Billy, '96 Shadow 1100
Your trailer should be in good mechanical shape. Good tires, wheel
bearings lubricated, proper air pressure in your tires, lighting, turn
signals etc. Having a hitch lock is a good idea and one can be purchased
at Wal-Mart at reasonable cost.
I use a loading ramp. Some folks don't have one so an alternative
loading method would be to back the trailer into a roadside ditch and
load from the opposite side of the ditch. My preference for a loading
ramp is seven foot long but six foot will do also. The reason for a long
ramp is that some motorcycles have an oil filter mounted on the
underside of the rear of the motor and you want to avoid getting "high
centered" and damaging the filter. A piece of 2x12 or 2x8 of sufficient
length will serve the purpose.
A wheel chock should be used to hold the front wheel of the motorcycle
straight. An option here would be to tie the front wheel to the front of
the trailer so the wheel is unable to turn to either side. I have used a
couple short pieces of 2x4 laid flat and attached to the floor to
accomplish this and of course a couple 4x4 blocks would be even better.
Still the best is a manufactured wheel chock.
When tying down the front end you should keep the strap anchor points
"even" across from each other to prevent the wheel from trying to turn.
Those anchor points should also be forward of where the straps are
hooked to the bike so that the bike is pulled forward into the wheel
chock or against the front wall of the trailer. I use soft straps when
tying the bike down. These soft ties are strap material with a loop on
each end. These are used to help keep from scratching your handlebars or
triple tree. When tightening your tie down straps you should pull them
tight enough to take up at least half the movement of the front forks. I
don't pull them down all the way because I feel there should be a little
slack because of road bumps but not so much that the ties could come
loose. Some folks feel you should tighten them down completely. Also I
have seen people use double straps everywhere. Personally, I think
that's not necessary if you've done a good job of tying the bike down.
The straps I recommend are the Ancra brand as I feel they are the best
and their cost is about $22.00 a pair, two pair required. Avoid the
cheap straps, they WILL slip and loosen while driving. Some folks
believe the only straps to use are the ratchet type. Nothing wrong with
that thinking just get the good ones. It's your multi thousand dollar
bike at risk. In rereading this paragraph I might mention here that I
tie down the front of my bike at the triple tree because I feel this is
the strongest place but the handlebars do fine. Sometimes the windshield
or fairing will be in the way and you wont have much choice about where
to hook your tie-downs.
At this point you can haul your bike without further tie-downs and it
will hold ok. I prefer to tie down the rear of the bike to prevent road
bumps from bouncing the back end around. This can be done by attaching
the straps directly to the bike on each side or by laying the strap
across the seat with both ends of the strap tied down to the floor or
trailer tie points. The object being to keep the bike from bouncing and
having the rear end moving to one side or the other.
There are as many ways to tie down a motorcycle for trailering as there
are people to make suggestions. Also there are many different kinds of
trailer to use for this purpose. An example or two might be worth
mentioning here. There is a basic bike trailer made up of little more
than an axle with a length of channel iron to hold the bike and some
points to tie the bike down. These can also have two rails or more to
hold multiple bikes. Very basic stuff but they do get the job done.
Another type is the 4'x8' trailer used for hauling garden tractors and
mowers. This type usually comes with a tailgate that is also a ramp and
can be had for a reasonable price with a little shopping around. Both
types mentioned here are single axle trailers usually rated at 1/2 ton
load capacity. Remember motorcycles run from about 200lbs to 1000lbs. So
if your considering hauling multiple motorcycle, take into account total
load weight. Also, while we're discussing this you should have about
300lbs tongue weight on the hitch. When loading, put the motorcycle(s) a
bit forward of center to make sure to keep the weight on the hitch. If
you load too heavy on the rear it will be a bear to handle and could get
to swaying out of control.
The dynamics of trailers and handling is beyond the scope of this
article but I would mention that if your trailer is swaying from side to
side while driving there is something wrong. It should trail reasonably
straight behind the tow vehicle. An inordinate amount of side to side
sway can not only cause an accident but in some cases may turn over the
Security of the bike against theft is a tough subject. First of all and
most important is to have good insurance for liability, collision, theft
etc. On occasion you might be called on to haul someone else's bike and
you want to cover yourself. You might keep in mind a professional thief
can and will steal your bike if he wants. The best you can do is to slow
him down during the theft by using fork locks, brake locks, chains and
padlocks and don't forget a hitch lock. An alarm is almost a "must
have". Two professional thieves with a tow truck (or similar) and a
cutting torch can steal your bike and/or trailer in just a couple of
minutes and be gone, your property never to be seen again.
I seems these days the most desired bikes to steal are the
Harley-Davidsons and middle size dirt bikes. For some reason that I
don't understand metric cruisers don't seem to be high on the theft
Another point. Have someone help you to load and unload the bike. It
makes it easier and safer.
Lastly, common sense is the most important requirement. Think ahead of
what you want to accomplish and keep safety in mind. Aside from your
person wellbeing, that motorcycle is probably your pride and joy and if
your like me having an accident happen to the bike would be disastrous.
Good luck and happy trailering.
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