How To: Load & Tie Down a Dirt Bike into a Pickup Truck

Spring is here, people! Despite appearances, it’s true. The calendar says so; the weather wo/man says so; and more reliably, your Internal Motorcycle Clock says so. If you ride a dirt bike, you’ll be headed out to a track or trail before long. Here’s what you need to know about getting your bike there safely and in one piece.

DB-7606 Aluminum Motocross Ramp

Tools You’ll Need

For many truck owners, being able to haul stuff is the entire reason they have a pickup in the first place, so transporting their motorcycle this way is an obvious choice, as opposed to a hitch mounted motorcycle carrier, or aboard a standard pull-behind trailer. Here’s the equipment you’ll need:

Loading ramp: Skip the homemade, rigged-up versions and get yourself a real ramp. A single runner, which is all you need for loading a dirt bike, is affordable and well worth the peace of mind when it comes to safety. Make sure the ramp is rated for your motorcycle’s weight and long enough to accommodate the bike’s wheelbase and ground clearance, along with the height of the truck’s tailgate. (Here’s a handy Motorcycle Ramp Calculator to help with the math.)

Motorcycle tie down straps: Again, quality makes a difference! Find tie downs that are rated with a working load limit strong enough for your setup and with well-engineered hardware. Ratchet-style, cam buckles or snap hooks work well for getting a taut, but not overly tight, fit.

A buddy with good upper / lower body strength: You don’t need Mr. Universe, but leave your spaghetti-armed friend at home because you will need some muscle power for this endeavor. The more manpower you have behind you, with less reliance on momentum, the better off you’ll be in maintaining control.

The Extras

Those are the "must-haves" to load your dirt bike into your truck; now here are some additional accessories to make the task even easier:

Folding hitch steps: This hitch mounted "step ladder" of sorts makes it possible for one person to load a motorcycle when no one is available to assist. By helping you navigate up onto the tailgate with several smaller, controlled steps – all while hanging onto the motorcycle’s handlebars – you can manage the task on your own.

Wheel chock: Again, a wheel chock mounted to your pickup bed makes this a one-person job. Roll the front end of your dirt bike into the chock, and it is stabilized enough for you to attach the tie downs by yourself without the bike tipping over.

Soft loops: These handy and really inexpensive nylon loops create tie down points on your dirt bike exactly where you want them; they also prevent scratches from the strap hook ends.

Motorcycle tie down clamps: Secure those handlebars! A set of tie down clamps on the handlebars creates the perfect spot to attach your straps, keeping the handlebars balanced and steady.

AFP-9012 Motocross Ramp

Take Your Dirt Bike for a Walk

The actual loading of a dirt bike into a pickup, admittedly, has a bit of a Scary Factor. We’ve all seen the crazy "Fail" videos on YouTube of drivers gunning up make-shift ramps and careening off the side or going for a flip. However, the drive-on approach, when properly executed, is one that works for some in what may be quite a different scenario: a heavier motorcycle (too much weight to manually push); on wider ramps; with a very experienced driver.

There are big-time advantages to using a dirt bike ramp with the walk-up method described below, from the smaller expense (generally speaking), to great portability, to eliminating the risk of smashing into the front of the truck bed. You may want to consider a larger ramp system, however, if you have other, additional toys to load, such as a heavier motorcycle or four-wheeled equipment like an ATV.

Step by Step: Load That Bike

The loading process is highly manageable once you have a plan of action to minimize the risks. So here you go, step by step:

  1. Park your truck in a flat area. If you find a spot in which you can back the tailgate up to an incline, even better, because that reduces the angle of your ramp. Clear away the junk in the back of your truck, too, so you don’t trip.

  2. Unfold the ramp and place its plate or finger ends onto the edge of the tailgate.

  3. Use a tie down strap to secure the ramp to a metal attachment point on the truck underneath the tailgate.

  4. Put your dirt bike into neutral and line it up several feet out from the foot of the ramp.

  5. Standing on one side of the motorcycle, hold the bike by the handlebars. Have your helpful friend position himself on the other side toward the bike’s back end, grabbing hold of a stable area of the motorcycle that can take the pressure of being pushed.

  6. In a single, coordinated effort, push the dirt bike forward and up the ramp as high as possible.

  7. When you’ve reached a stand-still, apply the brake and sit tight until your friend jumps up into the truck bed. Have him pull the motorcycle up into the truck (up high on the front forks is a good spot) as you continue to hold the dirt bike upright.

  8. Grab your tie down straps and attach the first side somewhere above the suspension (usually the handlebars) to an anchor point in the truck. Repeat on the other side, taking care to keep the bike balanced between the two sides. Have your friend press down at the handlebars as you continue to tighten the tie downs, but not so tight that you don’t still have some play to take the bumps you’ll encounter on the road.

  9. Repeat the tie down process at the rear of the dirt bike, securing between the frame on both sides and the truck. Again, press down on the suspension to get the straps a bit tighter but not overdoing it, and tuck in the tail ends of the straps so they don’t flutter and distract as you drive.

  10. When you are ready to hit the road, remember to stop from time to time and make sure nothing loosens up. Better safe than sorry.

Remember This

  • Check the owner’s manual for guidance on the weight rating of your truck’s tailgate.
  • Avoid totally compressing the suspension of your dirt bike when tying it down, as it could cause damage while transporting.
  • Secure your bike upright without using the side stand; lowering it creates an imbalance when tightening the tie downs.

Have fun on the trails this season, and take care when loading your dirt bike. What’s your best tip and favorite equipment for loading your dirt bike?



Dirt Bike Blogger. Transporting and Loading. Retrieved from

MacDonald, Sean. How to Load a Motorcycle into a Pickup Truck. Ride Apart. May 13, 2013. Retrieved from: