How-To Guide

How to Tow a Motorcycle Trailer

 Posted: July 21st, 2020
How to Tow a Motorcycle Trailer

Maybe you’re getting ready for a day on the track, or perhaps you want to haul your cruiser to a popular scenic route a couple of states over. Instead of riding your bike and running the risk of being stranded in the event of a break-down, it makes more sense to trailer your motorcycle and tow it securely behind your vehicle. Before you do, here are some important pieces of information to keep in mind so that you have a smooth trip to your destination, followed by the time of your life on your motorcycle.

1

Make Sure You’re Using the Right Equipment

Not all ramps, trailers and vehicle are created equal so it's imperative that you only use equipment designed to support the weight of your motorcycle and/or trailer, and to handle the amount of miles you'll be putting down. If you're planning a cross-country trip, keep in mind that smaller diameter tires will rotate faster at higher speeds than larger tires, which can lead to blowouts, overheated bearings, or axle damage if something seizes en route. Make sure your loading/unloading ramps are rated for the weight of your motorcycle, and also that your vehicle is in good condition and able to tow the combined weight of your trailer and motorcycle. Always use weight rated ratchet straps or similar tie-downs that are designed to keep constant tension - never settle for string or bungee cords.

Tie Down Your Motorcycle Properly
Figure 2.1 Front Wheel Chock, Tie Downs, and Soft Loops provide stability for the Motorcycle
2

Tie Down Your Motorcycle Properly

After you've loaded your motorcycle into your trailer, the front wheel of your bike should be chocked to prevent it from turning or moving in any way. Soft loops at the base of the handlebars provide a place to attach ratchet straps without scratching up your bike. Two straps at the front and two straps attached to a secure point at the rear of your motorcycle are ideal, and they should all be pulling the bike forward. Otherwise, when you start to move, the bike might be able to find some slack and work free of the straps. Make sure the straps are tight enough that the bike can stand up unaided, and that it’s perpendicular to your trailer. Have a friend assist you in holding it upright while you tighten the straps. If you’re towing your motorcycle in a closed trailer, leave a few inches of room between the front and the back to compensate for slight movement during transport.

3

Know Your Insurance Policy

Be aware of all the laws that apply to towing your trailer in both your home state as well as all the states you will be traveling through. You should also know what is covered under your insurance policy in case of an emergency, as well as the standard procedure for reporting an accident.

Figure 4.1 Watch this short clip showing why proper weight distribution can prevent your trailer from jackknifing | Video Credit: hwvr.com
4

Be Conservative About Speed

You won’t win any prizes if you jackknife your trailer! Go slow, and take your time on the road. As with towing or hauling any load, you will need extra time to slow down and stop. By easing up on the accelerator and keeping it smooth and slow, you'll also avoid potentially overheating the bearings in your trailer wheels in addition to preventing any rear-end accidents.

Stop and Check Your Trailer and Cargo Frequently
Figure 5.1 Checking your tire pressure, tie-downs and loops
5

Stop and Check Your Trailer and Cargo Frequently

Before you begin to drive, check the tire pressure of your vehicle and trailer, that your tie downs are secure, that the trailer brake and taillights work, that your safety chains are hooked up at the hitch connection point, and that the hitch connection itself is secure. As you start your journey, set aside time to stop every 50 or so miles to double-check your tie-downs. If you’re doing a long haul, stop and perform a full check every time you stop for gas, if not more often. At your first stop, you should also touch the hub of your trailer wheels - if they’re too hot to touch, they might be overheating.

Be Prepared for Problems
Figure 6.1 Be Prepared with a Spare Tire, Lubricate, and Jack
6

Be Prepared for Problems

You can only lubricate and check your trailer over so many times before you travel, so make sure you have an emergency kit with you on the road. Bring a fully inflated spare trailer tire, a quality jack, and lubricant with you, and you should always keep wheel chocks on hand if you plan on decoupling your trailer at your destination.

Keep Up with Routine Maintenance
Figure 7.1 Greasing the wheel bearings | Photo courtesy of rvhometown.com
7

Keep Up with Routine Maintenance

It’s not very sexy, but it’s absolutely necessary! In addition to keeping the tires inflated and watching out for rust and corrosion, you should rotate them every 5,000 miles and replace them immediately if the tread or sidewall is worn. Make sure your wheel bearings are properly lubricated to the manufacturer’s specifications every six months or so, and don't be afraid to grease the axles, tongue jack and other places where metal meets metal to ensure that nothing seizes up.