The best way is to have help from someone who has experience loading motorcycles. If you’re trucking it, try to get the bike onto high ground and the pickup onto low ground, or use a wide ramp (or two narrow ramps) so that the bike can roll on one, and you can walk on the other. A low trailer is easier, especially when it has a built-in full-width ramp. Simply walk the bike onto the trailer. If it’s a heavy bike that will not move under its own power, have a helper push the bike from behind while you steer it.
Sometimes we are far from home and at the mercy of a tow company. It is important to know how to load and secure your motorcycle, because you can’t always trust that the tow truck operator has any sense or clue (as evidenced). Keep in mind that tow operators will likely not let you help, mostly because their liability insurance only covers them and not you. In that case, you’ll want to keep a close eye and make sure they’re doing it right. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Whether you or a tow operator is securing the bike, there are a few rules that must be followed:
- The operator should easily convince you they have experience towing/transporting motorcycles. If they do not have experience, they should be open to suggestions.
- Use appropriate tie-downs, and soft ties where metal or plastic would make contact and cause damage.
- Secure the bike at frame points, not plastic pieces, turn signals, or wheels.
- Never cinch the bike down to the trailer with the kick-stand down – always steady the bike with the tie-downs, pick up the side stand, and then cinch it down the rest of the way.
- Make sure the straps or hooks have not captured any wires, cables or brake lines, as the force of the tie-downs will certainly damage them.
- While securing the bike with just two straps on the lower triple clamp will work, this method leaves no room for error. Run two more tie-downs from the passenger peg mounts or a handy spot on the rear subframe.
- Make sure the front wheel is secured, and won’t squirm out from under the bike during a bumpy transport. This can be accomplished with a purpose-built wheel chock, a couple of 2x4s wedged up against the tire, or a couple of spare tie-downs each pulled taut low around the wheel and out to the side of the trailer or truck.
- Take a lot of pictures during this whole process so that if the tow company does cause damage, you have proof.
Now here’s hoping you don’t ever need this advice, but to prepare yourself for the future, ask a friend who regularly trailers bikes to help them out some time. Nothing teaches like doing, and this is a very good skill to have in your pocket.