How-To Guide

How to Choose a Hitch-Mounted Motorcycle Carrier

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If you are looking for a low-maintenance, cost-effective way to transport your motorcycle, a hitch-mounted motorcycle carrier might be a better investment than a tow trailer. There are many factors that can go into selecting the right type of carrier to that will work best for your needs, depending on the size and weight of your ride. Here are the main points to consider before making a selection:

Determine your hitch class
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Determine your hitch class

This is a crucial first step because your hitch class will set the total weight limit you will be able to transport safely using a hitch-mounted carrier. Hitch classes are categorized into class I through class V, and you can find information about your hitch class weight ratings on a sticker located on your hitch.


Find your tongue weight rating
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Find your tongue weight rating

When you install a hitch-mounted carrier and load up your motorcycle, the combined weight must not be too heavy for your vehicle! To find out what that maximum weight limit is, you have to find the tongue weight rating. Look in your owner’s manual for this information. The rule of thumb is that the tongue weight should never exceed 10% of your vehicle's gross weight rating. For more information on tongue weight and other weight ratings, click here. Once you know the maximum amount of weight your vehicle can carry on the hitch, you can use that figure to ensure that the combined weight of your carrier plus motorcycle stay under that amount.


Calculate the weight of your motorcycle
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Calculate the weight of your motorcycle

The average weight of most motorcycles is about 400 pounds, however you’ll want to know the exact weight of your bike to make sure your vehicle can handle the weight of the carrier with the motorcycle on it. In addition to the weight of the motorcycle, you will also need to take the weight of the fuel into account. An average tank of gas will add on about 30 pounds to your total. You can find the weight of your motorcycle in the owner’s manual. Please note that "dry weight" refers to the bike without fuel, and "wet weight" includes fuel.


Measure your ride
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Measure your ride

There are three main measurements you must take to ensure that your motorcycle will fit on your carrier: the total length of your motorcycle, the width of the tires, and your motorcycle's ground clearance. Some carriers are designed for smaller motorcycles, such as the popular Black Widow Aluminum Motorcycle Carrier, and others anticipate carrying larger bikes, such as the Black Widow Heavy Duty Steel Motorcycle Carrier.


Question whether you want steel or aluminum
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Question whether you want steel or aluminum

Most motorcycles are manufactured in either steel or aluminum. Both are reliable, sturdy choices, with a few notable differences. Aluminum carriers are lighter in weight and will never rust; in fact they are very low maintenance as they don't have paint or coatings that can scratch or rub off. On the other hand, steel carriers are usually more affordable and will be powder-coated for a sleek, attractive look. Steel is also a naturally harder material than aluminum, however all hitch-mounted carriers are thoroughly tested to ensure top quality and reliable weight ratings regardless of the metal used in the manufacturing process.


Decide on a built-in or tilting ramp
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Decide on a built-in or tilting ramp

Coming down to personal preference, some carriers come with integrated ramps can be removed and stored with the carrier when not in use. Other carriers might use a tilting ramp that extends in and out and tilts down along with the carrier platform to capitalize on gravity's help during the loading and unloading process.


Think about whether you will need integrated wheel chocks
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Think about whether you will need integrated wheel chocks

Important for larger bikes, some carrier models such as the Black Widow Steel Deluxe Motorcycle Carrier have integrated wheel chocks to ensure that the front wheel stays immobile in transit. You know your motorcycle the best, and if you think it needs the additional stability of an integrated wheel chocks then go with it – when transporting anything, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.


Look at accessories
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Look at accessories

Now you have an idea of how to choose a hitch-mounted motorcycle carrier, take a moment to consider whether you need any accessories. Tie-down straps will be essential, and soft loops can be an enormous asset in protecting your motorcycle’s paint as well as providing the perfect loop for a tie-down strap hook. Also, silencing and locking trailer hitch pins can be used to increase the stability of your carrier while driving, or to lock the carrier to your vehicle when you’ve arrived at your destination.