How NOT to trailer your bike! 

By John Simmons 

     Recently Iron Horse Motorcycles did a seminar at their shop on tying down a motorcycle on a flatbed trailer.  It was an excellent seminar and I learned quite a bit.  I learned that I was doing some things right and some not so right.  Even so, I wasn’t as bad as some of the examples that John Simmons has dealt with from his shop.  Here’s John’s take on what to do and not do when trailering your bike. 

     Don't throw a big ratchet strap over the seat and crank it down from one side to the other.  When your trailer hits the curb down at the corner your bike will fall over.

     Don't tie it down in the back of a box truck, drive 150 miles and not check until you get to the shop.   Then when you pull up at the shop’s open house and roll up the door of the truck all 250 people standing there will get to see your bike laying on its side with the tank dented up.

     Do tape the ends of the straps down.  A knot can easily come undone and leave the flap out in the wind. A flapping strap will eat the paint off whatever it hits. A strap running down a fairing will about wear a hole in it after 500 miles…the fairing, not the strap. Any painted part of your bike that a strap is touching will NOT have paint on it when you get where you’re going.  Straps will move as you drive, so if it is close to anything cut up a towel and tape it to the strap where you think it might touch your bike.

     Any metal edge will cut a tie down strap like a hot knife through butter.  Running a strap over the edge of your trailer is going to cut your strap.

     Putting two tie downs on your bike’s handle bars and pulling them as hard as you can will break off cast bar backs.  When they break they will damage your fairing panel and even the clutch line.  Also, the RT and R handlebars can be broken if you pull as hard as you can on the tie downs. 

     When the metal hook end touches your muffler or anything else it will just ruin it in 500 miles or less.

     Get some help.  When rolling your bike into a pickup, don't drop it over on its side with the front wheel in the bed.  Really hard on gas tanks.  Or, drop it over the side of a tall rail type dirt bike trailer.  It will land upside down.

     Tie the wheels down if at all possible or nail a wood block beside the tires.  When the tires squirt out to the side the bike falls over.

     Some straps grow in the rain.  Stop when it starts to rain and check them after a bit.  Or your nice shiny new RT will…

     Two bikes side by side will move back and forth and just eat up the valve covers and mirrors when they bang together for 1,200 miles.

     Make sure your seat is locked down.  A bungee cord is good especially for the old airheads.  Bike’s not to fun to ride when you get where you are going with no seat.

     Do not pull the back shocks down tightly.  Ideally tie it so the rear end can float.  Hard to do.  It will blow your back shocks out if you pull it down as hard as you can.

     Using a bar harness can do at least these things that I have seen:  Ruin your heated grips; break off the switches on your lights and turn signals; rotate your handle bars down into the paint on your tank; and/or position the strap hook right next to your gas tank so the hooks gouge it and dent it.

     Don’t tie it down in the back of the pickup truck you hauled an old car transmission in the day before.  Sure the bike will sit upright in the oil slick and not squirt out to the side and fall over.  NOT.

     Hauling it on the side stand on a mesh floor trailer…duh!  Also, it’s hard to pull a bike back through rotten wood trailer floors when the wheel goes down through it.  But they do stay upright!

     Tie the back tire down on a rail trailer or it will bounce up and out of the rail.  Not a pretty sight. It will wear a hole through the back tire fairly quickly.

     A set of saddlebags loose inside a box trailer will eat up the bags and whatever part of your bike they hit in 250 miles.

     BMW's crate straps will wear a cloth pattern into the aluminum on a wheel if there is no padding under them and you use them to tie a wheel down. Ditto for powder coat.

     Rolling your bike onto your air bike lift, backing a trailer up to it, setting the height on the air table to match the trailer and rolling the bike onto it is not a good idea.   The cheap 1,000 pound capacity trailer will drop when the K bikes heavy front end goes onto the trailer, and once the heavy front end goes off the air table, the table will rise about a foot.  Not a pretty sight.

      Don't tie your bike down with a set of cheap $5 Wal/K-Mart straps.  Bite the bullet.  Buy at least one set of the 5,000# rated ratchet straps with the built in soft ties. You spent $20K on your bike and then you trust it to $5 tie downs…not a good idea.  You can tie from the lower legs as BMW recommends with ratchets, but pull them pretty tight and CHECK them every once in awhile.

     Your dealer has straps that come with every new bike.  At least four per bike.  They are the best for extras, not the primary straps.  Hooks can jump off on a hard bump on the back end.  The looped straps stay.  We use them after we put on the normal straps for extra security and to tie down the wheels, and around the forks and things for soft ties.  But they eat paint.  They must be padded.  The stuff that BMW uses for pads on bikes they ship is great.   Ask your dealer, he may have a barrel of it.  I give it away as fast as I get it in to folks hauling bikes in to the shop.

     Remember most anybody can ride a bike.  You have to know what you are doing to trailer it.  After all, Barnum and Bailey have bears and monkeys that ride motorcycles in the circus.  BUT, they can't tie them into the trailer when the show is over can they??  

     Thanks John for sharing some of your motorcycle trailering experiences with SEAT.  

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